WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. men's national team -- and in particular the team's forwards -- had heard all the criticisms over the state of the team's attack. But Sunday the Americans heard nothing but praise, as Clint Dempsey scored twice and Jozy Altidore added another to set the Americans on their way to a 4-3 friendly victory over Germany, a win that allowed the U.S. to celebrate its centenary in style.
The U.S. was aided by an own goal by Benedikt Howedes that was due more to a horrific misplay by goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. But overall the U.S. was fully deserving of its victory, even if the Americans had to sweat for their victory as they held off a late German comeback before a sellout crowd of 47,359 fans at steamy RFK Stadium.
The win should give the Americans an immense dose of confidence heading into Friday's World Cup qualifier against Jamaica in Kingston. Even beyond the goals, the U.S. attack looked much more fluid than in recent encounters, and the team played with greater tenacity on the defensive side of the ball despite some shaky play at the end.
It was Altidore who got the U.S. off to a dream start, as he put the U.S. ahead in the 13th minute. Dempsey sprung Graham Zusi down the right wing, and the U.S. midfielder's cross as delivered with laser guided precision for Altidore to score with a first-time finish.
The U.S. doubled their advantage two minutes later. The Americans had begun the match intent on pressuring Germany as it played out of the back. Howedes attempted a back pass to ter Stegen, and with Jermaine Jones closing in, the ball snuck under the keeper's right foot for a goal that defied belief.
Germany slowly crept back into the match. Per Mertesacker had already squandered one clear opportunity in the early going, and Andre Schurrle seemed poised to reduce the U.S. advantage when he all-too-easily skipped around DaMarcus Beasley and Matt Besler, only to fire his shot wide.
From there it was left to the U.S. defense to sit back and defend in numbers for the remainder of the half. Both Jones and Michael Bradley did plenty to break up German attacks, and Brad Evans -- a nominal midfielder playing at right back -- kept Lukas Podolski in check with some well-timed tackles.
But the U.S. couldn't regain the initiative to start the second half, and the valleys that have at times plagued the young U.S. backline revealed themselves again. Heiko Westermann evaded the attentions of Omar Gonzalez on a German corner to beat Tim Howard in the U.S. goal.
The U.S. responded in the best way possible, however, creating some momentum with a good spell of possession. That provided a toe-hold in the game that the Americans used to build on their previous advantage. Jones long pass in the 60th minute picked out Altidore on the run, and while his centering pass missed Bradley, Dempsey was there to hammer home.
Dempsey then put the game away four minutes later, bending the ball around ter Stegen for his second of the day.
Yet the U.S. nearly gave the game away. Substitute Max Kruse pulled a goal back to in the 79th minute, and nerves were sent jangling when Julian Draxler slotted home a rebound from Sydney Sam's drive that Howard could only parry into his path.
In the end, the U.S. hung on, and now they'll set their sets on Jamaica. For sure, manager Jurgen Klinsmann will have some concerns over how his team finished the game, but at least the goals are beginning to flow.
Player ratings: (1-10; 10=best)
G Tim Howard, 6.5 -- Produced an awkward save to deny Draxler in the first half but overall commanded his backline well. Did well to deny Julian Draxler with another parry in the second half. Could do little about the goals.
D DaMarcus Beasley, 6 -- Was beaten badly by Schurrle on Germany's best chance of the first half, but otherwise held up decently. He even found time to get forward and threaten out of the back.
D Matt Besler, 6 -- Had a few shaky moments in dealing with Schurrle, but appeared to have a better understanding with Gonzalez.
D Omar Gonzalez, 5 -- Continues to have long stretches of solid play that are undone by momentary lapses. Was solid for most of the first half, but then lost Westermann on the Germany goal.
D Brad Evans, 7 -- Looked like a veteran right back as opposed to a player simply filling in at the position. Evans defending simply and took few risks; not a bad approach at all against a player like Lukas Podolski. He also had some key blocks late.
M Fabian Johnson, 5.5 -- Threatened Germany with his pace a few times, but had little end product. A hamstring injury ended his day after 45 minutes, and makes him a doubt for the Jamaica game.
M Michael Bradley, 7 -- His calming influence can't be underestimated. His ability to close down opponents quickly added some much needed solidity to the team's defensive effort.
M Jermaine Jones, 8 -- The German-American was keen to put one over on his nation of birth and delivered a superb performance. He was everywhere defensively, and his long pass helped set the stage for Dempsey's first.
M Graham Zusi, 6 -- Terrific delivery on Altidore's goal, and was active on the ball. Was troubled a bit, however, by the runs of German defender Marcell Jansen.
F Clint Dempsey, 8 -– Started the play that led to Altidore's goal, and also did a lot of unsung work by dropping back into midfield to help defend. Then he upped his game with two expertly taken goals.
F Jozy Altidore, 8 -- Looked like a different player in all phases. Took his goal with confidence, but also helped the attack with his holdup play and passing, as witnessed by Dempsey's first tally. Now we'll see if this sparks a flood of goals in a U.S. shirt.
M Brad Davis, 5 -- Had some opportunities on the break, but was just a tad off with his passes.
M Eddie Johnson, 6 -- Took up some good positions centrally, and allowed the U.S. to continue to threaten on the counter.
D Edgar Castillo, 3.5 -- Put in a tough spot given that he played in Brazil for his club earlier in the week. So perhaps not surprisingly, he had a torrid time by Sydney Sam late, allowing him too much space on the shot that led to Draxler's goal. But Castillo did recover to have a key clearance late in the game.
F Terrence Boyd, 4 -- Needed to get his head up a bit more, as he failed to spot Dempsey on one counter.