Tag: Clint Dempsey

USA Player Ratings VS Germany

Generally speaking, it’s difficult to assign grades to players who barely touched the ball. The statistics will show that Germany had possession of the ball 60 something percent of the time. It sure felt more like 80 something. The Germans were definitely good value for their win, and with more clinical finishing (or perhaps less heroic defending by the U.S.), they could have won by three or four more goals and sent the United States packing. As it is, the States are through to the knock out stage and here’s how the boys did against Deutschland.

GK – Tim Howard: 6.0 – Mueller’s bullet in the 55th minute was unstoppable, but had Howard simply collected the soft header low to his right rather than try to punch it out through the middle of the box, his score would be higher. Apart from that moment of madness, he was steady and commanding in the box, though nothing overly spectacular was required of him.

D – DaMarcus Beasley: 6.5 – Another solid performance from the veteran. One of the few U.S. players who got forward a little bit, and wasn’t beaten on the defensive end either.

D – Omar Gonzalez: 7.5 – Man of the match for the Americans. Several well-timed tackles to save sure goals and apart from a muffed clearance early, was brilliant. Didn’t support the offense much but when your team doesn’t have the ball, what can you do?

D – Matt Besler: 7.0 – Besler might well be the next American defender to get a contract from an English Premier League side. Few players have been steadier in the group stage. You can add toughness to his resume too, as he’s dealt with a troublesome hamstring.

D – Fabian Johnson: 5.0 – Disappointing performance from the right back. He wasn’t terrible, but completely failed to run at Benedikt Hoewedes after the German left back picked up an early yellow card. Made some timely interceptions, but also gave the Germans too much room in attack.

M – Brad Davis: 4.5 – The MLS veteran appeared out of his depth at the World Cup level. Left Beasley exposed at the back too frequently by failing to fill the gaps. Never got to attempt any free kicks, which is his specialty and the reason he was put in the side to begin with. Subbed out in the second half, probably later than he should have been.

M – Kyle Beckerman: 6.5 – Did what he always does. Provided solid support in front of the back four. Even made a few forays into the German half and didn’t look out of place, nor was he caught in possession like he was against Portugal a couple of times. Nice shift put in by the veteran midfielder.

M – Jermaine Jones: 6.0 – Didn’t show the all-around brilliance he displayed in the first two group games, but certainly wasn’t bad. His touch let him down a few times, but he defended well like he always does, and managed to avoid picking up a yellow card and preserve his eligibility for the round of 16. Fortunate not to be hurt after a gruesome looking collision with sub, Alejandro Bedoya.

M – Michael Bradley: 5.5 – Decent recovery performance by Bradley. After being historically awful against Ghana and Portugal, he can consider himself fortunate to not have been dropped. He wasn’t able to accomplish a ton offensively, but he managed to not give the ball away in bad positions, and was able to distribute well to the wings on the few occasions the U.S. managed to keep possession.

M – Graham Zusi: 4.5 – A bit of a let down from the Sporting Kansas City man. His delivery on corners was poor, and apart from going fairly close with an early effort that Manny Neuer probably would have stopped anyway had it been on target, was anonymous.

F – Clint Dempsey: 5.0 – Was completely shut down by the German defense. Fluffed a glorious chance at a headed equalizer deep into second half stoppage time to put a bow on a thoroughly forgettable offensive day for Deuce. That said, he tracked back and defended well from the front, which against Germany, is key for your forwards to do.

The Substitutes

M – Alejandro Bedoya: 5.0 – Fairly anonymous, apart from colliding with Jones, in the 20 minutes he was given. Had a sight of goal late in the second half, but took slightly too long to let it rip and let Phillip Lahm nip in for a sliding deflection.

M – DeAndre Yedlin: 4.5 – Shocking that he wasn’t introduced earlier with his youth and speed. Wasn’t lacking in energy, but the one chance he had to whip a dangerous cross in resulted in an unsophisticated larrup 25 feet over the goal and end line.

Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann: 5.5 – No magic subs this time, and a head scratcher in starting Davis. Also took too long to introduce fresh legs in Yedlin. That said, if you want to look at the group stage as a whole, he did well to advance the U.S. out of a brutal group.

The Referee: Ravshan Irmatov, Uzbekistan: 5.5 – Botched an advantage call early, and missed a couple of fouls committed by the Americans. Notably, both Bradley and Beckerman were fortunate to avoid early yellows. Reminder, 5.5 is not an awful grade. It’s not a great grade. It’s just there. And Irmatov, like the two refs that officiated the first two games, didn’t make any game-swinging bad decisions. There weren’t any near penalties, but still, he let the players decide the game.

USA Player Ratings Versus Portugal

Disaster came early and late for the United States.  In a game where they still earned a priceless point, the U.S. will be kicking themselves for not bagging all three and securing passage into the knock out round. 

Without further ado, here’s how the lads graded out.

GK – Tim Howard: 6 – He can’t be blamed for Nani’s opener, though falling flat on your back is probably not the strategy best employed when faced with an opposing forward alone with the ball in front of you. Made a couple of big saves, though to be honest, his own mistakes led to the opportunities that yielded the big saves. The last second equalizer from Portugal was unstoppable.

D – DaMarcus Beasley: 6.5 – For as shaky as he was in the opener against Ghana, he was every bit as steady in this one. Pressed forward, defended responsibly, kept possession. A nice performance from the veteran.

D – Matt Besler: 7.5 – Less regarded than his central defense partner, he was superior today. Portugal’s forwards were a non-factor for the most part, and his commanding performance was a big part of that. If you’re going to nitpick, you’d still like to see more thumping clearances when the situation calls for it, but he was essentially mistake-free today. 

D – Geoff Cameron: 3.5 – My oh my, his whiffed clearance that lead to Nani’s goal was surpassed in incompetence perhaps only by Spanish keeper Iker Casillas’ horrible first touch give-away against Spain. He was also beaten on Portugal’s equalizer at the death, though it was a perfect ball that led to it. Still, when you’re attached to both opposing goals, accountability is a must.  

D – Fabian Johnson: 6.5 – I think he read our review of the Ghana game. Got forward aggressively and caused problems for Portugal’s defense. Unfortunately, none of his efforts really bore fruit, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Defended competently too, which for a fullback should be considered the top priority anyway.

M – Alejandro Bedoya: 4.5 – Well, you rarely heard his name…which if he’s a goalie, that’s good. But he isn’t. He’s a wide midfielder whose role in the offense is…well, to help create offense. And he did little. Subbed off and deservedly so. It’s a surprise it didn’t come earlier. Should probably be dropped for the Germany game. 

M – Michael Bradley: 2.5 – It couldn’t possibly be worse than his performance against Ghana, right? Well, it was equally bad. His unforgiveable turnover in the final seconds led to the equalizing goal, costing the U.S. guaranteed advancement. And it was his THIRD turnover of stoppage time, and we lost count of all the give-aways during regular time. Before the U.S. took the lead, he squandered a practically unmissable scoring chance, a defender deflecting his shot off the line with the entire goal at his mercy. The three or four good passes he made do not even the scales. He’s not fit to wear the shirt.  

M – Kyle Beckerman: 5.5 – Worked hard, as he always does, but was careless in possession at times, taking too much time with the ball. He wasn’t nearly as terrible as Bradley, offering valuable support in front of the back four, but he failed to replicate the quality of his performance against Ghana. 

M – Jermaine Jones: 9.0 – His stunning equalizer will be a finalist for goal of the tournament, but he was miles away the best player on the field before that happened. Tough in the tackle, great in distribution, and just about everything you want from a holding midfielder. The yellow card he was assessed was his first, and came on a bad call too so his legendary temper is in check.

M – Graham Zusi: 6.0 – Zusi was ok. He ran hard, tried to support the defense, but once again, he was the provider on the key goal for the U.S. It was his lone contribution of note, but when you create goals, that’s enough in a supporting role.

F – Clint Dempsey: 8.0 – As the lone striker, he found space difficult to come by up front. That said, he never stopped working and got his deserved goal. He’s the very definition of a leader for this team. Anything said beyond this will just be me man-crushing. 

The Substitutes

M – DeAndre Yedlin: 6.5 – Superb raw talent, showcased excellent skill on the right wing after coming on. His cross started the sequence that led to Dempsey’s go-ahead goal. 

F – Chris Wondolowski: 6.0 – Wasn’t on the field long, but did the right things, holding possession and running time off the clock. If not for Bradley’s disastrous play, the media would probably point to his play in the final minutes as a key factor in protecting the lead. 

D – Omar Gonzalez: N/A – Not on the field long enough to generate a rating.

Coach – Jurgen Klinsmann: 6.0 – His players were not lacking for effort, so he deserves some credit for that. In addition, another bold substitution led to a big goal. But, leaving Bradley on the field for what now amounts to 190 (counting stoppage time) plus minutes of some of the most ruinously bad play in U.S. international soccer history is unexplainable. 

Referee – Nestor Pitana, Argentina: 6.5 – Again, the United States was fortunate to be involved in a game with a solid referee. All the big decisions were correct, though Nani should have been given a yellow for his embarrassing dive in the U.S. box, and the yellow awarded to Jones was not deserved. Still, nobody is perfect, and he did his main job of calling a fair game very well. 

USA Player Ratings Versus Ghana

The United States Men’s National Team picked up a priceless three points against old nemesis Ghana, who were the architects of their demise in the previous two World Cups. Their 2-1 victory Monday, while vital, was not the product of superior play however. Ghana dominated much of the game after Clint Dempsey’s superb opener a mere 32 seconds into the game. The U.S. seemed to struggle with the heat and humidity, and picked up several injuries during the course of the game. Some players rose to the challenge, others wilted. 

Anyway, below are The Stain’s ratings of the American players today on a scale of 1 to 10. Full disclosure, I’m modeling our 1-10 scale on several I read weekly during the English Premier League season because, simply put, I like the way they do it. A perfect 10 is exceedingly difficult to achieve. I’m sure there have been a few, but I have only ever seen one awarded in an article that I read, and it belonged to Hull City goal keeper Boaz Myhill for his otherworldly performance against Tottenham Hotspur a few years ago. In that game, Myhill made no fewer than a dozen saves, many of them of the spectacular variety, and a few that were impossible to believe. Nary a fumble, nor a stumble, and I’m apparently now a poet. For perspective, even the virtuoso performances of Dutch studs Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie against Spain on Friday earned an 8.5 and 9.0 respectively in my eyes. 

So basically, anything 7 or above is meritorious. A 6 is solid, depending on what may have been expected of that player. 5 is mediocre. 4 is bad. And we don’t need to get into what any lower numbers represent, though spoiler alert, there are a couple. 

Without further ado:

GK – Tim Howard: 7.0 – I understand that I’m in the minority, but I don’t feel that Howard is the best keeper on the U.S. roster. I’d start Brad Guzan. That said, Howard was strong. He commanded his area well, intervened on a bunch of crosses, made a slick save low and to his left to deny Asamoah Gyan in the first half, and marshalled his defenders well. His distribution left a little to be desired, as he has a propensity to hoof goal kicks out of bounds, or nowhere near a teammate. And while Andre Ayew’s equalizer in the 82nd minute was a nice finish to round off a nice play, Howard was beaten on the short side, and may have stopped it had he elected to simply make himself big and force a perfect strike rather than cheat to the far post. All in all, a job well done by the Everton netminder. Continued play at this level bodes well for U.S. chances.

D – Damarcus Beasley: 4.5 – For the first 25 minutes or so, Beasley was horrific, at one point just falling over as Christian Atsu dribbled past him. It was brutal. But slowly, the veteran rounded into form a little bit. And while he never quite looked comfortable, he did push forward on the left side to try and create offense, and never failed to give the maximum in effort tracking back. Lastly, he was also one of the few Americans who tried to do the right thing in second half stoppage time and keep the ball, rather than orchestrate a scoring opportunity that would just gift the ball back to the Africans, who to their credit, never quit putting the pressure on.

D – Geoff Cameron: 6.5 – The Stoke City fullback was excellent in a no-nonsense performance. He didn’t distribute the ball very well, nor did he pose much of a threat on offense during set pieces, but he tackled well and did a terrific job with young John Brooks, who was called into second half duty after starting partner Matt Besler had to depart with hamstring issues. More on both later. But perhaps most impressive about Cameron, he toughed through all 100 minutes (there were 5 minutes of stoppage time in each half) despite have difficulties with what appeared to be a calf injury of some sort. You’d like to see more authoritative clearances but all in all, he was a battler today, and his effort was appreciated by fans and teammates alike.

D – Matt Besler: 6.0 – Belser left the game at half time due to a tight hamstring. One of the more inexperienced starters on the team, Besler did not seem overwhelmed with his first World Cup start. He marked well, positioned himself correctly, and hasn’t a single thing to be ashamed of. Like Cameron, you’d like to see better clearances and more accurate passing out of the back, but those things will likely come as the experience accumulates.

D – Fabian Johnson: 5.0 – For the most part, Johnson was ok. He displayed a willingness to tackle and wasn’t intimidated. But one of the big reasons he is starting at right back is his ability to maraud forward and cause nightmares for the opposition’s left side defense. Johnson was barely involved offensively, and in his one foray into Ghana’s penalty area, he seemed directionless after initially beating his defender with a sparkling piece of skill. Plus, he was the one in charge of marking Ayew on his equaliser and didn’t diagnose the Ghanain’s run in time to intervene. Hey Fabian! Use your speed and skill and RUN AT THE DEFENSE! The U.S. is good on set pieces and Johnson is always the most likely to earn one.

M – Alejandro Bedoya: 5.5 – Bedoya wasn’t bad, and ran his absolute heart out, but his first touch was simply terrible. You have to give him props for battling through what appeared to be some hip difficulty before being substituted late on. He first appeared to be bugged by it early in the second half, by which time the U.S. had already burned two substitutions, so it was important for him to go as far as he could manage. You’d have liked to see him be tidier, but he didn’t once lack for effort. 

M – Michael Bradley: 2.5 – Even that is being generous, but at least he didn’t score an own goal. Bradley is the team’s best field player, and turned in what might the worst performance of anyone ever in a U.S. jersey during a World Cup game. Repeated turn overs, shocking decision making, and lack of awareness, you could have plugged in third choice keeper Nick Rimando at Bradley’s spot and gotten better. Perhaps worst of all, with a tired U.S. squad clinging to a lead in stoppage time, Bradley spurned an opportunity to burn priceless time off the clock, instead trying to force the creation of a needless scoring chance, and basically just gifted the ball back to Ghana. You could argue that he should simply be sent home, and he definitely should be dropped from the line up against Portugal on Sunday. Neither will happen, but any more performances like this, his international career is in jeopardy. 

M – Kyle Beckerman: 8.0 – For my money, Beckerman was the man of the match. He’s another guy whose inclusion in the World Cup squad surprised me, as he’s limited offensively, and hasn’t done much to impress in previous opportunities to feature for the U.S. But today, he was superb. Playing in front of the back four, he tackled relentlessly, made smart decisions, and possibly in an effort to make up for Bradley’s pathetic display, tried to help in the attack a bit in the second half, and didn’t look out of place at all doing it. The 32-year-old can hold his head high, and any more efforts like this one will raise the question why he wasn’t featured more prominently in previous international tournaments. 

M – Jermaine Jones: 7.5 – What exactly is it with guys I wasn’t keen on? Jones is another guy who I’ve never been a big fan of. He’s not particularly skillful, and a notorious hothead who lets his emotions get the better of him. At least, he was until today. Maximum effort for 100 minutes, top drawer defending, and he kept his head about him after an early clash. Like Beckerman, he doesn’t bring a ton offensively, but he too got involved, and set up Clint Dempsey’s opening goal with a smart pass. Moreover, he was one of the few American’s late on with the wherewithall to try and keep possession. Possibly his finest performance in a U.S. shirt. 

F – Jozy Altidore: 3.5 – Altidore wasn’t on the field long enough to have an impact, as a hamstring pull forced an early departure. He’s not a guy the U.S. could really afford to lose, as even in his poorer games, he still demands attention. In this one, his lone activity of note was electing to try and smash a shot through two Ghana defenders rather than lay off an easy pass to a wide open teammate at the top of the 18 yard box. 

F – Clint Dempsey: 6.5 – His opener in the first minute was a beauty. Beat a defender on the dribble, and a perfect finish. Unfortunately, Dempsey also became part of the U.S. walking wounded, taking a kick to the face that bloodied and possibly broke his nose. The kick appeared to be inadvertent, if careless, and the failure to call a foul was one of the referee’s few poor decisions. But it did leave Dempsey with an injury that impacted his breathing and therefore his effectiveness for the rest of the game. Nevertheless, “Deuce” trucked on and finished the game. It was a gutsy effort to be sure. 

The Substitutes

F – Aron Johannsson: 3.5 – He came on for Altidore in the first half, and to be truthful, disappointed. The skills that led to a productive year for Dutch big-timers AZ Alkmaar were nowhere to be seen. After a start that saw him give away possession multiple times, there was a glimmer of hope as a he played a smart and accurate outlet to Bedoya to start a U.S. counter attack. That, sadly, was the lone bright spot. The rest of the game was a combination of anonymity and failure to challenge for, much less keep possession. This stage appears to big for him at this point of his career.

D – John Brooks: 7.0 – Well, there’s the small detail that his smashing header off of a late corner was the game-winning goal. Apart from that, he also managed to do just enough defensively to thwart Ghana’s attacks. In what appears to be a theme among U.S. defenders, Brooks’ clearances were often barely sufficient rather than the thunderous boot the situations called for, but considering the circumstances of his introduction into the game, he performed admirably. 

M – Graham Zusi: 5.5 – Zusi offers some creativity and flair on offense, and about as much as I do on defense…after my fourth beer. However, his corner kick on Brooks’ winner was pin point. 10 minutes is not enough time to evaluate how much someone can contribute, but on Zusi’s brief participation in this one, Coach Jurgen Klinsmann should consider starting him ahead of Bradley against Portugal. 

Coach – Jurgen Klinsmann: 6.0 – Well, his team won. The Brooks substitution for Besler ended up being a winner. You can’t come down too hard on a guy whose team won. That said, there is no reason that five or six players should end up with muscle strains in a game. Yeah, these are grown men and shouldn’t have to be reminded to stretch, for heaven’s sake. But Jurgie needs to keep a more watchful eye on pre-game preparations. 

The Referee

Jonas Eriksson – Sweden: 7.5 – I’ll admit, I’m always quick to criticize officials. I think largely, it’s befuddling how bad most of them are. But Eriksson and his crew were excellent in this one. Yeah, the face kick on Dempsey went uncalled, which was kind of an obvious one to miss. But, no dodgy penalties awarded, all the offside decisions were correct, and he kept his cards in his pocket unless one was actually warranted. Truly a job well done for the Swede and his crew. 

2014 World Cup Preview: Group G

Group at a Glance: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, United States. We definitely have a contender for the Group of Death here. Three very tough teams, plus the United States who have shown that when on their game, they can in fact hang with the world’s best. There should be some barnburners in this group, but it’s also another example of how the current system is horribly flawed. When one group has four teams that are better than the seeded teams in some other groups, that’s a problem. However, if you’re grading on entertainment value, this is probably the group to watch. If there’s a common perceived weakness with these teams, it’s strength in defense, so you’re going to see lots of goals.

Favorites to Advance: Germany and Portugal. The obvious isn’t always the way it goes in World Cup soccer, but in this case, it is. Both squads are fielding world-class midfields and loads of big stage experience. And of the four rickety defenses, the US and Ghana are the most vulnerable.

Players to Watch: Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Nani. Who is looking forward to defending these guys? Yeah, I wouldn’t be either. Masterful, the first three, and occasionally so for Nani, the German and Portuguese midfields will be something to behold.

Homer Corner: The United States has its plusses. They have some experience in midfield, some talented players in the world’s top leagues, and a coach in Jurgen Klinsman who has the players’ belief and dedication. That said, there are too many question marks. The unproven Omar Gonzales and Clarence Goodson take over central defense from the dependable duo of Carlos Bocanegra and Jay Demerit. Inexplicably, DaMarcus Beasley, who long ago sailed past the last port of international soccer relevance, is deemed to be the best option at left back. God only knows who replaces the criminally underrated Steve Cherundolo at right back. Geoff Cameron? Michael Parkhurst? Timothy Chandler? Eric Lichaj? It doesn’t appear to be a winning combo. Veteran Clint Dempsey provides some scoring punch up front, and if they move Landon Donovan to the wing, where he’s better suited, and pair Dempsey with Jozy Altidore at forward, they may score enough to edge a result over Ghana. But sadly, the group stage is where it will end for the stars and stripes in 2014.