DEMPSEY SPARKS GERMANY UPSET
The US men's national team isn't a side typically thought capable of winning high-scoring contests. Or of knocking off high-quality opponents. And yet, Sunday afternoon against second-ranked Germany, newly minted captain Clint Dempsey made sure it did both.
Floundering striker Jozy Altidore broke his nearly two-year scoring drought, Dempsey added two flashy goals of his own and the Stars and Stripes held on for a 4-3 win at RFK Stadium. Sunday's friendly marked just the third victory all-time for the US over Germany, as it put a fitting exclamation point on a much-hyped centennial celebration in the nation's capital.
"I told the players before the game, it's a special occasion, a special event - 100 years for your federation, playing against one of the top 10 teams in the world and having a sellout here at RFK," manager Jurgen Klinsmann said afterward. "We wanted to celebrate that the right way."
It's safe to say Klinsmann and Co. accomplished their goal.
In front of a sold-out crowd at RFK, the US got out of the gates quickly. Germany - which was playing without Manuel Neuer and its entire first-team backline - got exposed in just the 13th minute, as a slight deke allowed Altidore more than enough space to hammer a volley into the top right corner off of a curling Graham Zusi cross.
The goal marked Altidore's first in a US shirt since Nov. 2011 and only his second since Klinsmann took over in July of that year. The AZ Alkmaar striker tallied 31 times across all competitions for the club this season.
For Klinsmann's former post, things were only about to get worse. Amidst advanced pressure from Jermaine Jones following a German goal kick, Benedikt Howedes sent a light back pass to goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, and the Borussia Monchengladbach man made a mess of it to put it in his own net. A third of an hour in, then, the US had a shocking 2-0 lead.
Germany, meanwhile, found itself a far cry from the 3-0 advantage it had enjoyed by the same time on Wednesday against Ecuador.
"It's extremely unfortunate that [ter Stegen] would make that mistake," German manager Joachim Loew said through a translator. "Usually he's a very safe and secure keeper, and not only that, he's also a good footballer, which is visible in training."
While it is safe to say that the hosts got a bit lucky on such an egregious error, they also made their own luck on the play through Jones' hustle.
It was a strong outing overall for the Schalke midfielder, to follow up another against Belgium on Wednesday. Upon being reunited with usual partner Michael Bradley in the center, Jones was able to not only to sit deep and break up attacks but also get forward more due to the duo's mutual comfort level.
"I think when Jermaine pushes the tempo, it allows Michael to come in behind and press for second balls and third balls," said goalkeeper Tim Howard, who had five saves in the win. "It's important to have a tandem like that, who understand each other, who understand that if one's got to go, one's got to stay, and it's like one is the other's right arm.
"You have to be in unison, and they do that really well."
Until the final 15 minutes, in fact, it seemed like the entire US team was similarly in sync.
A 2-0 halftime lead was cut to 2-1 on a corner kick header from Hamburg defender Heiko Westermann, but Dempsey made his mark after that - and did so in style. Altidore was again involved in the action, serving in a bouncing ball across the box that his strike partner ripped one-time into the back of the net.
As if playing a game of one-upmanship with himself, Dempsey five minutes later struck a beautiful bending ball from outside the 18 that flew over a diving ter Stegen's outstretched arms and nestled in the upper-90.
And while ter Stegen may have had a howler earlier on the afternoon, Sunday's left-footed goal was of a much different class from the left-footed roller that caught England's Robert Green in South Africa. Indeed, Dempsey's latest effort was just another highlight tally to add to what's become a long reel for the Tottenham player.
"Having a player like Clint Dempsey on your team is just a privilege, and if I look back, I think this is one of the best players probably in US history," Klinsmann said. "He performs almost every game at a very, very high level. Huge compliments to him and the entire team."
The US had to be careful not to start patting itself on the back too early, however, as the Germans grabbed two back in the 78th and 81st minutes to turn a 4-1 blowout into a 4-3 nailbiter. Nonetheless, the back four of DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez and Brad Evans would hold strong to ensure the equalizer never came.
Still - intense as it may have felt at times - Sunday remained just a friendly. It'll be the last from here on out for the United States during this current stretch. Next up is a World Cup qualifier Friday in Jamaica, with the Belgium-Germany doubleheader meant to serve first and foremost as a tune-up for the real CONCACAF deal.
According to Dempsey, it more than served its purpose.
"It gives you confidence heading into these World Cup qualifying games," Dempsey said. "The most important thing is that we're [ready]."