- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 2, 2013

On paper, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore offer a potent punch up top for the U.S. national team. Both players have left their mark in Europe — Dempsey in the English Premier League, Altidore in the Dutch Eredivisie. The physical tools are undeniable, as is their soccer savvy.

In execution, however, the duo hasn’t always clicked. While Dempsey has been the U.S. squad’s most reliable scorer of late, Altidore recently has found goals hard to come by internationally.

Before a sellout crowd of 47,359 at RFK Stadium on Sunday, they both figured it out. Behind two goals from Dempsey, a slump-busting tally from Altidore and the gift of a comical own goal, the Americans defeated highly touted Germany 4-3 in their final friendly before three critical World Cup qualifiers.

“We’ve always had the talent,” Altidore said. “It was just a matter of showing it.”

The Germans, who have advanced to at least the semifinals of every World Cup and European Championship since 2006, figured to offer a stern test despite fielding an experimental squad.

Yet the U.S. attack, which had scored just four goals in its past five games, had its way with the visitors.

It look only 13 minutes for the Americans to go ahead when Altidore struck an exquisite volley off a cross from Graham Zusi. For the 23-year-old striker, who scored 31 goals for AZ Alkmaar this season but hadn’t found net for the U.S. since November 2011, it was a resounding end to the drought.

“He’s our big man,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “We’re going to rely on him — he knows that.”

Three minutes later, German goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen misplayed a back pass that slipped off his foot and nestled into the side netting, doubling the U.S. advantage.

Once Germany halved the deficit after intermission with a Heiko Westermann header, Dempsey took matters into his own hands. In the 60th minute, he hammered home an Altidore service. Five minutes later, he evaded Lukas Podolski’s challenge with a nifty cutback before curling a 25-yard shot into the upper corner with his weaker left foot.

Dempsey’s second strike was his 35th for the U.S., passing Eric Wynalda for second all time.

“Is [Dempsey] highly talented? Does he have all of the tools you need to have at the highest level? Yes,” said U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, a German legend who faced his native country for the first time. “But what is far more important is he has the drive, he has the hunger, he’s not satisfied.”

The U.S. performance, though, wasn’t just filled with positives. Late goals from Max Kruse and Julian Draxler gave the Germans life late, and made it seven goals allowed in two games for the U.S. after a 4-2 loss to Belgium on Wednesday.

But the Americans, who sit at 1-1-1 in the hexagonal stage of World Cup qualifying, are optimistic going into Friday’s match at Jamaica, where they suffered a 2-1 upset loss in September.

“It gives you confidence,” Dempsey said. “It puts more wind in your sails. I feel like getting a result against a team like this, you know you can go down there and get the job done.”

Adding further fervor to Sunday’s contest was its billing as the Centennial Celebration Match for U.S. Soccer, marking 100 years since the federation was founded.

The U.S. supporters created a spirited atmosphere at aging RFK Stadium, which was dressed up with centennial banners, additional seating behind both goals and plenty of American flags. Offering a recorded message on the big screen, President Obama further fired up the crowd.

Once the opening whistle blew, Dempsey, Altidore and that rejuvenated U.S. attack did the rest.

“We fed off their energy,” defender Matt Besler said of the fans. “It was a very loud, pro-American crowd. I thought we gave them a good show.”

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