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USA 2, Haiti 2: A look back

Stuart Holden (

It was a game that didn’t have much meaning from a results standpoint (at least not for the Americans), but the U.S. national team’s 2-2 tie vs. Haiti on Saturday certainly still had plenty of value for the United States.

Along with giving head coach Bob Bradley a chance to see every player he hadn’t seen in the team’s first two matches, it also helped provide the U.S. team with a good tough test heading into the Gold Cup quarterfinals.

Stuart Holden stepped up yet again and showed why he has to be considered one of the U.S. pool’s most promising attacking prospects. Unfortunately for the USA, Holden’s performance was one of only a few true bright spots on Saturday.

Here is a look at player grades for Saturday’s match:

Luis Robles (4)– Worst performance by a U.S. goalkeeper in a LONG time. To be fair, it was his first game, and his defense did him no favors.

Brad Evans (5.5)– Shaky start but showed some glimpses of being able to play the right back spot.

Michael Parkhurst (4.5)– Couldn’t cope with Haiti’s speed, falls very low on the U.S. centerback depth chart.

Jimmy Conrad (6.5)– U.S. team’s best defender, staking his claim to a starting role in the knockout rounds.

Jay Heaps (3)– Started out okay, but things eventually fell apart. Left back is thin for the USA, but not thin enough for Heaps to ever need to get another cap.

Stuart Holden (7.5)– Class of the U.S. attack. His vision, mobility, touch and shot are impressive, and while he has his inconsistent moments, he’s clearly ready to become a regular call-up and a key starter for the rest of this tournament.

Sam Cronin (6.5)– Not a flashy or obvious contribution, but he provided solid cover for Holden in central midfield. He showed calm on the ball, good touch and the ability to keep the ball moving positively. He set up Holden for his assist on the first goal and played more like a veteran than an MLS rookie earning his first cap. Bright, bright future.

Santino Quaranta (5) – Very mobile and active, hit some good crosses and kept Haiti’s defense working, but he never did put a real stamp on the game, and disappeared for stretches.

Colin Clark (4.5)– After seeing Robbie Rogers this tournament, Clark paled in comparison.

Davy Arnaud (6)– Good game, not just because of the goal. Probably isn’t a first-team call-up just yet, but he has helped his stock.

Kenny Cooper (4.5)– Didn’t do much at all with this great chance to show he deserves more minutes or call-ups. That doesn’t mean he won’t get chances down the road, but for right now there probably shouldn’t be any more questions about why Cooper doesn’t get called up or get more national team caps, at least not for a while.

Charlie Davies (6)– Provided instant energy as soon as he came on. His strength on the ball was impressive, and ability to shield defenders was good, but his touch was off and he didn’t take his chances well.

Brian Ching (5)– Didn’t score, but yet again he’s involved in a play that leads to a goal (yes, it was a turnover, but Ching is reaching lucky charm status with the number of goals he plays a part in). Look for him to start the rest of the tournament.

Kyle Beckerman (5.5)– Another solid outing for the RSL midfielder, who should probably start in the quarters.


Some more thoughts on the match:

Jay Heaps struggling badly wasn’t that much of a surprise, but to see Parkhurst struggle was a bit of a shocker. I thought playing in Europe made you a better player? Okay, it was just one game, but with the rapidly rising stock of the likes of Jay DeMerit and Chad Marshall, I’m thinking that Parkhurst’s chances of World Cup 2010 are looking shaky. Yes, this all might sound a bit harsh, but I’ve always thought highly of Parkhurst and this performance wasn’t up to par. Perhaps he can pull a Clint Dempsey and have a great knockout round to re-establish himself as a serious contender for a World Cup roster spot.

While the defense didn’t do him any favors, Robles looked VERY shaky and nervous. That’s understandable, but we’re just not used to seeing an American goalkeeper look so bad. EVER. The United States certainly does need to develop some young goalkeepers, but there has to be better options. Matt Pickens is one player who comes to mind.

Cooper joined Freddy Adu in the “He got a chance to show his stuff, but only showed why he hasn’t been getting playing time” group. Both players are promising young prospects, but both still have plenty to work on. I wouldn’t have a problem see Cooper get another start in this tournament, which could happen if Charlie Davies has to leave to join Sochaux.

Sam Cronin became the first member of the MLS 2009 Draft Class to earn a cap. I know that some folks didn’t think he played well, but I happen to think he quietly put together a pretty good performance. He’s still low on a loaded central midfield depth chart for the United States, but he’s just 21 and his career is moving along nicely. 2010 might be too soon for him, but I’d bet on Cronin playing a role for the USA in the 2014 World Cup.

I know Brad Evans didn’t exactly look like Zambrotta at right back on Saturday, but between the Grenada game, and Saturday, I saw enough glimpses from him at the position to understand why Bob Bradley was trying him there. High-energy guys with great work rates who can get off good crosses are not that easy to come by, and if Evans ever made that move on the club level it would be interesting to see how good a right back he could be (and yes, I know that won’t be happening because he’s too important a midfielder for Seattle, but it’s just a thought).

Jimmy Conrad made his return to the national team after more than a year away and the fact that he was chosen to be team captain should probably spell the end of some of the conspiracy theories about why he hadn’t been getting called in by Bob Bradley. Conrad is still a very good defender who will be battling for one of those central defender spots on the 2010 World Cup roster. With Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra and Jay DeMerit looking like locks, Conrad could wind up battling Chad Marshall for a spot (though I’d take all five and use Bocanegra at left back.

Here’s a thought about Haiti. So the Haitian team ties the USA, and nearly pulls off the upset, but gets denied in the final minute. Haiti still reaches the Gold Cup quarterfinals with the result, a truly impressive accomplishment for a team few gave any chance coming into the tournament. So what do some members of the Haitian press do after the game? SOME of them spend a good amount of the post-game press conference practically blaming the head coach for the team not winning because he didn’t use his third substitution (let me clarify, it wasn’t all the Haitian media who acted this way, just a handful who hogged the post-game questions). Apparently lack of perspective isn’t just for American soccer message boards anymore.

Later this week I will begin a series on what the current 23-man roster would be for the World Cup if the World Cup was today. You can start thinking about your rosters now (but save them for when I actually post that).

For those who missed Holden’s goal, or just want to see it again, here it is:



What did you think of the U.S. team’s performance vs. Haiti? Who’s game did you like? Who’s did you hate? What do you think of the grades?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. For those saying Holden had a bunch of turnovers, to me it seemed he had three early turnovers in the first 15 minutes but settled down and I can’t remember one after that. Let’s not forget it was only his second cap and in between those early turnovers he made that great pass with touch on the Arnaud goal.

    That said he is not a box to box midfielder. He can play in the middle in a diamond formation, but Bradley doesn’t seem inclined to go that way which makes sense with our A team talent.

    Some may have taken exception with his celebration but two games into his nats career he certainly brings composure on the ball and an intensity and flare on the field ala Donovan and Dempsey which I certainly am excited to see.

  2. Ives–why would Parkhurst make the 2010 World Cup team? Isn’t he a center back? There are much better options there than him–you listed them all in your discussion of Conrad’s chances. I think Parkhurst is a good player but there are much better central defenders than him and if he can’t play on the outside then there is no way he is making the team.

  3. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I think Coach Bradley has done a terrific job so far at the Gold Cup. He’s used every player available and has come out on top of the group. It gets a lot trickier from here on out but I will continue to support him in the future.

  4. I like Kenny Cooper because he’s not afraid to take a shot (first timer), without having a terrible first touch or wasted trap like Altidore seems to do.

    And Coopers shots always seem to be on frame unlike Altidore.Don’t get me wrong, I do like Altidore but he’s got to pick up his play if he is to garner all of the good print that he seems to get.

  5. It’s becoming clear over the past year by his play for club and country that Kenny Cooper has no interest in becoming the heir to the McBride/Ching position. He fancies himself more Landon-withdrawn-forward than target striker. He has good footwork for his size, has a great work rate (people calling him lazy are missing the point, but the refusal to play physically can LOOK like laziness), and is not SUPER slow, so he’ll be fine as long as he’s not out of his depth (i.e. MLS), but his body can’t pull off what he wants it to do (and it is capable of things he refuses to ask of it), and my opinion is that, without changing his mindset, he won’t amount to much for the Nats or for any club in a league much more technical than MLS.

    That said, he seems like a good kid and just needs something to click, followed by a year or two of honing his big-man game. I hope he can pull it off in time to become Jozy’s backup/insurance/b-team-doppelganger.

  6. and yet nobody has dared to comment…you mean to be tell me none of the Haiti players are worthy of look by MLS??? That Fabrese Noel was likely the best player on the pitch and only had a look-see by Colorado and that he needs to ply his trade in the USL down in Puerto Rico is just a joke. End of my rant…

  7. IVES(5.5) – Solid grades, but didn’t really challenge anyone’s view of what they already know. Would like to see more far reaching vision.Should provide reasonable accessments going forward, but needs to stop favoring Ching because luck eventually runs out and you’ve got to show more to stay in the game.

  8. Rogers is a one trick pony with great speed and a terrible soccer mind.

    There would have to be a few that went down injured for him to even be considered. The Grenadines was abberation.

    Listen- he was bad at the Oylmpics vs. elevated competition. What makes you think he is going to suddenly improve vs. the best in the world when Honduras and Haiti make him look wanting? Let him grow up with 2014 being his target debut year.

    Intelligent counter points the above would be welcomed.

  9. @ Derek

    I agree on Adu – he is a back up only.

    I get 23 with 3 GKs, 8 defenders including Hejduk, 8 midfielders including Jones and 4 forwards

    If/when Edu is healthy he will push Rogers out

  10. I like Tolik’s squad, but I wouldn’t include Adu. He’s a long shot for me.

    Holden and Rogers are in. Robbie would be a great 60 minute sub.

    Left back is still weak for us. Hasn’t Spector played there for us in the past?

    Was happy with the Spector, DeMerit, Onyewu, Boca line up though.

  11. Best 23 *NOW* (which is important, things change – injuries, Beasley recovers his form, etc) + backups

    GK- Howard, Guzan, Hannemahn
    backup – Perkins

    RB – Spector, Dolo
    LB – Boca, Pearce
    CB- Gooch, Demerit, Marshall
    wild card – The Dude
    backup – Bornstein, Conrad

    Midfield – Donovan, Bradley, Feilhaber, Clark, Holden, Torres, Rogers
    wild card – Jones
    standby – Edu (is he healthy and back in training?)
    backup – Adu, Quaranta

    Forwards – Dempsey, Altidore, Davies, Ching

  12. Holden has always impressed me. I think he’s beginning to look a lot like Clint. Might be a nice late sub at right midfield, pushing Clint to forward.

  13. Holden: 7 for his passing and controlling performance. Great goal from 25yds out, definitely a better solution than Sasha.

    Davies: 8 He gets an high 8 because of his dangerous presence in the game. His level of play in a B-C-team stick out more than a fat lady at KFC! He had 3 chances to score in the box, but unfortunetly not everything goes in the net in the game of futbol!

    Posted by: Hush | July 13, 2009 at 11:35 AM

    Dude, you rate a guy who had an assist and a goal less then a guy who didn’t, wow!

    Euro snob maybe?

    Posted by: La Muela


    Mr. Muela,

    Holden and Davies rated equally in my view.

    Davies has made himself very dangerous. His main problems are, bad first touch, mediocre ball control, mediocre to poor shooting. He is dangerous because of his speed, aggression, toughness and directness. I expect him to work on his flaws the next few months.

    Holden could work on his dead ball delivery and his passing but that should come. The best thing about him right now is he seems to be a take charge kind of guy. The USMNT can always use more of those kind.

    By the way I’ve seen Pearce have worse games than Heaps. At least Heaps knows how to work the short to medium range passing game. I think he and Parkhurst are not as natural as other players and do better in well organized teams, where they know exactly what to do all the time.

  14. I’m glad DC Josh went Favre and un-retired, since he nailed it at 12:40.

    Q. What to Kenny Cooper and Freddy Adu have in common?

    A. Neither can win a ball in the air or hold possession in the attacking half. Consequently, the entire team looks worse when either of them is on the field, and immediately improves when either is subbed.

    Say what you want about Ching and Davies, but they know how to battle. They may not be the most technically gifted, but the team is better when they’re on the field, even if (especially if) others score the goals.

  15. I was surprised too that Parkhurst is way off the list. This is not the first time he has disappointed. In the olympics he did not show well either. A Conrad Marshal combination in center defense might be interesting for the next game.

  16. I think Ives ratings are right on, not that that means anything.

    I’d like to see Cooper get another start. While I’m not one of the Cooper superfans, I’d like to see more of him. It’s also tough to judge any of the forwards when they aren’t getting great service, though Cooper has the skills to create opportunities for himself.

    Since no one on this site ever sees these guys practice day in and day out, I’m always amused to see the superfans get their comeuppance after the flavor of the week doesn’t play up to expectations. I’m guilty of it myself with Conor Casey. Almost would have preferred him not making the Conded Cup roster to get more PT here in the Gold Cup. Oh well…

    Noel and St. Preaux are pretty good strikers, so I wasn’t surprised to see the backline get beat a few times. I was happy that Heaps was rewarded with getting a Cap in his home stadium but based on his age, and that performance, it’s clear that he was brought in just to fill out the roster. Is there a better American left back out there not currently in the pool? Dunivant? Ward? Wallace? Harrington?

  17. Which Haitian press have you been reading Ives? The articles I’ve read seem pretty level-headed and, actually, exhibit a quality of soccer journalism that we can only envy here in U.S.

    See for example

    (SBI-It was in the post-game press conference, where there were several of these negative questions. Now it wasn’t all the Haitian media, that’s for sure. Some were definitely more sensible than others.)

  18. I am not surprised by Parkhurst’s performance. He showed the same weaknesses at the Olympics too. He was ball watching on the first goal. He is not an option come next June.

    As far as Bradley goes. He learned from the Confed Cup. Make subs sooner than later when players are struggling.

    I am still not convinced he is the guy to get us through the group stages and into the next round.

  19. I think you have to take these performances with a grain of salt. There were a lot of new players on field, none of which were very familiar with each other. To compare these performances to guys on the A,B team, who have more national team experience, and are more familiar with each other is unfair. Because we didn’t play well as a team, and never really controlled the game, I think it makes it difficult on the individual players.

    Guys like Cooper and Quaranta did not have great games, but I don’t think you write them off because of it, especially because they played pretty well in earlier games. But when you see guys like Holden and Cronin step up the way they did, you have to take that as a real positive. I was really impressed the maturity of the young Sam Cronin…

  20. watching the US send cross after cross into the Haitian defense for the last 20 minutes was painful. they cleared it EVERY time yet our players just kept crossing. didn’t Onyewu teach them anything?!?! you can’t always cross when the biggest guy out there is the other team’s defender!!! KEEP THE BALL ON THE GROUND. and what happened when they did (granted, Ching lost it)? They scored a goal.

    these players just didn’t seem to adapt to the situation. my buddy and i counted the number of crosses sent in a row and over 90% of them were cleared away. yet, for 20 minutes, the players kept doing it.

    oh well, it was good to find out players like Heaps shouldn’t ever see the US shirt again. sorry dude.

  21. I love at the end of the clip that it is Davies telling everybody ‘one more’, encouraging them to not settle for the tie. That kid sure plays with fire. You have to appreciate his energy and work rate. He’s talked so much about how playing in Sweden has taught him to be a professional. I can think of a few guys we could send to over.

  22. Cronin may be only 21…but how old are M. Bradley, Rico Clark, Mo Edu, and the majority of our MF prospects? Young group we have. It’ll take major improvement for Cronin to pass any of those guys.

  23. Parkhurst is a system guy. Once he knows where everyone else on the team is, he finds the right spot to “park” himself. He can’t acquire that understanding making occasional appearances as he does for the Nats. Otherwise he ends up having to chase guys in space, which he doesn’t do well and seems to do more of when in the USA uniform rather than FCN’s or the Revs’.

  24. The A-team, notably without Ching, scored 7 goals in a row against the African, European, and South American champions, defeated two of them, and reached its first ever FIFA final. If you are going to crack that side, you have to be dominant against teams like Haiti. My bet is that Ching rides the pine in South Africa, if he is lucky. And no one else from the Haiti game should be called.

  25. You guys covered the player ratings –

    but watching the game on a spanish feed –


    Sounds much more exciting, and appropriate, than FSC’s announcer. “Holden, lets it fly.. YEAAAAHHH!”

  26. I still don’t see anything of National team caliber with Ching. His touch is terrible and he loses most of his headers at this level against big defenders. His goal was big, but at the national team level if a forward doesn’t score there, then they shouldn’t be there.

    Cooper was none existent, but I would still give him at least one more shot to prove he belongs. One game shouldn’t knock any player out, even if they play as bad as Heaps and Robles. Not saying either should see the field in this tourney again, but a friendly for another chance is warranted.

  27. “Yes Copper wasn’t good, but I think all of us can agree that when we saw the lineup with Heaps, and Clark on the left and a forward tandem of Arnaud and Cooper, we weren’t expecting a whole lot. I would much rather see Cooper partnered with Ching or Davies with the normal set of wing players. I think that partnership with good crosses being sent in would be the best situation for Cooper.”

    Arnaud (Dempsey-lite, really, hes a less skilled Dempsey that is stronger and has a better work rate) had no trouble getting invovled and making runs, yes the crosses were horrible, but if that is your only way to get invovled, you shouldnt be on the field.

  28. Well Cooper did what I expected. Nothing. He just isn’t good enough for international soccer. Hes big but doesn’t use his size, and hes not really that quick. With Ching up top does he look a bit better, probably, but not as good as a quicker forward would work with Ching. He needs to learn to do a big forwards job to stick and so far he hasn’t done it.

  29. P.P.P.S.

    Looking at the picture of Holden at the top of this post, I am reminded of the calm before the storm, the thick silence before an atomic bomb detonates, or the hush of the crowd when Ronaldo steps up to a set piece 20 yards out.

  30. Holden: 7 for his passing and controlling performance. Great goal from 25yds out, definitely a better solution than Sasha.

    Davies: 8 He gets an high 8 because of his dangerous presence in the game. His level of play in a B-C-team stick out more than a fat lady at KFC! He had 3 chances to score in the box, but unfortunetly not everything goes in the net in the game of futbol!

    Posted by: Hush | July 13, 2009 at 11:35 AM

    Dude, you rate a guy who had an assist and a goal less then a guy who didn’t, wow!

    Euro snob maybe?

  31. So give Cooper a rest.

    Posted by: fenel | July 13, 2009 at 11:57 AM


    it was against Haiti… he is a 6’3″ monster brought up under SAF at the age of 20…it was aginst Haiti…

    I love him to death, but you need to perform at this level. There is no excuse for having a bad game. Each starter is given 90 minutes to prove their worth to the coaching staff.

    Why didn’t he make the players around him BETTER, not the players around him made him WORST?

    sick of the excuses…

  32. Tim –

    I have watched him play, actually. His 2 goals were in a friendly against Denmark’s B team, and a qualifier against a Guatemalan team that had already been eliminated, and therefore sat many of their regulars (Ruiz, Garcia, Foster to name a few), essentially making them a B team, as well.

    Lest we forgot, not more than seven month ago, Kljestan had a freaking hat trick. There is much more to soccer than scoring goals, and Cooper hasn’t shown an ability to play tough, hold the ball, work tirelessly, or (recently) get a shot on target.

  33. Mike, Obviously you haven’t watched Cooper play with the NATS before because he scored 2 goals in his first 3 games for the USMNT

  34. I’d like to see Rogers come in as a late sub for Clark (ideally earlier than later) in matches like this. Clark really just didn’t seem to have it and his crosses were pretty weak on the whole, I thought should’ve come off instead of Quaranta.

    Have we seen Davies and Ching start up top yet? I think with Ching’s hold up play and Davies pace that could create some interesting opportunities.

  35. Ives, I think your are a bit too harsh on Conrad. I actually thought he had a great game and clearly showed he was a cut above those around him. The back line looked very bad but imagine the damage if he hadn’t been there.

    I think you were too kind to Clark. I lost count of the number of crosses he attempted but it was easy to count the effective ones…..1. I was anxious to see him play and he really turned in a stinker. He could barely get any loft on the ball.

    I appreciate your rating on Quaranta. I thought he had a nice first half but then faded in the second. However given the nightmare that Clark was putting us through, I don’t see how BB subbed him first?

    I would like to continue to see Holden in the middle for awhile. I know he lost possession a bit but he has has a confidence and swagger that we don’t have much of and he has just started playing there for his club. He looks much better than Sacha at this point.

  36. ChelseaMatt –

    Marshall had a trial with Mainz in Germany this past off-season, and thought about staying, but wanted a chance to defend The Crew’s MLS title before heading overseas. He wants to go, but only to the right opportunity, and defending the MLS title & Supporters’ Shield vs 2. Bundesliga was really no comparison 🙂

    He’ll get there soon enough.

  37. WYO – I agree about the long balls. I understand the need if there was a lot of pressure but most of them were with no Haiti pressure. It didn’t change much in the 2nd half. I’m not sure if this is a tactic or a lack of a more disciplined game plan.

    Also, I’m a bit surprised that the reaction to Beckerman was positive. While I thought he had an active game, he wasn’t as effective as against Honduras. He had more turnovers and I thought a comparably poor game. He came on with the attitude of a game changer (which is good) but not the effectiveness.

  38. I’m not judging Cooper for having a bad game. I’m judging Cooper for not yet having played a decent game with the MNT.

  39. I agree with Jose A. V.

    Ives, has Chad Marshall shown any interest in going overseas? He’s been with the Crew an awful long time — he played a friendly against Colombia in the leadup to the 2006 World Cup.

    (SBI- Marshall’s contract expired after last season and after some trials in Europe he re-signed with the Crew. I think it boiled down to him deciding that he’ll take a new, bigger deal with the promise from MLS being that if good offers come for him in the future he will be able to move.)

  40. All of you judging Kenny Cooper for having a bad game need to be reminded that Landon, Dempsey, Bradley, Altidore, Howards, all have had bad performances for the Nats. Last year, it was a disgrace for Bob not to give him a try when he finished with the season as one of the top scorers in MLS with 18 goals. So give Cooper a rest.


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