[BELGIUM-USA REPORT CARD] Another excellent game by goalie Tim Howard, who earned the highest rating, limited the damage but still Belgium prevailed, 1-0, Tuesday in Brussels. Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney grades the U.S. performances ...
7 Tim Howard (Everton/ENG), 68/0. Three excellent saves and generally clean handling in slick, rainy conditions enabled the Americans to defuse all but one serious scoring situation. Nicolas Lombaerts' shot got underneath him but it was drilled through traffic and skipped off a very fast surface. Reflex save on club teammate Marouane Fellaini will be revisited a few times in that locker room.
5 Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96/GER), 74/2. Overcame a rough start to put in another solid shift. His attempts to link up with flank mate Robbie Rogers seldom came to fruition and he didn’t produce crosses until the second half. Belgian winger Dries Mertens' turned him around a few times to find shooting lanes and he also had to deal with Marvin Ogunjimi. Cherundolo’s second-half free kick from the right side of midfield wound up in the Belgian net via Goodson and Edu but the goal was disallowed.
5 Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers/SCO), 96/12. He won balls in the air and found time to lob passes up the left side. His occasional struggles were due in part to a soft central midfield that plagued the USA at times during the match, and on the ground he scrambled to contain the Belgian forwards. He headed a corner kick that Howard came for but didn’t reach narrowly wide of his own goal.
6 Clarence Goodson (Brondby/DEN), 25/3. His experience in European play helped him to deal with the opponents and the conditions, and most of the time he held up well. Rescued situations with solid tackles and didn’t get caught dawdling on the ball as the rain lashed down. Jarred Romelu Lukaku with his arm at just the right moment to help steer Lukaku’s header off-frame.
5 Tim Chandler (Nuremberg/GER), 4/0. Like all of the USA defenders, he ran a gauntlet of tough assignments in his first cap at left back. Eden Hazard and Axel Whitsel tested him with dribbling runs and passing combinations involving Fellaini and others. On the attack he looked for interplay with Torres but he passed up a few opportunities to reach the end line. All in all, a very promising option for a USA problem spot.
5 Maurice Edu (Rangers/SCO), 27/1. Whiffed on a shot and lost the mark when the Belgians scored off a throw-in. He occasionally dropped into the back line to help contain their wingers. He battled resiliently for much of the match and passed decently yet nearly disappeared during a period of Belgian dominance in the middle of the park. Bad giveaway in the 80th minute could have been costly if not for Larentowicz.
3 Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), 16/2. Worked on the ball enough times to draw a couple of free kicks on the right flank, yet rarely showed enough sharpness and guile to create openings. He couldn’t control the ball cleanly nor beat foes on the dribble. He might have been drained by the long trip from Los Angeles to Brussels after a loss to Costa Rica last Friday but he didn’t look very good in that game, either.
6 Brek Shea (FC Dallas), 5/0. The rangy midfielder showed once again his willingness to run and battle against a tough opponent. Shunted out of the play for much of the first half he picked up his intensity after halftime to drive at opponents and get balls into the goalmouth. A moment of hesitation cost him an opportunity and by the time he shot defenders had closed in to block the attempt. He set up Dempsey for a shot in the final minutes with a determined run down the left and accurate final pass.
5 Jose Torres (Pachuca/MEX), 14/0. Showed his customary good touch in terrible conditions, spun out of trouble a few times but also lost physical battles when his moves weren’t quick or clever enough. Earned the free kick that Dempsey rattled off the goalie’s face. He did some good work defensively, on one occasion sliding over his own endline to shepherd an errant Belgian pass out of play, but occasionally took up a poor position and fouled trying to recover. Stood up Eden Hazard, who wasn’t happy about it. Late in the first half he inadvertently slowed a USA counter by playing a short pass rather than running the ball at retreating defenders.
6 Clint Dempsey (Fulham/ENG), 78/22. Deployed in the middle behind a lone striker, Dempsey quickly sized up what to do in the slow, soggy conditions. He kept pressing and running, using his muscle to carve out space. Presented with a free kick in the fifth minute and a beatable defensive wall he skipped a shot that came off the keeper’s face and nearly wound up in the net. In the final minutes he smacked a promising effort that caromed harmlessly off a defender.
4 Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar/NED), 41/12. Won a few balls early as the sole striker while trying to find teammates – Dempsey, Torres, Rogers – to play off of, but rather quickly lost steam and didn’t cause Belgium many problems. He got clipped going for a rebound on Dempsey’s free kick. Killed one sequence by simply losing the ball under little pressure.
5 Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), 13/2. In addition to his speed he’s getting better at holding the ball and withstanding tackles, which tested the Belgians but didn’t lead to any real opportunities.
5 Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), 14/1. Added his typical bustle and energy as a second-half sub and also slid to the wings to help contain opposing attacks.
5 Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado Rapids), 2/0. Came on in the 76th minute and right away bailed out Edu after a dangerous giveaway.