[RUSSIA-USA REPORT CARD] The USA closed out its 2012 schedule by rallying twice to tie Russia, 2-2, with goals by Michael Bradley and Mix Diskerud. Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney grades the U.S. players ...
GRADE/PLAYER (CLUB) GP/G
8 TIM HOWARD (Everton/ENG) 84/0. He saved the U.S. bacon, again. Most of his six saves were difficult, and while luck might be thanked for a pair of leg blocks while he was sprawling, those stops are more about positioning and reaction than blind good fortune. The disruption caused by Carlos Bocanegra’s early departure because of injury unhinged the back line and while he couldn’t always fill that leadership role with his voice, Howard did the job with his feet and hands.
5 TIM CHANDLER (Nuremberg/GER) 9/0. His “1,000 percent commitment” to the national team, at least for now, produced a so-so performance. His passing was sporadic and he at times floated so wide Russia easily found the seam inside him. He got up the flank far enough to deliver a pair of good crosses but he also lagged back when his side of midfield needed support.
5 GEOFF CAMERON (Stoke City/ENG) 11/0. Considering the early exit of centerback partner Bocanegra, he played a decent game though the spacing with his teammates occasionally left lanes too wide to be closed. His critical block on Maxim Grigoriev with the USA already down, 1-0, a minute or so after the substitution kept the game close. He’s steadily progressing up that learning curve with some intense tests on tap.
NR CARLOS BOCANEGRA (Racing Santander/SPA) 110/14. He tried to reorganize and revive the back line after the USA conceded an early goal after a bad giveaway, but hobbled off with a tweaked left hamstring in the 18th minute. Despite his flaws, he’s still the leader of the back line, as his absence showed.
4 FABIAN JOHNSON (Hoffenheim/GER) 10/0. Either because of fatigue or loss of concentration, the Russians left Johnson stranded a few times. Late in the first half Alexander Kerzhakov glided past him to hit a low cross that was cleared. Johnson’s foul produced the quick free kick – which he could have prevented by standing near the ball – by which Russia got its go-ahead penalty kick. Offensively he was hot and cold, and a very good ball to Jozy Altidore should have been exploited.
5 JERMAINE JONES (Schalke/GER) 26/2. Another Jekyll-Hyde performance. At times invisible when Russia moved through midfield, yet he also got up the left wing in the second half to test the opposing defenders with crosses. Fluffed a great scoring chance when he first-timed a low feed from Jozy Altidore way over the top, but also set him up by driving a ball from the right flank right into the chest.
3 DANNY WILLIAMS (Hoffenheim/GER) 11/0. Scuffed a free kick right to the Russians, who broke downfield to take the lead in the ninth minute. He wasn’t up to the task when the Americans needed to clamp down in midfield and was also impaired by some confusion among his teammates in transition. He wasn’t helped by some drifting by Jones yet had too many ineffective sequences.
7 MICHAEL BRADLEY (Roma/ITA) 72/11. Without Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, Bradley had to orchestrate much of the USA attack. He broke through the middle to work combinations and play balls into space, and also dropped back deep to lift balls into the goalmouth for flicks and second balls. His goal, a fierce volley from 20 yards out, would be first on the highlight reel anywhere in the world, and his lobbed ball in stoppage time went right to the head of Terrence Boyd for him to set up the second equalizer. He couldn’t put away a header on a ball bounced into his path and might have been stronger defensively at times but there wasn’t any question who was the midfield force in this match.
4 JOSH GATT (Molde/NOR) 1/0. Oddly passed up a few situations where he could display his renowned speed by running at defenders, but moved intelligently and actually looked effective tucking inside during the second half to play combinations. Cut inside from the wing during the first half in search of a shot without reward. With that first cap out of the way there should be more boldness displayed in subsequent appearances.
4 JOZY ALTIDORE (AZ Alkmaar/HOL) 51/13. Obviously a bit off-form yet played a target role reasonably well, cushioning passes under pressure to knock balls back for Bradley and other teammates. Stormed up the right flank to cut back a juicy ball that Jones smashed over the crossbar. But he squandered a great opportunity when Johnson chipped a delicate ball with space for him to run into and Altidore, because of haste or indecision, completely flubbed the trap.
4 HERCULEZ GOMEZ (Santos Laguna/MEX) 19/5. His usual high level of workrate and effort yielded very little. He seldom connected with either Altidore or Gatt, and also seemed strangely out of sync with the midfield. He ran down a ball to head it off the opposing goalkeeper and somehow was called for one of those phantom foul calls goalies seem to draw these days. He argued, justifiably, with the referee after this incident and for whatever reason never got into the flow.
4 CLARENCE GOODSON (Broendby/DEN) 34/3. Thrown into the game to replace an injured Bocanegra, Goodson looked competent at times and lost on occasion. He read the game better as it evolved, then gave away a late penalty kick by fouling Artem Dzyuba as Howard was about to smother the ball.
6 JUAN AGUDELO (Chivas USA) 16/2. Maybe being banished to Chivas USA helped re-align his attitude; his twisting header back to Bradley to set up the first goal had class written all over it and he followed up with a few good runs to open up space.
5 SACHA KLJESTAN (Anderlecht/BEL) 38/4. Nodded back a Jones cross to set up a shot for Bradley, and had a few good touches, but didn’t really wield his influence in an apparently ideal situation, i.e., with the play stretched out and spaces plentiful.
5 MAURICE EDU (Stoke City/ENG) 43/1. Struck the ball out of the back that produced the first goal, otherwise had some difficulty finding the game and took up a few questionable positions as the Russians moved forward.
6 TERRENCE BOYD (Rapid Vienna/AUS) 8/0. Followed suit on fellow sub Agudelo by directing a head ball into the path of a teammate, who did the rest.
6 MIX DISKERUD (Rosenborg/NOR) 3/1. Not seen in a national-team shirt for nearly two years, Diskerud lashed Boyd’s knockdown from outside the box to earn the USA another good road result.