Klinsmann, Dempsey talk about the USA victory
Coming off a disappointing 4-2 loss at the hands of Belgium in a friendly last Wednesday, the U.S. Men's National Team jumped off to a quick start against No. 2 Germany Sunday night at RFK. Though the watered-down German side stormed back late in the friendly, the U.S. were able to come away with a 4-3 victory in their final tune up before a trio of World Cup qualifiers this month.
Sporting KC's Graham Zusi and forward Jozy Altidore got things rolling in the 13th minute when the two connected on a perfect delivery from Zusi. The midfielder would strike again moments later while putting the pressure on the German defense that led to an own goal and a 2-0 U.S. lead at the half.
Freshly crowned captain Clint Dempsey stole the show in the second half with a pair of goals just five minutes apart from one another. Dempsey now ranks second among Americans all-time with 35 international goals, surpassing Eric Wynalda (34) and trailing only Landon Donovan (49).
Dempsey's coach, former German national star Jurgen Klinsmann, praised the striker after the match.
"Having a player like Clint Dempsey on the team is just a privilege. If I look back, I think this is one of the best players probably in U.S. history.
"He has the hunger. He's not satisfied. He's not satisfied today with scoring two goals against Germany because he'll only be just a little bit more satisfied if he scores in Jamaica. He always looks for the next game. It's just in his own being. He just has that inner drive. He's always asking 'What's next for me? What can I do?' He always pushes himself. This is one of the reasons why I made him captain. Clint is right on top with the best players around and certainly the top player in the United States."
Klinsmann, though, wasn't the only coach with kind words for the American captain.
"I think Altidore and Dempsey really stood out. Not in vain have they made a name for themselves in the Netherlands and the English Premier League, respectively," said German head coach Joachim Loew.
After scoring his own goal, Altidore and Dempsey connected in the 60th when the 23-year-old striker delivered an expert volley into the box for Dempsey to finish.
"I think Jozy can learn so much from Clint, and is learning," said Klinsmann. "They will start to have a chemistry, they will start to have an instinct for each other. That comes by time, it's not coming overnight."
Though Germany fielded a side that lacked the bulk of its talent, Klinsmann was pleased to get the result over an international powerhouse.
"It helps with these games to measure yourself with a team that can play a really high tempo. A team that kind of forces you always to go both ways. This is on the top level now and if you play these teams: Germany, Belgium, or you play Brazil or Spain, you have to be ready to go both ways and be good defensively and you want to push forward and create chances.
"We know that there is so much going forward that we still need to improve but looking towards the qualifiers it helps the players that they see that they can go that tempo, they can keep it. That's why I didn't want to sub too early. I wanted them to go through the pain, to get tired, to hit the wall. I think they adjust now to that grind. Opponents like this, like Belgium and Germany can only help us to get to the next level."
The win, complete with seven goals scored between the two sides, delighted RFK's sell-out crowd, but Germany's late comeback exposed crucial weaknesses on the defensive end as well.
"There's personal pride, pride for your country particularly on this day with the centennial. It was important that we had the result, never mind the performance," said goalie Tim Howard. "We got the great result and will go down to Jamaica with a ton of confidence, but we're cautious. We know how dangerous they are at home."
The team will travel to Jamaica (0-2-1) on Tuesday to kickoff their first of June's three qualifying matches on Friday. They then return home to face Panama (1-2-0) in Seattle on June 11 and Honduras (1-1-1) in Sandy, Utah on June 18.
The U.S. (1-1-1) currently sits in third place within their group, where the top three will receive automatic World Cup bids. After the trio of qualifiers in June, the USMNT will have four more matches in September and October to try and lock away their place in the 2014 World Cup.
After falling 1-2 to Honduras in February, the Yanks responded with a win over Costa Rica and picked up a rare point in Mexico with a draw. In order to qualify for their seventh consecutive World Cup, the team knows there is still work to be done.
"It's hard. Now it's just based on results. Performances are nice but results are even better," said Howard. "I think today was good. Anytime you give up goals it stinks, but for the most part I thought the game was tight, I thought we managed it well. As we got tired there were some breakdowns and the guys at midfield did a heck of a lot of running so as the game wore down [Germany] pressed more and it became more and more difficult.
"There's all sorts of improvements [to be made] but as long as we can play fluid football and get the ball down the field, Jamaica's going to be a physical game. They're going to want to get tackles in so we just gotta move the ball quickly and stay tight defensively, which is our goal every time we go out."