Ah, the fresh hell of yet another international break. Club seasons are put on pause for a raft of qualifiers, be they Euro, or World Cup, that are pretty much foregone conclusions robbed of any real urgency, especially thanks to the expanded field for 2026. If not those, we get a helping of international friendlies, watching 22 guys trying to not get hurt before returning to their teams that sign their checks. It’s a wilderness.
But also the USMNT is playing real teams for the first time since the World Cup and I have nothing else to do. The weather is going to suck too. And hey, how often does the US line up against a team, or two of true pedigree?
For the US in these two games against Germany on Saturday afternoon and Ghana Tuesday night, there aren’t any glaring new questions to answer. They still need to figure out what to do when Tyler Adams is hurt, and doing so against these two teams should provide some real insight. Other than that, sorting out what exactly will be the centerback pairing going forward will get more examination, basically Chris Richards paired with Miles Robinson, or Tim Ream, or Cameron Carter-Vickers? There’s also the small matter of either Joe Scally or DeJuan Jones or Kristoffer Lund getting a run-out in the absence of Antonee Robinson, who misses out on all this thanks to a nagging injury. And they may be tossed out against the Bundesliga’s best player so far this season in Leroy Sane. Good times!
Beyond that, it’s another chance to watch Christian Pulisic, Tim Weah, and Falorin Balogun develop more chemistry in the frontline. There will be the made-up drama of Gio Reyna’s return to the fold, but seeing as how he has only played 27 minutes of actual football so far this season, his contribution is going to be limited no matter what he thinks of the manager, and vice versa. And Brenden Aaronson will run around a lot at some point.
Still, this is not Uzbekistan, and Oman as it was last month. Playing Yunus Musah as a No. 6 against a Germany team that could have some combination or all of Leon Goretzka, Joshua Kimmich, Jamal Musiala, and Ilkay Gundogan will certainly be a test, and maybe give us a glimpse on what the US would have to do should Adams be hurt at a major tournament (a possibility that seems more realistic with each passing day). When the US doesn’t have the ball for the majority of a match with Musah and McKennie buried deep, can it hold up defensively?
That said, what exactly the US will see against Germany is kind of a question too. On the one hand, they haven’t really stopped bitching about having to fly over to the States for a couple friendlies in the middle of a season, and we may just get 90 minutes of pouting, and avoiding injury. Two, this Germany outfit has been…well, kinda ass for a while. They were bounced out of Qatar in the group stage, got utterly clubbed by Colombia, and Japan in admittedly passionless friendlies, and fired their manager as a result.
Which is what’s the other side of this coin. Saturday will be Julian Nagelsmann’s first game as manager of Die Mannschaft, and while there are obviously a few players that are bedrocks no matter who is managing, there will be a more than few trying to carve out a place in whatever Nagelsmann’s set-up is going to be. Though the squad still has a heavy Munich influence, with players whose bemusement at his ways got him fired from there in the middle of last season. A lot of chemicals in play here!
That mystery is another reason to be intrigued, as Gregg Berhalter might have to (shudder) react on the fly to what he’s seeing. Which didn’t go so well last time, did it (cries at memory of Adams unable to catch up to Memphis Goddamn Depay)? We know how Nagelsmann teams like to play at Leipzig and Munich, which was pretty high-press and pretty direct, but whether he wants to, or can replicate that on the international stage…we just don’t know.
As for Ghana, this isn’t quite the Essien-Asamoah-Boateng vintage that domed the US in 2006 and 2010. But they are a fellow World Cup participant, and while they may also be struggling to locate a f*ck to give for this friendly far from home, there’s still some real quality here through Thomas Partey (still not in jail), Inaki Williams, Mohammed Kudus and one, or two others. The US will probably see more of the ball against Ghana than against Germany, so the two games act as a nice gear change for how the US will have to play.
And this is pretty much it for quality opposition until the Copa America in the summer. Next month is two batting practice fastballs framed as the Nations League quarterfinals that will double as qualifying for the Copa. Then next March there’ll be the Nations League finals, otherwise known as “kicking around Mexico and Canada again.” And then it’s go time.
If Germany and Ghana are the least bit interested, we should find out more about this USMNT team, and Berhalter’s direction of it. Or it’ll just be 180 minutes of performance art. That’s soccer.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate and on Bluesky @felsgate.bsky.social
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