[SLOVENIA-USA] Though officially credited with just 11 shots, the USA played its best offensive game of the Jurgen Klinsmann era while beating Slovenia, 3-2, on Tuesday, and its attackers get high marks. Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney grades the U.S. players ...
5 Tim Howard (Everton/ENG, 72/0). Came up with a vital save during a furious scramble early in the second half, cleanly beaten on shots that hit the goalpost and crossbar, didn’t cut down the angle enough when Tim Matavz scored Slovenia’s second goal. Howard caught crosses flawlessly and cleared his lines crisply on balls along the ground.
5 Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96/GER, 78/2). A solid game offensively included a few of the best crosses launched by the U.S., though an excellent near post serve for Buddle was judged offside. There were problems defensively as Slovenia effectively infiltrated his flank to deliver good serves. Handcuffed by tough bounce his header nearly led to a goal for the opposition.
4 Clarence Goodson (Broendby/DEN, 26/3). Fell down after Matavz outjumped him in lead-up to second Slovenian goal, poor clearances set up two other scoring opportunities for the opposition. Both he and Chandler were guilty of keeping Matavz on-side when he scored the first Slovenian goal. Goodson won a lot of balls and fought hard during rugged duels.
4 Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers/SCO, 100/12). Penalty-area slide tackle stopped Matavz after he’d dribbled about 60 yards and past five Americans, which was one of several timely defensive plays he made. Yet a terrible clearance provided Zlatan Ljubijankic with a terrific chance that the Slovenian flubbed, and as captain he couldn’t correct miscommunications in the back line that were costly on both goals and a few other occasions. Dribbled into the middle third to hit a good ball up the left side.
5 Tim Chandler (Nuremberg/GER, 8/0). Like Cherundolo, Chandler contributed some key attacking moments and struggled through a few very shaky defensive situations. Put in a very good left-footed cross that Altidore flicked on for Buddle and played a ball up the wing for Altidore that yielded a dangerous cross. Chandler’s precise ball to Johnson enabled the newcomer to win a penalty kick. He and Clarence failed to step up quickly enough to nullify first Slovenian goal.
5 Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake, 18/1). Played the ball more cleanly and decisively than he had against France and timed his tackles better. Also covered the flanks more effectively at times, yet on a few occasions -- such as Slovenia’s second goal -- he failed to anticipate the play and reacted too late to intervene. Deployed as a screen in front of the back line he swept up and hacked clear many loose balls.
7 Michael Bradley (Chievo Verona/ITA, 63/9). Played on the right side in a revamped formation and combined well with attackers while attending to defensive duties. Corner kicks created two excellent chances for Dempsey, and he also played balls up the right channel that Cherundolo and others turned into opportunities. He helped quell halftime sub Valter Birsa after Slovenia narrowed the margin to 3-2.
7 Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim/GER, 2/0). Sparked the attack without scoring a goal or officially earning an assist. A ball with the outside of his right foot set up a chance for Dempsey, and Johnson won the penalty kick converted by Altidore. His low cross from the left side should have been turned into the net, but Buddle somehow shot it over the top.
7 Clint Dempsey (Fulham/ENG, 82/24). Scored an excellent headed goal from a corner kick, also sent a similar opportunity wide of the post. Scraped the ball loose from Darijan Matic to set up Buddle for a great strike and the first U.S. goal. Glided out of tight spaces to find teammates with passes and again took a few hits that lenient refereeing left unpunished.
6 Jozy Altidore (AZ/NED, 45/13). Played a supporting role for most of the game with comfortable traps and collections of the ball, usually followed by a simple pass. Contributed calm touches during attacking sequences. Converted a penalty kick, sending the keeper the wrong way, to score his first goal in the reign of Klinsmann.
7 Edson Buddle (FC Ingolstadt/GER, 10/3). He started superbly by setting up a shot for Johnson in the first minute and then cracking home a long-distance, first-timer to open the scoring. An excellent left-wing cross set up Dempsey for header that went wide. At times he stayed high to link with Altidore, yet he also peeled away into deeper positions to give the Americans a numerical edge in midfield.
4 Brek Shea (FC Dallas, 9/0). He gave away the ball a few times and didn’t get much going offensively in his 30 minutes of action, but did team up with Beckerman to close down a late threat.
4 Maurice Edu (Rangers/SCO, 31/1). Seemed to deflect a Slovenian cross with his arm in the penalty area but no call was made, took a shot in stoppage time that was deflected.
NR Danny Williams (Hoffenheim/GER, 4/0). Took over for Chandler in the 82nd minute.
NR Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04/GER, 14/1). Replaced Beckerman in the final minute of regulation.
NR Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew, 14/1). Came on deep in stoppage time.
(1-low; 5=average; 10=high.)