Photo by ISIPhotos.com
On a night when the U.S. Men’s National Team rode some late-game heroics to a valuable three points, the number of American players who stood out was considerably shorter than the number of Americans who struggled. Facing an underdog Antigua & Barbuda side in awful playing conditions, the U.S. rode the standout efforts of a select few to eke out a sorely-needed win.
Eddie Johnson was the star of the show on Friday, scoring two goals in his first national team action in two years. While he was enjoying a memorable return, Alan Gordon was busy turning in an outstanding national team debut, registering an assist in his first national team match.
There weren’t all positives on Friday night. Several players struggled, some in uncharacteristic fashion. Both Clint Dempsey and Herculez Gomez disappointed, while Jermaine Jones just looked lost after coming on as a second-half sub.
Here is a closer look at how all the Americans fared on Friday night, courtesy of the SBI Player Grade (ratings consisting of the average of the match grades of SBI editor-in-chief Ives Galarcep and senior writer Franco Panizo):
USMNT PLAYER GRADES
TIM HOWARD (6). It wasn’t an extremely busy night for him, but he made some extremely vital stops, particularly in the second half when Antigua & Barbuda had thoughts of an upset in mind. He couldn’t be blamed for the Antigua & Barbuda goal. (IG)
STEVE CHERUNDOLO (7). The best U.S. defender on the night, Cherundolo locked down his side of the field and also found time to help out the centerbacks as they struggled with their footing. (IG)
CLARENCE GOODSON (5). Strong in the air as usual, but when he wasn’t busy trying to cope with the speed of Peter Byers and Dexter Blackstock, he was trying to find ways not to slip on the bumpy terrain at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium. Was pushed off the ball too easily on the goal the U.S. let up. (FP)
GEOFF CAMERON (5). His passing was not as pinpoint as usual due to the conditions and narrow field, and like Goodson, struggled to handle the pace of the Antigua & Barbuda strikers. His poor marking on Byers on the goal-scoring play was his worst moment of the night. (FP)
CARLOS BOCANEGRA (5). Returned to a familiar left back role and looked a step slow on the wing. He also committed the costly turnover that ultimately led to Antigua & Barbuda’s goal. (IG)
DANNY WILLIAMS (5) Struggled to make an impact on the game, especially as it wore on. He did not have much to deal with defensively, but like most of his teammates, he struggled offensively before being replaced in the second half. (FP)
MICHAEL BRADLEY (7). On a night when completing passes and keeping the ball was made nearly impossible by the narrow field and muddy pitch, Bradley still found a way to get more of the ball than any of his teammates, as well as connect more passes. (IG)
GRAHAM ZUSI (6). Was active at the start of the game and delivered the type of precise crosses that Klinsmann surely wanted but did not get much of in Antigua. He faded in the second half before coming off, but his inch-perfect ball set up Johnson for the Americans’ first goal. (FP)
CLINT DEMPSEY (5). A disappointing night for the player expected to lead the attack. He was uncharacteristically quiet and never found a rhythm in the game. Had one nice layoff pass that set up a good Bradley shot but was otherwise non-existent in the attack. (IG)
HERCULEZ GOMEZ (4.5). Might have been his worst night as a national team starter. Was his usual active self, moving around constantly trying to find spots to be a threat, but bad touches let him down on two key chances in the penalty area. Never put one chance on goal. (IG)
EDDIE JOHNSON (8). A dream night for the Sounders forward. Showed his aerial prowess on his first goal, and his hustle to get open for his second goal. He also did a good job of taking defenders on from the left flank, though he often followed up a successful move with a bad pass. Expect another start on Tuesday. (IG)
ALAN GORDON (6). No stranger to late-game heroics at the club level, Gordon delivered a beautifully-lofted cross to Johnson for the clutch winner in the 90th minute, saving the U.S. from what would have been an embarrassing result. That the assist came in his first international cap was even more impressive. (FP)
JERMAINE JONES (4.5). The worst of the three substitutions Klinsmann made, Jones was inserted into Williams’ No. 6 role but never really found the game. He received a yellow card early into his cameo, which rules him out for the clash against Guatemala, for a silly foul. Did have a pair of divine interventions to halt Antigua attacks, though. (FP)
SACHA KLJESTAN (6). The RSC Anderlecht midfielder surely would have hoped for better conditions in his first U.S. game in eight months, but he nonetheless provided a spark off the bench. Kljestan had a dipping shot nearly go past Molvin James, and it was his pass to Gordon that helped create Johnson’s winner at the death. (FP)
What do you think of the grades? Who would you have given higher marks to? Who should have been graded more harshly?
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