Houston Dynamo's David Horst offers up a preview and prediction of Thursday's US vs. Germany World Cup game.
The US could have booked their ticket into the Round of 16 vs Portugal, but weren't able to hold on for the win. Instead, it all comes down to the last group game vs Germany. Win or draw, and the US advances; lose, and they rely on the outcome of the Ghana-Portugal match. Conventional wisdom and logic may favor Germany in this contest as the Germans are currently ranked No. 2 in the world and boast a plethora of world-class talent across the field. The US, however, has stepped up in this World Cup, and they have answered the call at every stop.
KEYS TO THE GAME
US Defense: The German squad contains some of the best attacking players in the world. Between Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Mario Gotze and Miroslav Klose, the Germans are capable of scoring at any time, from anywhere. Their finishing ability was on display in a 4-0 beat down of Portugal but disappeared for most of the game in a 2-2 draw with Ghana. The backline of the US has withstood the attacks of the high flying Ghanians, and the powerful Portuguese. Can they hold up one more time against one of the world's best offense?
Possession: The US has never been known as a possession-oriented team, but since Jurgen Klinsmann has taken over, the US has slowly adopted a more precise, possession style. The Americans kept the ball for long stretches of time against Portugal, with many of those possessions turning into great chances on goal. Germany likes to possess the ball and wear opposing teams down until they can thread Gotze or Muller through on goal. When the US does win possession back from the Germans, it will be vital for the US to keep control because this enables the defense to rest and it will also give the Americans confidence going forward.
Focus: The US is in control of its own destiny if it wins or draws, but if it doesn't, then their fate is out of their control. They need to focus on their own game against the Germans and not on the score of the Ghana-Portugal game. As evidenced by the end of the USA-Portugal game, anything can happen until the final whistle blows. If the Americans keep one eye on the opposition and one eye on the scoreboard, Germany will run all over them.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jermaine Jones: The Germans have one of the best midfields in the world, and if the US hopes to contain it, then Jermaine Jones needs to have another spectacular game. The German-born American beast was everywhere against the Portuguese, scoring a wonder goal, and snuffing out multiple attacks. He will need to be a leader, strong in the tackle, and composed on the ball in order for the US to be successful once again.
Fabian Johnson: It seems fitting that the German-born Americans would be the key players in a game against Germany. Johnson has really matured as a player in this World Cup, and is cementing the right back spot as his, for many years to come. His adventurous runs down the right side were causing the Portuguese all kinds of problems. He will need to make those kinds of runs again in order for the US to be successful down the right side.
Thomas Muller: He may look like just another ordinary soccer player, but don't let that fool you. His hat trick against Portugal shows that he his Germany's deadliest finisher. The US backline will need to know where he is at all times, because his incredible work ethic enables him to pop up anywhere in the attack.
Many people are saying that both teams should take it easy and play for a draw, but I can't see these players, who are all insanely competitive, playing for a draw. However, don't expect either team to come out and start kicking each other. Both teams will still play hard, but in the end, Germany's overall quality will surface, and they will win 2-1.