The report of our (Group of) Death was an exaggeration, friends, though it was almost too much. Is it possible that a loss can feel like a win, and a tie feel like a loss, and a win can feel, well… okay so that definitely felt like a win. We did what we needed to do. But to be more fair, Portugal also did what we needed them to do, as Cristiano Ronaldo scored the go-ahead goal in what his agent will call “a forward thinking branding opportunity in a previously underexposed market.”
As for the match itself, it was never going to be a tie. There was no phone call, no 1982 secret deal, no backroom German treaty of Recife. And that was clear from the start, but especially for Germany at the end of the half when they put on Klose, and instantly became an attacking team, with four people up top applying high pressure, which was how they pressed in for the goal. But because I’m too excited to put together coherent paragraphs while covered in celebratory sparkling wine, here are 9 quick thoughts from that grinding, glorious winning loss:
1. The rain made the pitch play very slow. Actually not a bad thing for the US because it allowed us to sometimes recover from mistakes, and—as you’ve seen already—even the sure footed Germans had trouble keeping clean touches, and that usually favors the less skilled team, so advantage America.
2. At some point in this tournament, the German back line will be exposed. They essentially play with four center backs who could all try out for the role of The Mountain on Game of Thrones, with no true attacking wing backs. They are slow—and as even 49 year old DaMarcus Beasley showed in this game—you can get forward against them and attack.
3. Speaking of DaMarcus, he had his best game of the Cup today, relentlessly attacking the flank, not being afraid to step up and aggressively press on defense, not allowing wingers to turn, just a great match for him.
4. As for the rest of the defense, Jurgen started Omar Gonzalez in the back, and I was like “NOOOOOOOOOOO WHAT HAVE YOU DONE, WHERE IS MARCELO BALBOA” and in the first few minutes, he had that shaky Omar-touch US fans have come to have night terrors about, but after that he was completely solid coming up with several huge tackles in the box, and finding his form. Is Jurgen maybe some sort of center back whisperer? His choice of Brooks, and then Gonzalez have been spot on when they’ve needed to be. This is really uncanny.
5. One mistake for me—as a hindsight strategist—was starting Brad Davis on the wing. I know it was likely because no winger could really play a whole game after playing in the steam room within a steam room sauna that was Manaus, but I might’ve put Bedoya in to start, and let Davis come on. Yedlin, on the other hand, continues to show why Jurgen plays him despite his questionable choices in hair styles, using his great pace to immediately become dangerous at the end of the game.
6. Jermaine Jones seemed like he was playing to singlehandedly show the Germans that he should be wearing the jersey for them, which has made him a bit of a wildcard. Also, the ref took him out of a scoring opportunity, but Jones just gave him a warning and showed him his tattoos. I would say this was his most inconsistent game of the Cup so far, as he most likely suffered from the Madden-esque “Kevin Alexander curse” once I focused on him in the preview.
7. Bradley. What to say about him, friends? His touch let him down several times today again, in places where he is usually spot-on, and that is still worrisome. But he played extremely hard, and—as Darke and Twellman said—anyone who thinks we should sit our best overall player is daft.
8. Kyle Beckerman might’ve fouled at least 19 players on the German side, including four people who were just trying to get back to their seats at halftime.
9. If all goes as planned later today, we will face Belgium. And—after this group—that should feel like a game the US can absolutely win against a young team coming from a confused, conflicted nation, which can’t even agree on the language they speak, let alone what kind of waffles they believe to be the most delicious.
But, for now, we can celebrate going through. Our job is done. We’ve cheated Death once again.
Kevin Alexander, the executive editor of Thrillist, writes about soccer for Esquire.com.