The United States Men’s National Team opened Gregg Berhalter’s return to the technical box with shutout victories over Uzbekistan and Oman. Next on the schedule is a friendly against Germany, the first of two familiar foes over the course of the international window. The four-time World Cup winner has been on a steep decline since claiming the 2017 Confederations Cup, failing to advance deeply into any competition. The match is set for Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut, a 36,000-seat open-air venue with a natural grass field.
This is the twelfth all-time meeting between the two nations – the visitors hold a 7-4-0 advantage. Ranked 15th internationally by FIFA, Germany endured a dismal 2022 by failing to advance from the group stage in the UEFA Nations League and, more importantly, at the World Cup. The horrendous run of form continued into this year with a 2-4-1 record in friendlies, although there is still time to right the ship before hosting Euro 2024.
In light of the continuing dismal results, the German Football Association made the unprecedented decision to fire Hansi Flick, the first manager in program history to be shown the door. The new person in charge is Julian Nagelsmann, who was hired on a short-term contract through next summer’s continental championship. The 36-year-old is coming off of a dramatic tenure with Bayern Munich, with “big fluctuations in performance” being cited as the reason for his departure. For a tactician who has been critiqued for a fastidious nature with overcomplicated strategy, taking an international job with the inherent challenges of limited meetings and restricted roster building appears a curious career move.
Nagelsmann selected a 26-player roster for the international window, which also includes a match against Mexico in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The group features three new members as well as four returning talents. The Bundesliga is home to 19 call-ups, while a further seven are on the books in England, Italy, and Spain. Notable names such as Emre Can, Serge Gnabry, Benjamin Henrichs, and Nico Schlotterbeck are absent.
GOALKEEPERS (4): Marc-André ter Stegen (Barcelona), Kevin Trapp (Eintracht Frankfurt), Bernd Leno (Fulham), Oliver Baumann (1899 Hoffenheim)
DEFENDERS (7): Antonio Rüdiger (Real Madrid), Malick Thiaw (Italy Milan), Jonathan Tah (Bayer Leverkusen), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), Niklas Süle (Borussia Dortmund), David Raum (RB Leipzig), Robin Gosens (Union Berlin)
MIDFIELDERS (11): Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Leon Goretzka (Bayern Munich), Florian Wirtz (Bayer Leverkusen), Julian Brandt (Borussia Dortmund), Jamal Musiala (Bayern Munich), Pascal Groß (Brighton & Hove Albion), Jonas Hofmann (Bayer Leverkusen), Leroy Sané (Bayern Munich), İlkay Gündoğan (Barcelona), Robert Andrich (Bayer Leverkusen), Chris Führich (VfB Stuttgart)
FORWARDS (4): Kai Havertz (Arsenal), Niclas Füllkrug (Borussia Dortmund), Thomas Müller (Bayern Munich), Kevin Behrens (Union Berlin)
As for any new manager with an established tactical style, there are questions as to what degree the team will be retrofitted to his desired specifications and how quickly. Nagelsmann has demonstrated flexibility in his formations, utilizing both three- and four-player back lines. Whether his trademark pressing is truly adaptable to the regressive international level remains debatable, although Germany has a readily available double-pivot midfielder pairing to fulfill at least part of his desired structure.
For the foreseeable future, Marc-André ter Stegen is the number one for club and country, having recently signed a contract at Barcelona through June of 2028. The 31-year-old serves as “an extra outfield player” during the build-up due to his skill with the ball. He is an elite shot-stopper with lightning-quick reflexes that enable him to adjust to deflections that would beguile others at the position. Inter Milan’s Hakan Çalhanoğlu caused a bit of a stir in 2022 when the midfielder revealed that the German struggled with covering the bottom-left corner of the frame.
While Niklas Süle is never going to reach the predicted elite or world class heights, the 6’5” Borussia Dortmund centre-back is a physical marvel with adequate pace and the ability to kick-start the attack with long passing. He has the agility to step into the opponent’s lanes and chase down attackers, delivering heroic tackles and blocks. His likely partner is Antonio Rüdiger, Real Madrid’s tall, athletic defender who is considered highly intelligent and “excellent” in aerial duels. The 30-year-old Berliner is described as a “colossal nuisance” with a “refusal to back down” and a “win-at-all-costs attitude.”
Left fullback and wing-back Robin Gosens is an “experienced operator” with “the pace to open up opposition defenses and track back to halt attacks.” He is an aggressive tackler and registers high production with a steady stream of goal-scoring. The dextral side of the field is likely to feature the all-around talented Joshua Kimmich, provided the versatile Bayern Munich stalwart and five-time Bundesliga Team of the Season honoree is not deployed in the midfield. The 28-year-old picks out charging runners with his distribution to spring the counter-attack and “judges when to directly challenge an opponent,” whether entering a duel or stalling for the arrival of teammates.
Despite being on the far side of 30, İlkay Gündoğan should continue to patrol the holding midfielder role for Germany and now with Barcelona. He has an elite passing range, maintains close control under pressure, and uses his intuitive sense of positioning to block passing lanes, which allows him to overcome physical limitations. His likely pairing is Bayern Munich’s Leon Goretzka, a versatile boulder who is an effective presser and thrives in both phases of possession. The 28-year-old is “always a threat” to score and “unstoppable with the ball,” which has led to the bestowment of the nickname of “Goalretzka.” Lining up at the top of the triangle is relative youngster Florian Wirtz, who picked up two starts in last month’s friendlies and has enjoyed regular playing time at the international level after his initial ascendant rise was cut short by an anterior cruciate ligament tear. The Bayer Leverkusen attacker has “innate quality in the final third” and operates with “a strong sense of fluidity and freedom,” described as an “assist machine” despite “slightly erratic” distribution.
With the absence of Serge Gnabry, Borussia Dortmund’s Julian Brandt is more than capable of stepping into the role, enjoying a rise in form that includes three goals and five assists thus far this season. Breaking the Lines lists his strengths as “one-touch passing, special awareness, creativity, and defending,” shouldering much of the distribution and shot-creation load from an outside position. Patrolling the left right is Leroy Sané, who is heralded as “the most explosive of wide forwards and one of the most effective when attacking from a wide starting position.” A graduate of Pep Guardiola’s finishing school, the 27-year-old can trouble the defense in a variety of ways, whether driving directly toward the center or dribbling to the endline for a low cross.
At the top of the formation, Germany has two options for the false-nine, both players who have been affixed with the Raumdeuter (“space interpreter”) neologism. Thomas Müller popularized the role due to incredible off-the-ball movement, which led to a consistent downpour of production, increased by shrewd intelligence and a delicate touch. The world-class attacker “thrives in the half-spaces,” displaying the “goalscoring ability of a striker and the creative spark of a midfielder.” The other choice is his presumed heir apparent, Arsenal’s Kai Havertz, who is enduring a slow adjustment process after switching over from Chelsea. The 24-year-old stands 6’3” and is “graced with immense tactical quality.” Like the positional forebear, his innate ability to appear in the proper areas is an asset, particularly during the build-up phase. However, his lack of finishing could force continued reliance upon the veteran, as the international game often exists in defiance to subtlety.
Germany has been on a downward slope for years, finishing below the standard of previous performances and expectations of the talent pool. With a new manager, the confusion and lack of identity may continue, although players tend to coalesce around a fresh leader or at least make a stronger push to justify lineup positions. Regardless of to which level the opponent performs, the USMNT is in position to pull off an uplifting victory against a big-name program as the slow build continues toward the 2026 World Cup.
The match is scheduled for Saturday, October 14th at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, 12:00 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include Telemundo, Universo, Peacock, and FUBO TV (free trial).