While Germany is arguably the world’s deepest side, the team’s back line leaves much to be desired. In the first two games, coach Joachim Low has started — from left to right — Benedikt Howedes, Mats Hummels, Per Mertesacker and Jerome Boateng.
Mertesacker is strong and disciplined, but the 6-6 Arsenal man is incredibly slow. Hummels is a bit quicker, but has been hampered by ankle and thigh injuries. Howedes is slow as well, and he’s actually a center back being played out of position on the left.
Here’s how the U.S. can successfully exploit Germany’s back line:
1. Attack from the right
The U.S. ran wild on the right flank against Portugal, with fullback Fabian Johnson constantly getting forward and DeAndre Yedlin doing the same later in the game. That’s exactly what Ghana did to Germany. In Saturday’s 2-2 draw, 61% of Ghana’s attacks originated from the right, constantly challenging the slow-footed Howedes. Expect to the U.S. to the same thing, overloading the right to get Johnson in one-on-one situations.
The Americans have done a superb job of this so far, with long balls from the midfield releasing Johnson to run into space. If Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley can give him support in the box, this is by far the best way for the U.S. to create chances.
2. Play the give-and-go
Mertesacker is notoriously slow on the turn and if he gets caught flat-footed, you’re in behind him easily. If Bradley or Dempsey position themselves at the top of the box to receive a pass, whoever gives them the ball needs to immediately make a run at the center backs. With Howedes also prone, Graham Zusi or Fabian Johnson can make diagonal runs in from the right. A quick pass slotted through and the U.S. has a one-on-one opportunity.
A perfect example of this was Johnson’s goal against Turkey during the send-off series:
3. Go over the top
Nobody would argue that Dempsey is faster than Asamoah Gyan or most of Ghana’s attackers, but when Dempsey starts making a run, he gets up to full speed quickly. If the U.S. can go long and get the ball over Mertesacker and/or Hummels in the middle of the field, Dempsey can make something happen. Even if the center backs have cover and Dempsey gets pushed into a tough angle, he’s creative enough to force a save and earn a corner at the very least.