Thomas Müller scored a goal as only he could.
In the first 15 minutes, Germany completed (rough guess) 4,501 passes to the Americans’ three.
Tim Howard played hero once again.
Final score: Germany 1, United States 0.
And you know what? A 1-0 loss has never tasted so sweet. Why? As England, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ghana go home from Brazil — the United States still has a game to play on Tuesday against Belgium (or possibly Algeria).
The World Cup group stage is three games. Over those three games the United States did enough — barely — to move into the Round of 16. Given that this was the so-called “Group of Death” would you expect anything less? Four points. Four glorious points. Four points (and goal differential) worked in 2002 and it worked again in Brazil. Instead of Park Ji-Sung bailing out the United States with a 70th minute goal vs. Portugal, it was Cristiano Ronaldo making American heart rates slow down a little bit with a late goal which ensured Ghana wouldn’t knockout the United States for the third straight World Cup.
How about Ronaldo breaking American hearts on Sunday with his cross in the 95th minute and then coming to play all day Thursday vs. Ghana when Portugal could have easily rolled over knowing the goal differential it needed to overturn in order to advance? Sports, man. Even in this cold world of stats and data, they still manage to produce human drama.
Did the United States play well on Thursday? No.
Let’s put that in some context. First off, Germany is a great possession team under normal circumstances. It’s depth allowed Jogi Low to rearrange his lineup. Most teams aren’t able to get away with resting a player of Bastian Schweinsteiger’s caliber for 70 minutes as it did four days earlier vs. Ghana. World Cup or not, it’s hard to envision a scenario where the U.S. stands toe-to-toe possession-wise vs. Germany.
And the more important aspect applied to today’s game is the U.S. lack of depth, which was put to the test three days after playing in Manaus. If anything, applaud the running and work put in by midfielders Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman — each logging 270 minutes and almost 64 combined miles of running in 10 days. Be grateful, too, that fatigue in the second half didn’t doom the United States late with goal differential still in play.
Jurgen Klinsmann rolled the dice and did what he could, trying Brad Davis and Omar Gonzalez. Those two did enough. They logged shifts. More than that, I know we’re not supposed to pretend this sort of thing exists in 2014 sports, but there is a sense the team believes in what Klinsmann is preaching. Belief enough to come back and get a win over Ghana late in the match. Belief enough not to let Jozy Altidore’s ailing hamstring become an excuse. Belief enough to advance following the crushing last-second goal by Portugal. Belief enough to hold fast and only lose 1-0 in soggy Recife.
On Thursday, all of America will take enough because we (yes I’ll use we in in this case) have another game to play.
* The United States loss means teams post-Manaus are now 1-5 at the 2014 World Cup. Fortunately, the one win came from Portugal vs. Ghana.
* Did anyone breath between the time Müller scored and the Ronaldo goal? I think during that time we all transformed into unicorns or something. It was weird. And exhausting. Can’t wait to do it again on Tuesday.
* The U.S. made it through the group with only Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman and Omar Gonzalez picking up yellow cards. If any of the trio pick up a yellow in the Round of 16 they would be suspended for a possible quarterfinal. (Cards reset after the quarterfinals.) Remember: this is a good problem to have.
* Jermaine Jones, love this guy. Love him to death.
* If you’re into this sort of thing: look how dominant Germany was in the first 20 minutes. Granted all those passes possession didn’t produce the one stat in soccer that truly matters: goals.
* On my recurring theme of sports luck, how does Miroslav Klose — the all-time leading scorer in World Cup history with Ronaldo — go into the box totally unmarked AND miss a wide-open header? Fortunately the game never made it to 2-0 and this play becomes an afterthought.
* Tim Howard (great again in the first half) said afterward he thinks Germany can win the World Cup. Let’s not forget how good that team is compared to every team not named Brazil. There is no shame in losing 1-0 to Germany and advancing. The group stage of the World Cup is three games vs. three other teams. When it was all said and done, 1-1-1 and a 0 goal differential worked. There is nothing the United States could do to stop Portugal from losing 4-0 to Germany in its first match or having Pepe sent off .
If you’re hung up on the U.S. losing in its final group match, I’m advocating hopping off the bandwagon to go hang with Mike Florio and Dan Shaughnessy. Have fun there. I’m sure it’s lovely.
* Although the World Cup draw screwed over the United States with the most travel of any team in the tournament, finishing second in Group G does give the team an extra day off to rest prior to July 1’s game. And let’s re-read that sentence, the U.S. got through Group D when nobody thought they would.
* Klinsmann is doing the best with what he has, Landon Donovan decision aside. He almost hamstrung himself bringing a player — Julian Green — who doesn’t look like he’ll ever see the field in Brazil. Green, Mix Diskerud and Timmy Chandler were the only U.S. field players not to feature in Group G.
Moving Graham Zusi to the left in place of Davis to help DaMarcus Beasley was a wise decision by Klinsmann early into the match, as Jerome Boateng made numerous forays up that flank. Fortunately, Boateng is a natural center back and Germany didn’t have a target forward on the field at that point.
You’d have to figure Gonzalez and Matt Besler will be the center back tandem going forward. It’s hard to see bringing Geoff Cameron back after being dropped vs. Germany.
* Ghana didn’t eliminate the United States for the third straight World Cup. The United States is still alive. Let’s keep it going and exorcise the ghost of Torsten Frings once and for all.