USA vs. Germany: Key Players for the Yanks in Crucial Group Finale

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USA vs. Germany: Key Players for the Yanks in Crucial Group Finale
USA TODAY Sports

All it takes is a draw.

The Americans were seconds away from securing a spot in the round of 16 before Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal broke their hearts, but they are still in a strong position to advance.

Nate Silver and the geniuses at FiveThirtyEight did the math:

Still, Germany is arguably the world's most dangerous side, and Jurgen Klinsmann has made it clear there will be no foul play to arrange a draw with his countrymen.

The Stars and Stripes can still advance with a loss, but with the way both Ghana and Portugal have looked (read: big win from Ghana coming), getting a result and not having to worry about goal differential would be ideal.

Let's take a look at some players who will be crucial in making that happen.

 

Kyle Beckerman

Petr David Josek/Associated Press

If this were two years ago and someone suggested Kyle Beckerman would be a key player against Germany in the World Cup, he probably would get slapped. Or ridiculed. Or both.

But the 32-year-old has been an absolute rock for Klinsmann's squad.

Unlike Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley, who tend to move box to box when they play as holding midfielders, Beckerman is a no-nonsense sweeper. While he hardly crosses midfield or does anything "sexy," he sniffs out attacks, shields the back four and gets the ball out quickly.

According to WhoScored.com, the Real Salt Lake star has four tackles (second on the team) and five interceptions (tied for first) through the first two matches. He has also completed 44 passes per match (second) at an 88.6 percent rate (third).

His role against Germany, which boasts arguably the best midfield in the world, will be especially crucial, as Matthew Tomaszewicz of The Shin Guardian suggested:

If Beckerman can hold his own like he did against Ghana and Portugal, the United States will have a much better chance at slowing down Die Mannschaft.

 

Michael Bradley

Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

While Beckerman has surprised with his effectiveness and steady play, Michael Bradley has been on the unfortunate opposite end of the spectrum.

Thought by many to be the United States' best player, Bradley has fallen well short of expectations. He was terrible against Ghana, and although he improved against Portugal, he had the crucial late giveaway that led to the 95th-minute equalizer.

Solely blaming Bradley is unbelievably lazy, but he certainly hasn't been as good as we know he can be. Sports Illustrated's George Dohrmann wasn't shy in his criticism:

Still, Klinsmann, via SI's Grant Wahl, isn't worried:

Ultimately, the problem is where he's operating on the pitch. Bradley struggles in a playmaking role. He's better in the holding midfielder slot, where he uses his work rate to win possession, quickly puts his teammates on the attack with his tremendous vision and then makes late runs from deep.

Of course, Klinsmann will find it difficult to take Beckerman or Jones off the pitch, so it's not an easy solution. A potential fix would be to move Bradley next to Beckerman in front of the back four, with Jones sliding out to the left.

Either way, the head coach has to put Bradley in a position where he is most effective. If the 26-year-old continues to be the weak link in the midfield, the Americans won't survive against Germany.

 

Fabian Johnson

Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

Fabian Johnson's runs down the right flank have been one of the United States' most dangerous weapons. He has four completed dribbles, three key passes and would have an assist if Bradley's shot against Portugal wasn't cleared off the line.

Veteran American goalkeeper Brad Friedel, via Sony.net, put it simply:

I thought, once again, Jermaine Jones was excellent but for me our best player on the day was Fabian Johnson. His pace and willingness to go forward troubled Portugal throughout the game and most of our dangerous attacks came from his play.

Germany essentially plays four center backs, and there will be opportunities for Johnson to use his speed to get down the sideline and create scoring chances.

Klinsmann has already gotten two critical, game-changing plays from Germany-born players Jones and John Anthony Brooks. Will Johnson step up next?

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