Photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
The U.S. Men’s National Team successfully navigated its way out of the Group of Death, but not without a number of key performances from several players.
Whether it was Jermaine Jones or Tim Howard or the silent-but-steady Kyle Beckerman, the U.S. received plenty of strong outings throughout its three Group G matches against Ghana, Portugal and Germany. Those quality showings helped the Americans not only reach the Round of 16 for the second consecutive World Cup, but they also silenced some critics who did not believe that Jurgen Klinsmann’s side had a shot of advancing into the knockout phase of the tournament.
That is not to say that all the U.S. players have played well. There have been some less-than-stellar showings, including from the likes of midfield ace Michael Bradley. But for the most part, the Americans have performed at a high level and they have a Round of 16 ticket to show for it.
Here are SBI’s U.S. Men’s National Team’s Player Grades for the 2014 World Cup Group Stage:
SBI’s 2014 WORLD CUP GROUP STAGE USMNT PLAYER GRADES
Tim Howard (6.5) – Has made a handful of strong saves and been good at commanding his box. An argument could be made that he could’ve done a little better job of getting bigger on Nani’s goal, but he’s overall been a stout leader at the back.
Fabian Johnson (6.5) – His defending hasn’t been the greatest, but it hasn’t been terrible either. Where Johnson has really excelled is in the attack, providing an outlet for the midfielders and adding width and an ability to send in a dangerous ball from the right flank.
Geoff Cameron (5.5) – His two gaffes in the Portugal game have overshadowed the strong performance he put in vs. Ghana in the opener. Yes, he was at least partially at fault for both of Portugal’s goals in the 2-2 draw but was also stellar playing next to two different center backs in the victory against Ghana.
Matt Besler (6.5) – He’s been a rock at the back for the Americans and was excellent in the 1-0 defeat to Germany. The only real issue he has had is his recurring hamstring tightness issue, which popped up in the matches against Ghana and Portugal.
DaMarcus Beasley (6.5) – No, Beasley has not gotten forward into the attack as well as Johnson on the right. What he has done better than Johnson, however, is defend. Some said he was a weak link vs. Ghana, but he held his own and never really got beat despite oddly slipping a few times.
Alejandro Bedoya (6) – Another blue-collared player whose contributions have been a bit overlooked. Bedoya hasn’t been spectacular on the offensive end, but that’s not his primary objective. The hardworking midfielder has been tasked with covering lots of ground and helping close down space, and he’s held his own in that regard.
Kyle Beckerman (8) – One of the unsung heroes of the Americans’ group stage, Beckerman has been exceptional at doing what is required of him. He’s broken up plays, moved the ball quickly and been very disciplined in his positioning in front of the back four.
Jermaine Jones (9) – The best U.S. player in this tournament. Hands down. He’s been arguably the best American in each of the three group games thanks to Klinsmann’s tactical deployment of him, hustling on both ends of the ball and looking every bit like a player who’s been waiting his entire career to play in a World Cup. His equalizer against Portugal was gorgeous and worth watching over and over again.
Michael Bradley (5.5) – Much has been made of his struggles, but the fact that he is playing further up the field is not being talked about enough. He’s a box-to-box midfielder being asked to play in a more advanced position, which is playing a part in him not living up to his usual high standards. His miss vs. Portugal was a bit surprising, though.
Clint Dempsey (6.5) – His 30-second goal in the 2-1 win over Ghana helped set the tone for the Americans’ successful ride in the group stage. Dempsey has fought hard and through a broken nose to fill in for the injured Jozy Altidore, and he continues to find good spots in the penalty area for teammates to find him.
Jozy Altidore (N/R) – Played only 21 minutes before being sideline with an injury that has kept him out of the tournament
Graham Zusi (5) – From the run of play, Zusi has not had the type of impacts that were expected of him going into the World Cup. He’s struggled to get involved and with a chunk of his set pieces, but has put in lots of work. His grade is helped by his two assists.
DeAndre Yedlin (6) – Yedlin has been a spark plug off the bench, providing some much-needed speed and fearlessness when inserted late in the games vs. Portugal and Germany. He helped set up Dempsey’s go-ahead tally against the Portuguese and also had some decent offensive moments against the Germans.
John Brooks (7.5) – Only has 45 minutes to his name in this tournament, but they were a very strong 45 minutes that included some solid defending – especially in the air – and a clutch game-winning goal.
Omar Gonzalez (7) – Stepped in against the talented Germans after receiving much criticism in recent months, and looked a lot like the player who was so sturdy for the U.S. in 2013. He has made a case for a starting spot against Belgium.
Aron Johannsson (5) – Johannsson’s only cameo came when he filled in for Altidore against the Ghanaians. He put in lots of work that night and made some good runs with and without the ball. Still, he never really threatened to find the back of the net.
Chris Wondolowski (5.5) – Made one late appearance against Portugal and was effective in his ability to maintain possession so as to try and kill off the game. He also pulled off a rare move on the dribble to impressively get by a defender near the sideline.
Brad Davis (4) – The veteran midfielder did not leave enough of an imprint as a starter in the Germany match. He helped out defensively at times, but like the rest of the U.S. in that defeat struggled to really find an attacking rhythm.
Timmy Chandler (N/R) – Has not played.
Mix Diskerud (N/R) – Has not played.
Brad Guzan (N/R) – Has not played.
Nick Rimando (N/R) – Has not played.
Julian Green (N/R) – Has not played.