[ANTIGUA & BARBUDA-USA REPORT CARD] Eddie Johnson celebrated his return to the U.S. national team after a two-year absence by scoring both goals in a 2-1 defeat of Antigua & Barbuda that greatly boosted the Americans’ chances of advancing to the Hexagonal. Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney grades the U.S. players.
GRADE/PLAYER (CLUB) GP/G
5 TIM HOWARD (Everton/ENG) 82/0.
The keeper had very little to do and even less chance to stop a ball tucked away from close range as two defenders stumbled. His one save came on a long-distance hit by Randolph Burton, and a couple of low near-misses would have tested him had they been on-frame.
5 STEVE CHERUNDOLO (Hannover 96/GER) 86/2.
Defused dangerous situations by racing back to scrape balls away from Peter Byers and Dexter Blackstock as they bore down on goal. He found Eddie Johnson and Graham Zusi with balls up the line a few times but didn’t look to get forward for crosses.
4 CLARENCE GOODSON (Brondby/DEN) 33/3.
Chose the wrong time to stumble, just as Blackstock broke for the ball that was tapped past Howard to tie the game in the 25th minute. He dug out a few balls around the edge of the penalty area during nervous periods and struggled with anything beyond a simple possession pass. Came up on set plays without getting a solid chance.
4 GEOFF CAMERON (Stoke City/ENG) 9/0.
Bad decision to dive in allowed Peter Byers to center ball that Antigua & Barbuda converted for its goal. The rest of the match was fairly solid -- he won balls in the air and hit a few good balls out of the back – though he had a couple of other scary moments dealing with fast, strong attackers and a slippery field.
5 CARLOS BOCANEGRA (Racing Santander/SPA) 108/13.
He slid to left back as cover for the latest insidious run of injuries and might have halted the sequence on A&B’s goal with a stronger intervention in midfield. In the second half he pushed upfield and hit some decent balls into the middle for Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey to take at defenders. He was unable to threaten in the air on set plays but defensively took care of a few messy situations.
4 DANNY WILLIAMS (Hoffenheim/GER) 9/0.
Not much of a factor offensively, which would have been fine except he also didn’t bottle up the center often enough. Played as a screen in front of the back line to varied effect, and never looked to play the type of incisive balls that put the A&B back line under pressure. Whether because of a treacherous surface or helter-skelter opponent he looked out of sorts and was the first player substituted.
7 MICHAEL BRADLEY (Roma/ITA) 65/9.
Marshaled the midfield well yet like many players occasionally labored on a mushy surface. Sprayed a nice ball wide to free up Graham Zusi for a cross on the first goal, pinged a shot from distance off the base of the post, and from a corner kick glanced a header destined to be the winner until keeper Molvin James tipped it away with a spectacular save. He did a fair share of contesting balls in midfield though he was caught upfield a couple of times as A&B countered. Lost his cool after a crunching tackle and berated the referee longer than was wise but escaped a caution.
6 GRAHAM ZUSI (Sporting Kansas City) 5/1.
Faded after a strong first half while roaming to both sides as well as the middle. Hit a great first-time cross to Eddie Johnson on the first goal, and set up another excellent chance with a crisp delivery. Corner kicks were hit and miss and a couple of poor passes preceded his departure.
5 CLINT DEMPSEY (Tottenham/ENG). 90/28.
Wandered lost through most of the first half as Bradley and Zusi did most of the playmaking. Snapped a header wide during a better second half but also barked at Zusi a couple of times when they missed connections. Often dropped deep in search of the ball and increased his influence in the final half an hour, yet this wasn’t a great night for Deuce.
8 EDDIE JOHNSON (Seattle Sounders) 43/14.
In reality, he enjoyed better service than most of the forwards used this year by the USA, but to his credit he timed and angled his runs shrewdly to turn those crosses into shots. He also handled a wide role quite adeptly, finding the right starting positions to launch dribbles or attempted combinations. A lung-busting recovery run earned him a vital interception in the U.S. defensive third. His headers scored two of three, and he kept his cool with the game on the line to nail the winner.
3 HERCULEZ GOMEZ (Santos/MEX) 16/5.
A miserable night all around. Seldom touched the ball or unsettled A&B through an anonymous first half, and twice botched opportunities in the second half with ponderous touches. He seemed to be one of several players off-balanced by the opposition and rainy conditions.
4 JERMAINE JONES (Schalke 04/GER) 25/2.
Picked up the caution that will suspend him for the Guatemala match Tuesday in Kansas City by blatantly swatting down a ball floating over his head, and nearly got another by squabbling.
6 ALAN GORDON (San Jose Earthquakes) 1/0.
Borrowed some of his club-team mojo to hit a great cross to the back post for Johnson to head in a stoppage-time winner. Not bad for a debut at age 30; will cap number two come Tuesday, on his birthday?
6 SACHA KLJESTAN (Anderlecht/BEL) 35/4.
Jumped right into the attack to take a shot a few minutes after coming on, and relayed Cherundolo’s throw-in for Gordon to cross.
(Ratings: 1=low; 5=average; 10=high.)