Christian Pulisic strikes first, but USMNT overpowered by Germany, 3-1

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — On the eve of Saturday’s much-ballyhooed friendly match at Rentschler Field, U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter said that these sorts of games, against truly elite competition, are precisely the kind the Americans must learn how to win if they want to make a deep run at the 2026 World Cup on home soil.

Four-time world champion Die Mannschaft had other ideas. 

Although the USMNT took a 1-0 first-half lead via a gorgeous strike by star attacker Christian Pulisic, Germany’s İlkay Gündoğan equalized before the break before second-half strikes by Jamal Musiala and Niclas Füllkrug to run away with a well-earned 3-1 win.

Here are three quick thoughts on the rain-soaked match.

Play of the game

With the match still scoreless in the 26th minute, a gorgeous dummy run by U.S. forward Folarin Balogun left Pulisic all alone in the box with only German backstop Marc-Andre ter Stegen to beat. Pulisic tried to round the keeper, but his touch was too heavy and Mexican referee Fernando Guerrero wasn’t swayed by Pulisic’s appeals for a penalty kick after going to ground.

Ter Stegen admonished Pulisic for what he clearly believed was a dive. But the American star got the last laugh a minute later when he took a pass from Balogun on the left touchline, blazed inside and unleashed a curling, 20-year-shot into the side netting that a helpless Ter Stegen didn’t even bother diving for.

It might have been the prettiest of the 27 goals Pulisic has scored for his country:

Turning point

Perhaps the outcome could’ve been different had the hosts been able to get to the changing room at halftime still up on Pulisic’s golazo. Instead, Gündoğan’s tally — which came after a spectacular bit of dribbling by Leroy Sane inside the American penalty area — canceled out the opener and changed the momentum of the contest.

Key stat

It’s hard to pick just one. While the U.S. had its moments, the truth is that Germany dominated the contest almost from start to finish. The visitors let the Americans off the hook on several occasions over the opening 45 minutes alone. Gündoğan missed the target on a golden early chance. Pascal Gross hit the post. Germany equalized before the break before second-half strikes by Füllkrug sent a pair of shots right at Matt Turner, who also made at least two acrobatic stops later on.

The numbers don’t lie: Germany out-chanced the U.S. 19-5 and enjoyed 60-percent of the possession.

What’s next for the USMNT

Another stern test. While all the focus over the last week or so has been on Saturday’s marquee matchup, the Americans will face their second formidable opponent of the October international window on Tuesday in Nashville (8:30 p.m. ET on Peacock).

While the Black Stars aren’t nearly as accomplished a national team — few are; only Brazil (five) and Italy have as many world titles as Die Mannschaft — longtime U.S. fans are fully aware that Ghana is no slouch. The two countries met at three consecutive World Cups between 2006 and 2014, with the Black Stars winning twice, including in the round of 16 in 2010.

Like the U.S., the current Ghana side is full of potential. They were the only team younger than the Americans at Qatar 2022, and coach Chris Hughton’s roster is filled with players employed in top European leagues, such as Arsenal’s Thomas Partey and Crystal Palace’s Jordan Ayew.

What’s next for Germany

After disappointing hugely at last year’s World Cup and firing then-manager Hansi Flick last month after an embarrassing 4-1 loss at home to Japan, the Euro 2024 host is off to a winning start under new coach Julian Nagelsmann.

Make no mistake: despite being a friendly, this was a hugely important win for Germany, which will look to wrap up its somewhat controversial North American sojourn Tuesday against Mexico in Philadelphia with a second victory in as many outings with Nagelsmann at the helm.

Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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