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Getting the party started

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Sports,Craig Stouffer

U.S. fffcxbeats Germany before Cup qualifiers

The festivities started early and continued nearly throughout as the United States marked the 100th anniversary of its national team by toppling world power Germany, 4-3.

In a much-needed boost of confidence with a trio of World Cup qualifiers looming, Jozy Altidore knocked in his first goal in more than a year and a half, while Clint Dempsey added a pair of quality strikes five minutes apart to move into second all-time on the U.S. scoring list.

"We told the players, it's a special occasion, a special event," German-born U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "A hundred years of your federation, playing against one of the top teams in the world. We want to celebrate that the right way, and I think we saw a lot of good things on the field. It got a little bit tense toward the end."

Before a sellout crowd of 47,359 at RFK Stadium, which became the venue where the U.S. has played most (14-3-5), Altidore uncorked the party with a crushing side-footed volley off a cross by Graham Zusi in the 13th minute for his first goal since Nov. 2011.

What happened three minutes later was the opposite of spectacular. Facing pressure from the U.S. offense, German left back Benedikt Howedes fed the ball back across the box to goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Instead of clearing it, ter Stegen faked a kick but then couldn't catch up with the ball as rolled across the line just inside of the far post.

Heiko Westermann came off the bench to deliver an emphatic header off a corner to cut into the U.S. lead in the 51st minute. But playing with renew confidence after 4-2 loss to Belgium three days earlier, the U.S. continued to push the action. Altidore received a long ball and got behind the German defense, centering to Dempsey for a one-time to restore two-goal margin in the 60th minute.

"I think we just changed our mentality," Dempsey said. "We were more aggressive, we fouled more, we were more in their face and made the game difficult."

When Dempsey cut back and curled a stinging shot past the outstretched ter Stegen in the 65th minute, it appeared the rout was on and the stands bounced as "U-S-A!" chants reverberated throughout the stadium.

"Having a player like Clint Dempsey on your team is just a privilege," Klinsmann said. "I think if I look back, I think this is one of the best players probably in U.S. history."

Max Kruse restored the visitors' pride with a blast in the 78th minute, and Julian Draxler scored three minutes later to make for some nervy final minutes. But it could hardly detract from a match in which the U.S. made progress at both ends of the field. The central defensive pairing of Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besley was improved, and Brad Evans made his first start at right back.

"One hundred years, and it's something that we talked about before the game, playing for your country, and this is a special one," Evans said. "You always remember a few pivotal games along the line. I think everybody will remember this one."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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