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USA can beat top teams

Posted by Julian Cardillo  June 3, 2013 08:30 PM

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Beating top teams is something that the US national team has done repeatedly over the years. So it was fitting that last Saturday, for the celebration of US Soccer's 100 year anniversary, that the US national team emerged victorious against second-ranked Germany, 4-3, at RFK Stadium in DC.

Our Nation's Capital: a fitting setting for a team that needed to be reminded of where its revolutionary character to beat the odds comes from ahead of three important World Cup qualifiers this month against Jamaica, Panama, and Mexico.

Given that it's in their character, not just as international athletes but as Americans, it's a wonder why the US needed a reminder that they can compete with any team in the world. Perhaps it was because just five days before the US ousted Germany, they suffered a disappointing 4-2 loss to Belgium.

The Belgium result questioned US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann's choices in defense and whether or not many of the European-based were too burnt out to play for the national team in the summer after long club seasons. It also raised doubts as to whether the US, if ever, could compete with the world's best teams.

Saturday's win against Germany was a reminder that the US certainly can. While the US blew a 4-1 lead late in the game thanks to some poor defensive play, the offense lifted up the floodgates for the first time in over a decade. It was the first time that the US scored three or more goals against a team ranked in the top ten since defeating Portugal 3-2 at the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan.

Yes, Germany did not bring their best team to play against the US. Yes, none of Germany's regular starters who play for Champions League winners Bayern Munich and runners-up Borussia Dortmund were part of the roster. But the fact is Germany's development of players is still far more advanced and sophisticated than the US'. And while the result was a product of play that was more sloppy than tactical, the fact that the US could put four goals past the Germans was a statement.

In the lead-up to the game, there were concerns over who the US' goalscorers would be and whether players like Jozy Altidore could replicate their form at the club level in international games. Altidore answered the call in the 13th minute when he volleyed home the opening score of the game. He then assisted on one of Clint Dempsey's two goals.

The result will provide the US with some momentum ahead of a qualifying game against Jamaica on June 7 in Kingston. But the US should be able to look back and realize that they can go toe-to-toe with anyone and use that as a cornerstone of confidence.

The US' 1-0 win over England at the 1950 World Cup and their 1-0 win over Brazil in the 1998 Confederations Cup were hard fought victories, but they were mostly thought of as flukes at the time. But in recent years beating the world's best teams has gone from being accidental into turning into a habit.

There was the 3-2 victory over Portugal in the group stages of the 2002 World Cup and then the 2-0 victory over Mexico in the round of 16. In 2009, the "miracle on grass," consisting of the US beating top-ranked Spain in the Confederations Cup 2-0 to clinch a spot in the tournament's final occured.

In the Klinsmann era, the US earned their first-ever win against Italy, 1-0, last March and their first-ever win over Mexico at the Azteca Stadium last August.

Over the years, the US have consistently earned results against other well-rounded teams such as Denmark, Sweden, Australia, England, Argentina, Ecuador, Poland, and Japan.

Having a mentality that they can beat anyone will propel the US to qualify for the World Cup next summer in Brazil. And if winning continues to be a habit, it won't be long before the US earns their keep as one of the top countries in world soccer and retains that reputation for ages to come.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About Corner Kicks: Julian Cardillo offers insight and analysis about the New England Revolution as well as European and international soccer.

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