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.
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.
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.