U.S. men's national team looks to get back on track against Germany

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Sports,D.C. United,Craig Stouffer,Olympics,Germany

U.S. plays Germany as tune-up for qualifiers

The U.S. men's national team should be in a celebratory mood in its return for the first time in two years to RFK Stadium, the site chosen to host the U.S. Soccer Federation's 100th anniversary.

But ahead of a likely sellout against Germany, as many questions are being asked of coach Jurgen Klinsmann about tactics and preparation after a 4-2 loss to Belgium in Cleveland on Wednesday as there are about a reunion with the German team he led to the 2006 World Cup semifinals. Even without all of their first-choice players, the Germans represent an intimidating challenge in the final U.S. tune-up before a trio of World Cup qualifiers in June.

"We have two different missions," Klinsmann told reporters Wednesday. "They just want to have an end-of-the-season tour, and we want to prepare sharply and precisely for Jamaica [on June 7]."

up next
U.S. vs. Germany
When » Sunday, 2:30 p.m.
Where » RFK Stadium
TV » ESPN2

Klinsmann couldn't have gotten much more out of his players when he was under fire earlier this year. A 1-0 win over Costa Rica in a Colorado blizzard and a scoreless draw against Mexico at Azteca significantly improved the U.S. team's chances of earning a spot in Brazil next summer.

But against the Belgians, Klinsmann's 26th different starting lineup in 26 matches in charge failed to inspire any carryover. Instead, mistakes were rampant, especially along the back line, where Klinsmann turned down the chance to start Matt Besler and continue with the same defensive foursome that shut out the Mexicans.

Many of the errors are fixable, but the margin of error could be even slimmer against the Germans, who produced four goals in 24 minutes, starting with Lukas Podolski's goal in less than 10 seconds, in a 4-2 demolition of Ecuador in Boca Raton, Fla. The U.S. will also welcome the additions of Michael Bradley, Fabian Johnson and Danny Williams to the roster. D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid will also train with the U.S. as the third goalkeeper while the team is in Washington.

"I think that's the design, to kind of keep challenging ourselves," U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard told reporters. "I think when you challenge yourself at this level, you run the risk of doing things you wish you didn't do a few times. I do think it is better than playing a team that we can dominate and is kind of a cakewalk for us. I think these games are probably better and will serve us better in the long run, but time will tell."

The U.S. last played at RFK in June 2011, when it beat Jamaica, 2-0, in the Gold Cup quarterfinals. After Sunday's game, the U.S. returns to Kingston for the first time since a 2-1 loss there in September before home games against Panama in Seattle on June 11 and Honduras in Salt Lake City on June 18.

Note » While the men celebrate U.S. Soccer's 100th anniversary in Washington, the women have been banished to Toronto, where they will face Canada (4:30 p.m., ESPN News) in a rematch of their epic semifinal clash in the 2012 London Olympics. Washington Spirit teammates will be on opposite sides, with Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris in the U.S. team and Diana Matheson and Robin Gayle representing the Canadians.

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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