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Defenders earn highest marks
by Ridge Mahoney, July 24th, 2009 7AM



[USA-HONDURAS REPORT CARD] Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney grades the U.S. players and comments on their performance in their 2-0 semifinal win over Honduras in the Gold Cup ...


7 Troy Perkins (IK Start/NOR) 5/0
Marked another strong game with confident collections in the air and on the ground, and two excellent saves, the second of which stoned Carlos Costly one-v-one in the 85th minute. He also tipped Marvin Chavez's shot onto the crossbar with a fingertip save before halftime, and in general commanded his penalty area admirably throughout the match.
7 Jay Heaps (New England) 3/0
A force on the flank at both ends of the field. Relentless pressure forced Hondurans to play hastily in tight spaces and lose possession. Raced over to smother Costly's follow-up effort in the final minutes with a solid block. Soared to head down a corner kick that keeper Donis Escobar did well to save, and also connected with another corner that was deflected wide. Opened up space at the near post for Clarence Goodson to exploit while heading first U.S. goal.
6 Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew) 8/1
Sharp and decisive in his tackles, headed numerous lobs and crosses out of danger, and narrowly missed a goal late in the match with a header from a free kick that flashed a foot wide of the post. Stopped Costly on a possible counter with an impeccably timed tackle near the midfield line.
7 Clarence Goodson (IK Start/NOR) 5/1
Rarely got forward, yet headed one cross from Stuart Holden just wide of the near post, and nailed home a Holden corner kick just before the end of first-half regulation time. Won most of his duels with Costly and Carlos Mejia, and both of them roamed wide in the second half in search of space.
6 Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock/GER) 27/0
Let Marvin Chavez cut inside him to drill a shot that Perkins saved, but otherwise locked down his corner well, and also slid inside to deal with crosses. Once tracked Walter Martinez deep into his own half before a teammate arrived to strip away the ball. Worked up the flank and overlapped occasionally to carve out space for Rogers.
7 Stuart Holden (Houston Dynamo) 4/2
He served an array of balls from the run of play as well as set pieces. His corner kick in the final seconds of the first half dropped for Goodson to head the opening goal, and in the final minutes he nicked away a ball and accepted the return pass to set up Kenny Cooper for the clincher. Those were just two of perhaps a half-dozen quality serves. He also moved alertly without the ball to give cover defensively, or be in the right spot when the ball turned over.
5 Logan Pause (Chicago Fire) 4/0
Carded late in the first half for hooking Walter Martinez by the arm and played carefully, while still getting in a lot of tackles and tracking down several through balls to shut off direct lanes to goal. Shoved Martinez off the ball early in the second half to kill a threat, and stepped up to force turnovers when Melvin Valladares tried to initiate attacks from midfield.
5 Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake) 8/1
Perhaps unlucky to be cautioned early, which is maybe why a second-half jersey tug went unpunished with what would have been a second yellow. Ranged widely to clean up balls forced loose by tackles and partial interceptions. Jammed up the middle to obliterate the Honduran midfield for long intervals.
6 Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew) 5/1
Whipped in a good early cross that Brian Ching headed over the crossbar, got knocked over a couple of times without earning a free kick. Veered inside on the dribble to play a ball that was relayed to Holden for a shot. Hit good inswinging corner to the near post that produced a chance. Made up for a few sluggish offensive sequences with honest defensive efforts. Came off in the 75th minute, not long after cracking heads with Nery Medina.
5 Davy Arnaud (Kansas City Wizards) 6/1
Effective if not spectacular using the full width of the field in the attack, and occasionally dropped deep into his own half to help defensively. Collected a throw-in on the right side and hit a quick shot right to Escobar, squandered a great cross from Holden by nodding it square from the byline nowhere near a teammate. Won a pair of midfield tackles in rapid succession late in the first half.
6 Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo) 40/10
Got only two good looks at goal; headed a Rogers cross over the bar, skillfully collected a cross and turned in tight space to hit a left-footed shot that took a deflection and hit the horizontal. Often tied up both central defenders to open up room for Arnaud, and shook off a stomp on his calf to go the full 90 while wearing the captain's armband.
5 Santino Quaranta (D.C. United) 14/1
Didn't see much of the ball while playing the final 15 minutes, but bent a great free kick to the far post that Marshall headed just wide.
6 Kenny Cooper (FC Dallas) 8/4
Talk about bang for the buck; played maybe seven minutes, including stoppage time, and finished a feed from Holden while smartly tucking behind the ball, and thus was on-side.
(1=low; 5=average; 10=high)


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