U.S. men get a lesson in 4-1 soccer loss to Germany
DORTMUND, Germany — Chalk it up to experience.
Sure, the U.S. men’s soccer team got trounced Wednesday. For decades, Germany has been a world power, and it looked the part in defeating the Americans 4-1 after a scoreless first half.
But the game, played before 64,500 fans at Signal Iduna Park, served as a final exam for some of the players vying for a spot on U.S. manager Bruce Arena’s World Cup roster.
It also served as a learning experience. The Americans got a big helping of the high-intensity soccer they’ll face when the World Cup starts June 9 in Germany.
“The lesson is to keep your concentration for 90 minutes, and we managed only 45 minutes to concentrate well as a team,” Arena said.
“I think that if we got into the second half [better], we had a chance to get a [tie] or a win out of the game. A more experienced team, better team today does a little bit better, carries the game deeper into the second half and positions itself to win.”
The U.S., playing without Brian McBride, Claudio Reyna and other top players, withstood an aggressive German attack to open the game. German star Michael Ballack missed on two headers, and Lukas Podolski also misfired from close range.
Later, the Americans turned the tide. Bobby Convey drew a penalty, and the ensuing free kick forced German goalie Oliver Khan to make an awkward save. Convey later took a long pass and zigzagged around his defender, his deflected shot forcing a corner kick.
As the teams left the field at halftime, the boos and derisive whistles of the German fans must have sounded like music to the Americans’ ears.
Then two different teams emerged from the locker rooms.
A quick turnover led to a German free kick 20 seconds into the second half, which Bastian Schweinsteiger rocketed past a haphazard U.S. defensive wall and diving goalie Kasey Keller from 25 yards out.
“To give the game away in the opening kickoff of the second half was very foolish and very poor play on our part,” Arena said.
The game was hardly over. The U.S. threatened in the 66th minute with a strong header by Eddie Johnson that forced Khan to make a fully extended diving save. With 24 minutes left, plus extra time, the U.S. was still in the game.
Then the Americans imploded, and Germany’s skilled forwards made them pay.
Oliver Neuville took a pass on the bounce and struck it brilliantly into the top left corner of the goal in the 73rd minute. Two minutes later, Miroslav Klose broke free down the right and sent a shot past the helpless Keller and inside the right post.
Klose closed the deal in the 79th minute with a centering pass to Ballack, who was undefended for the easy header.
Steve Cherundolo scored for the Americans with five minutes left when his long kick from midfield bounced over Khan, who had collided with the onrushing Johnson, and into the goal.
The U.S. team has four more games scheduled before the World Cup: vs. Jamaica (April 11), Morocco (May 23), Venezuela (May 26) and Latvia (May 28).
Arena will use the April 11 game for more player evaluation before he decides on his final World Cup roster, which is due May 15.
“There are players who played tonight who are not going be part of our World Cup roster,” Arena said. “For all the players, it’s a good experience, to play the host country, a strong team, on their home field.”