World Cup Qualifying

Mexico 0, USA 0: SBI Player Grades

USA Starting 11

Photo by John Todd/ISIPhotos.com


MEXICO CITY– On a night when Mexico was far from sharp, and the crowd at Estadio Azteca was not quite as intimidating as in past visits, the U.S. Men’s National Team played a solid overall team game and showed no fear in grabbing a valuable point in Tuesday’s 0-0 World Cup qualifying draw.

The U.S. defense led the way, keeping Mexico’s dynamic attack at bay, as centerbacks Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler turned in star performances despite the fact both still have single-digit appearances totals for the national team. Gonzalez was the star of the show for the Americans, dominating the air and showing incredible growth in his third World Cup qualifying start. Besler was equally impressive, showing well in his very first qualifier.

The American attack didn’t create many chances, in large part to the fact that the U.S. midfield had to help cover the back four, but the defensive contributions of Graham Zusi and Herculez Gomez can’t be overstated.

In goal, Brad Guzan made every big play the U.S. needed, and provided a security blanked in the back for his defense, which showed confidence in sending passes back to him on a regular basis.

It wasn’t a memorable night for Clint Dempsey or Jozy Altidore, but that had as much to do with the U.S. midfield being too busy defending to offer the necessary attacking support.

That was a trade-off Jurgen Klinsmann was more than willing to make if it meant coming away from Estadio Azteca with a point, and while it still wasn’t a victory, Tuesday’s draw still means four points from two matches and another handful of American players who have shown they are capable of stepping up in big matches when called upon.

Here are SBI’s USMNT Player grades for Tuesday night’s 0-0 draw vs. Mexico:

USMNT Player Grades vs. Mexico

Brad Guzan- (7)– Made some big saves late and handled the ball cleanly throughout the match. He showed an ability to relieve pressure for his defense by making himself available for back-passes and getting the ball out of danger.

DaMarcus Beasley- (6)– Was shaky early on, and was clearly targeted by Mexico’s attack, but he eventually settled down and made several quality defensive plays while also drawing countless fouls as he tried to get forward.

Omar Gonzalez- (8)–  The Man of the Match for the USA, Gonzalez was imperious in the air and cut out every Mexican threat that came his way. The kind of game that shows why he’s considered the future (and clearly the present) of the USMNT centerback position.

Matt Besler- (7.5)– Showed some nerves early but promptly settled down and played every bit like a veteran rather than a novice playing just his second U.S. Men’s National Team match. He was strong in the air, confident on the ball and did his best to keep tabs on Chicharito.

Geoff Cameron- (6.5)– On a night when there were questions about his ability to handle Mexican winger Andres Guardado, Cameron showed the athleticism and positioning that has made him a regular starter at right back for Stoke City.

Maurice Edu- (5)– Did little to make people forget about Jermaine Jones. Made several mistakes, particularly in dangerous positions, and committed needless turnovers. Faded out of the game at times, but did settle down and play better in the match’s final 30 minutes, though he very nearly drew a match-deciding penalty.

Michael Bradley- (8)– In the first half, with the rest of the midfield struggling, it was Bradley who helped relieve pressure and cover ground and circulate the ball in order to keep Mexico’s attack from running the U.S. defense into the ground. Thoroughly outplayed his Mexican counterparts in the middle of the park.

Herculez Gomez- (6)– Put in an astounding amount of defensive work to help Beasley from being overrun by the Mexico attack.

Clint Dempsey- (5.5) – Did his best to try and keep the ball and help the U.S. possess, but the lack of midfield support in attack rendered Dempsey largely ineffective. Did his part to pressure the Mexican midfield when they had the ball deep in their end, but never could find a real chance to test Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.

Graham Zusi- (6)– Known more as a creative finess player in MLS, Zusi showed on Tuesday that he is more than capable of doing the necessary dirty work as a two-way winger. He made some lung-busting runs to help cover for Cameron on the right flank and tried testing Mexico’s defense when he could.

Jozy Altidore (5)– With the U.S. wingers busy tracking back, and Clint Dempsey not involved much in the attack, Altidore had zero attacking impact. Where he had value was in putting defensive pressure on the Mexico defense and central midfield when they had the ball.

Eddie Johnson (4.5)– Gave the team some energy off the bench, even if the team was in full defend mode by the time he came into the match.

Brad Davis (4.5)– Gave up a terrible free kick that nearly gifted Mexico a golden scoring chance late in the second half. Did provide some quality on the ball at times, and tried to send in a few dangerous crosses.

Brek Shea (NA)– Brought in for some speed, and energy, on the left, Shea didn’t have enough time to really make his mark.

Jurgen Klinsmann (7)– Turned to Matt Besler as a starter despite him only having one previous cap. That and the decision to stick with Cameron and Beasley at fullback paid dividends, even if the move to start Edu in central midfield didn’t exactly look like a winner. His substitutions showed a coach who wasn’t trying to completely park the bus, but being able to earn a point at Estadio Azteca earns Klinsmann high marks for the match.


What did you think of the USMNT’s performance on Tuesday night? Which players impressed you the most? Which players do you think struggled and didn’t make the grade against Mexico?

Share your thoughts below.

  • McQ

    Where is the fire Klinnsman crowd now? The anonomous quotes? I think we are exactly where most of us would have expected to be at this point with a lot more optimism than I would have expected. Jurgen is a man with a plan and he needs to be given some time to execute on it. The great debate about him seems to be one of style vs. substance. It seemed he was always brought in to alter the style and there are bound to be growing pains along the way. He needs to get “his” guys in and those not his to buy in. It will take some time and we are starting to see the fruits. It looks like we may have discovered our two new starting central backs. Is anyone on the window ledge if forced to contemplate a back line of Cameron, Gonzales, Belser and Chandler (or Johnson) I wouldn’t be too critical of Dempsey’s or Altidore’s performances last night, they were getting virtually no service and the game played out in a way that dictated that they were going to have to essentially create something out of nothing.
    Now we have the core of a backline that can be given some time to gel with upcoming qualifiers and a tournament style competition in the Gold Cup. I woke up today feeling ok and not too worried. Good Stuff!


    • Judging Amy

      It was a great result and I, personally, felt reassured about the one area where I had my doubts about Klins: Tactics.


    • beachbum

      what I like about Coach the most is his willingness to try other things when original ideas aren’t working whheter in player callups, tactics, subs, etc. And he’s a gambler clearly which is fun but can also be painful, but he brings an excitement to it all.

      I’d say the best part of his plan is it’s flexibility, even if injuries mandated some of that


    • Juan

      Well I dont agree. Everybody is focusing on the 4 points but break it down. CR game… 1 goal on a rebound 3-4 shots top… crappy game in the snow. Mexico – 0-0 they out played us, had many more chances and were most likely robbed on a PK or two. We were lucky to get out of there with a point.

      Fast forward to WC…Who are we going to beat playing like this? IDK if JK needs more time or if he needs to wake up and admit we are not setting the world on fire and we need to change course. What he is bringing to the table is not good enough and will get us nowhere


      • GW

        Aren’t you getting a little ahead of things?

        First the US needs to qualify for the World Cup.

        Then JK can work on the offense.

        When he took over the team it was in transition and the first order of business was to make the team hard to beat. Once that gets squared away then he can work on the offense. Of course this is all happening at once but the harsh reality of qualifying is first and foremost you can’t give anything away, not with the kind of offensively challenged players the US predominantly has.

        Since 2007, the USMNT has never been particularly good at attacking with anything other than a counter involving Landon. So for JK to turn the US into a smooth attacking side is nothing short of revolutionary. Give the man a little time.


  • manny rivademar

    I don’t think Mexico played badly. I think they were made to look bad by a pretty stout team with tremendous performances by Gonzales, Bessler and Guzan. I think the goalie was superb! This was not your typical USA team. The only thing I found objectionable was the lack of offense. Seems like the whole game we played back and occassionally countered. Beasley was man handled by Aquino but surprisingly held up. The times El Tri threw down U.S. players and were not called for it, was incredible. That play with Edu in the box, could have gone either way. The announcer felt it was a clear P.K. while Twellman felt it was questionable. All things considered, the play last nite gave me hope for the future. Now, if we can just develop an attack, my worries would be over.


    • kimo

      “Now, if we can just develop an attack … ” … My sentiments exactly.

      Right now, we simply lack pace / creativity on the wings and that’s allowing teams to pressure us. If Beasley can hold up and Donovan regains some mental fitness, I’d like to see DMB on the left wing and Donovan on the right. Both offer pace and experience and are willing to work back on defense. Defenses that press us too high can be exploited on the counter with their pace.

      Bradley – Jones

      This seems like a solid option that can offer in the attack.


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