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What to watch for: USMNT vs. Germany

The United States take on the world champions in their final European friendly before the Gold Cup

Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images

Wow. That's all there is to say after the United States cameback from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Netherlands last Friday. The U.S.' second half performance completely flipped the narrative of consistently conceding late goals that's been bestowed upon the side since the World Cup. Second half substitutes, fringe players, and a General combined for one memorable comeback.

Klinsmann's ultimate goal of these European friendlies is to get his team prepared for the Gold Cup with difficult and talented opponents. After beating the Netherlands in dramatic fashion, their next test will be even tougher. On Wednesday the USMNT take on the defending World Cup winners Germany in Cologne.

Even missing stars such as Marco Reus, Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos, and Manuel Neuer, the Germans boast some of the best players in the world. Attacking midfielders Mario Gotze and Mesut Ozil will be looking to break down the U.S. back line. If the American defenders' performance against the Dutch is any indication, the German playmakers may have a field day.

With so many fringe players contributing to the win against the Netherlands, this game against Germany will be their final chance to impress Klinsmann before the Gold Cup roster is announced. Other, more established players, are still jockeying for starting positions as well. Almost every player on the roster has something to prove. This will be a massive game in determining where the depth chart stands heading into the Gold Cup. These are a few key items to keep an eye on during the Germany game, here are a few more:

Michael Bradley is the key

When Michael Bradley is at the top of his game he is the most important player for the U.S. national team. If you are a USMNT fan, this should come as no surprise to you. His performance against the Dutch was phenomenal. While he didn't get credit for an assist, he was directly involved in two of the American's four goals, including this ridiculous 70 yard gallop to set up the game-winner. In that game he was able to play his more natural box-to-box role instead of being forced to act as a playmaking number 10. It will be very interesting if the 'Bradley as a number 10' experiment is finally over, or if Klinsmann will foolishly revert to it.

So many fringe forwards

Gyasi Zardes and Bobby Wood scored their first international goals on Friday. Jordan Morris played 10 minutes and had a huge impact on the game. And Juan Agudelo inexplicably was left on the bench. That's four different forwards competing for possibly two roster spots. Who will start? Who will help or hurt their case? These questions will be huge in the build up to the Germany game.

Morris seems a long shot to make the Gold Cup roster, but if he continues to make an impact every time he gets a chance, he could shock everyone. Zardes scored a nice goal in the first half against the Netherlands, but he still struggles with his first touch leaving you doubting his overall quality. Wood's goal was more of a product of Bradley and Morris' great play than anything. Klinsmann seems to favor Wood, so anything is possible regarding his roster chances. Agudelo scored a brilliant goal against Mexico in April and is clearly superior technically to all the other fringe options. For whatever reason he didn't get on the field against the Dutch. Will he get his chance on Wednesday?

Stopping the German machine

Usually during this portion of our preview we like to single out one of the best players of the opposing team. What makes Germany so great is their system. They have individual players who all possess extreme high technical quality and value possession. The German's style is methodical and precise. If your defense has weaknesses they will ruthlessly expose them. You don't have to look far for an example of this, as they completely destroyed Brazil on their home soil at the 2014 World Cup by the score of 7-1. The U.S. will be playing the best team in the world and it will be the ultimate test of their mental and physical soccer abilities.

Back line woes

The Ventura Alvarado-John Anthony Brooks center back pairing just did not work against the Netherlands. Gigantic gaping holes were left in the back and they both were susceptible to crosses. Meanwhile at right back, Timmy Chandler got burnt several times and lacked the work ethic to recover from his mistakes. These three glaring issues made for a long day for the U.S. back line. They will need to improve dramatically against Germany if they hope to have a chance of getting a result. Will changes be made or will Jurgen stay the course and hope for the best?


Here is the lineup I'd like to see start against Germany: