U.S. Player Ratings: Yanks Step It Up in the Snow
Faced with a must-win match and a driving snowstorm, the United States men's soccer team manned up and defeated Costa Rica, 1-0. Here's a look at how the individual players performed.
BY Will Parchman PostedJust days after Brian Straus' blockbuster article revealed supposed tensions in the locker room, the U.S. gritted out a much-needed 1-0 win over Costa Rica in blizzard conditions in Colorado. Clint Dempsey's 16th-minute goal off a rebound put the U.S. ahead for good, and a sturdy if somewhat scrambling game plan at the back helped it stand. The fat snow flakes continued to fall harder as the night progressed, making tactical shifts and foot-to-foot interchange supremely difficult as the game plunged into the second half. The U.S. needed three points, and the team duly delivered.When Jurgen Klinsmann looks back in his pantheon of game film, he likely won't reach for the Costa Rica tape for clues on his future XI's. This was a prime example of survive and advance. In that regard, Friday night was mission accomplished. STARTERS
March 23, 2013
March 23, 2013
Brad Guzan: The tactical challenges of organizing a back line without a game of experience together is tough enough. Add in blizzard conditions and things can easily take a disastrous turn. Guzan wasn't asked to do much, but the moments that pulled him into the game were key, and he rose to each one. He made an important save early in the first half, and he corralled another in the 60th minute that, while hammered directly at his chest, he kept from spilling out for an easy rebound. On a night when so many variables typically conspire against goalkeepers, Guzan kept Mother Nature from spoiling his first start for the U.S. in nearly four years. Give him credit. Rating: 7.0 Geoff Cameron : Klinsmann split Cameron wide right, largely owing to the player's vast recent experience along the back line at Stoke. Cameron's night was a mixed bag, and he was probably the weakest link on a back line that could have used him best at CB. Events, though, conspired to push him wide, and he did his best to keep up. He had several bad giveaways, namely one in the 21st minute that nearly led to a Brian Ruiz goal, by far Costa Rica's best chance in the run of play. But he did his best to break up the chances he created, and Costa Rica's goose egg is as much his as anybody's. Rating: 6.0 Omar Gonzalez: Gonzalez quietly put together a strong shift in the middle. He played off Goodson well despite having no experience with the pairing, and he routinely used his size to bust up Costa Rican set pieces, which began accumulating to a disconcerting degree in the second half. Gonzo is quickly becoming the U.S.'s most fearless player in the air, and when paired with someone stronger on the ground, it's hard to see his national career slowing down. I'd like to see him continue this on a faster surface, but it's hard to find much fault, especially considering the conditions. Rating: 7.0 Clarence Goodson: Goodson has been an anomaly, sometimes looking great and at other times looking like he's never kicked a ball before. I can't remember Goodson looking stronger than he did Friday. He was resolute in breaking up attacks and looked perhaps least threatened by the weather. He certainly owes some to his midfield, but this was a night of scrambling for second balls and frantically clearing missed balls off the line. In the 52nd minute, a free kick took a deflection and, amidst the swirling snow, Guzan didn't pick it up. Goodson did. He headed away a guaranteed goal and Costa Rica never got all that close again. Give the dude his due. Rating: 7.5 DaMarcus Beasley: I was as concerned as anyone, but in his first start at LB since the 3-1 Saprissa disaster in 2009, Beasley quieted some of the doubters. He was quick to the ball, was dangerous down the left flank, and surprisingly didn't lapse on his defensive duties. He overextended himself at times, but each time he beat it back to cover. A perfect example came in the 31st minute when Bryan Ruiz beat him on the first ball before Beasley cleared on the second. This can't be a long-term solution, but as far as short-term stopgaps go, this was as good as it gets. Rating: 7.0 Michael Bradley: What a player. Bradley's been getting forward more for Roma, but he's best known for his industriousness and brevity on possession. All those things matter double when the snow gets thick, so it's only natural Bradley's compact game translated well to the conditions. In fact, his calming presence was probably the most important factor for organizational purposes. Rating: 7.5 Jermaine Jones: The frosted mini-wheat did his due diligence without putting in a shift of much note. He drifted a bit higher than Bradley for much of the night but never made much impact. He nearly (and probably should've) got his customary yellow when he raised an arm to Ruiz in the second half. He was pulled off for Mo Edu in the 82nd minute to further strengthen the midfield. Rating: 6.0 Graham Zusi: Very quiet night for Zusi on the right. He had a single cross in the second half that reminded you he was there. Other than that, he ran largely purposelessly up and down a right flank that got very little action. He'd hardly even touched the ball before flubbing a cross in the 29th minute. Rating: 5.5 Clint Dempsey: All the Nacogdoches Ninja does is score goals. What a perfect example of how to follow up rebounds on his 16th minute put-back. Jozy Altidore has a strong chance and Dempsey follows beautifully for the only goal the U.S. needed. Dempsey was consistently the most dangerous player on the field until the snow negated tactics late in the first half. Beyond that, he kept reinforcing the kind of leadership that led him to win the armband in the first place. Rating: 8.0 Herculez Gomez: Friday represented an interesting challenge for Gomez, who was pegged to the left side in a 4-2-3-1 and told to hold it down. Out of position, Gomez dutifully worked over the left flank and kept the width the U.S. so desperately needed coming in. He may not have been swooping into the goal area like he typically does, but on an injury-shortened roster, his ability to at least nominally keep the Costa Rican defense stretched helped lead to Dempsey's goal and the U.S.'s most dangerous chances. Rating: 7.0 Jozy Altidore: So much has been written about Altidore's sagging form that you almost forget how good he can be. Friday was a great exhibit for how much he's grown since arriving at AZ. Jozy played with his back to the goal, routinely strung along defenders to allow his midfielders to catch up and generally looked terribly dangerous. His crack on goal led to Dempsey's follow-up, and he bodied up defenders all night to hold it up. If this is the Altidore the U.S. sees in the build-up to Brazil, CONCACAF just entered a world of hurt. Rating: 7.5 SUBSTITUTES
Eddie Johnson: He didn't have long to make an impact, but EJ added some pep to the right side with a few runs that made Costa Rica respond. Rating: 6.5 Maurice Edu: Did what he needed to do. When you bring on a holding mid deep into a game, you do it with no goals in mind. All you can ask. Rating: 6.5 Kyle Beckerman: Got his head to a ball once. Came on in the 94th minute as a time-wasting move. Rating: INCOMPLETE THE COACH
Jurgen Klinsmann: It's so hard to judge a coach in conditions that approach the un-coachable. Not only did he have to deal with what some probably figured to be mutinous conditions, but he also had to figure a side that could turn a shoulder to a blizzard and march through a tough matchup. Whether he planned it or not, the result was far more than Klinsmann could've ever hoped for. Not only did his lineup work (the 4-2-3-1 turned out to be a masterstroke), but it likely engendered a spirit of camaraderie at just the right time. While region strongman Mexico drew away, making CONCACAF as open as ever at the top, the U.S. is suddenly in second place in the Hex. While it's clear Klinsmann hasn't won over everybody, this brand of result can only help rally the team to a common cause. Every general needs his gritty Gettysburg to turn the war in the face of continuing defeat. Klinsmann may have just found his. Rating: 7.5 These are our ratings; now tell us yours. Go to our interactive Player Ratings section and see how your scores compare with the media and fellow ASN readers.