The United States beat the Netherlands. And Germany. IN EUROPE.
The first reaction to that probably includes a lot of befuddlement, fist pumping and maybe even the lighting of some fireworks. That is a pretty normal reaction to beating the No. 1 and No. 6 ranked teams in the world. So light those fireworks.
But what does the last week mean for the U.S.?
It was a good week, by any measure. The U.S. didn’t just beat two good teams, they out-played both for stretches. The Americans created chances and caused the Dutch and German defenses serious trouble. It wasn’t a result of direct play or luck, either. The team strung together passes to dictate play and control tempo.
That was never more evident than on the U.S.’s first goal against the Germans, when they made 30 passes over 90 seconds before Michael Bradley played a gorgeous ball for Mix Diskerud to chest down and finish expertly. Here’s exactly what happened:
The U.S. hasn’t played like that against top competition, well … ever. That is the type of control, skill and excellency usually reserved for matches against lowly CONCACAF teams, or the Americans’ opposition as its bunkers in and try its best to hold on.
But these are just friendlies. Jurgen Klinsmann is being ambitious, pushing the U.S. to play like it did today and knowing that it’s a work in progress. Friendlies are the chance to try such things, knowing that if it all falls apart, nothing is lost. And if that is the attitude after the U.S. loses in friendlies, which it has done, then it needs to remain after the win.
The U.S. also wasn’t going up against vintage Netherlands and Germany sides. The Dutch, in particular, is not near the team that we have come to expect from the country, and not the team we saw at last year’s World Cup. It has been a mess ever since Guus Hiddink took over, and it is on the outside looking in at Euro 2016 qualifying. Its defense is a disaster. The Americans took advantage of a team that spent most of the match looking around and wondering what the hell was going on.
Germany is hardly in the same boat. It had a makeshift backline, and Manuel Neuer wasn’t in goal. The Germans didn’t have Thomas Müller, either, but Mario Götze, Mesut Özil, Andre Schürrle and Bastian Schweinsteiger were all in the squad. The U.S. was faced with a plenty stiff test, one it passed with flying colors.
The Americans weren’t playing for World Cup stakes. It wasn’t even a qualifier. Germany didn’t look like the best team in the world, and the Netherlands sure as hell didn’t look like a top 15 team, let alone the world’s sixth best team. On top of that, these were friendlies.
But the U.S. played unlike we are used to seeing from it. You can overlook the teams the Americans were playing against and diminish what was on the line. No matter what you think, though, the U.S. went to Europe and looked like the better team.
Where does the U.S. go from here? Well, it’s beaten good teams before; even in Europe. In no instance was it indicative of a team ready to make a leap. As exciting as beating the Netherlands or Germany may be, beating Italy in Europe could have been the same spur for the Americans. It wasn’t. Neither was beating Mexico at the Azteca.
The question is whether the results matter. It is just a friendly, so not really. But can the way they play mean that this week is replicable?
Or, you know, screw context.