By Ridge Mahoney
Few players will get off the hook after the USA conceded a 4-2 defeat to Belgium, albeit one of Europe's most talented teams. The errors that cost the four goals were both individual (turnovers, inattention, poor positioning) as well as collective (lack of communication).
RATING PLAYER (TEAM) GP/G
5 TIM HOWARD (Everton/ENG) 86/-. Smothered a few through balls but couldn’t corral the one that Kevin Mirallas chipped over his head for the first goal. He handled the few crosses that reached him cleanly.
4 GEOFF CAMERON (Stoke City/ENG) 15/1. Terrible positioning could have been miscommunication with his teammates or sheer bad judgment, but he left acres of space that Belgium exploited. Didn’t tackle all that strongly and shared the blame on the first U.S. goal. Converted a chance nicely with his head and hooked away a few low centering passes, but otherwise looked overmatched.
3 OMAR GONZALEZ (Los Angeles Galaxy) 7/0. Beaten over the top and on the ground repeatedly and seldom looked secure. Very slow to react on first Belgian goal despite two chances to defuse the situation. Did well to chase down a ball in the box but then poked it right to Kevin De Bruyne, who set up the second Belgian goal. Spacing and communication with centerback partner Goodson were awful and he looked anxious to depart as the scoreline mounted.
3 CLARENCE GOODSON (Brondby/DEN) 36/3. Committed egregious error on first Belgian goal by not tucking behind Howard when he came out and sprinted far too late to stop the ensuing shot. He lost connection with Gonzalez often and didn’t read the intent of Christian Benteke, Romelu Lukaku and Marouane Fellaini often enough. Pushed into the attack in the first half to support a sequence with a couple of clever touches and hit a few good passes.
4 DAMARCUS BEASLEY (Puebla/MEX) 100/17. Provided plenty of hustle but not enough muscle. Stood up Belgian attackers one-v-one but usually came up short in the ensuing duels, and was overpowered by Benteke on Belgium’s fourth goal. Pushed forward to support Brad Davis in the first half and managed a decent cross, but was pinned back after halftime.
4 JERMAINE JONES (Schalke/GER) 29/2. Ample doses of the usual: heroic trackbacks to break up plays and excellent passes to the flanks were interspersed with unforced giveaways and sluggish reactions that left the space behind him and in front of the centerbacks wide open. He also provided the obligatory clumsy challenge for which he was rightly cautioned in the final minutes.
4 SACHA KLJESTAN (Anderlecht/BEL) 40/4. His skills and vision are sharper since he left MLS, and he kept the ball moving with good touches and intelligent movement. But he couldn’t stem the flow of Belgian passes through midfield and never seized the initiative to hit a killer pass or break through pressure on the dribble. As a deeper-lying player he offers value but only if defensively he toughens up. If he’s the more attack-minded of a central pair, that would be intriguing to watch.
4 GRAHAM ZUSI (Sporting Kansas City) 11/1. Excellent service on most of his set plays belied a rather anonymous performance. Swung the far-post inswinger after a short corner kick for Dempsey to head across goal and Cameron to nod in, yet had only limited influence during the run of play. Did his defensive work diligently in the first half but then faded and came off in the 69th minute. Neglected to mark up Fellaini and was a step late when the Everton man scored Belgium’s third goal.
5 BRAD DAVIS (Houston Dynamo) 8/0. The Dynamo playmaker contributed some clever touches and good ideas by tucking inside to serve balls, and there’s no question his strong left foot and accurate deliveries caused Belgium some minor headaches. But he lost his edge and a bad giveaway led to one of the opponent’s goals before being substituted in the 63rd minute.
6 CLINT DEMPSEY (Tottenham/ENG) 95/33. He labored diligently and shared in both goals despite heavy attention from his markers. His cushioned header from Zusi’s cross looped right into a spot Cameron could reach, and he crisply converted a penalty kick whistled somewhat fortunately for a handball. Just prior to the handball, he trapped a ball from Johnson and was immediately swarmed by four defenders. Help Wanted sign went up, justifiably.
3 JOZY ALTIDORE (AZ/NED) 56/13. Fluffed a nice cross from Dempsey in the opening minutes and maintained that level of performance until being substituted at halftime. Held up the ball well a couple of times yet his runs often lacked sharpness and purpose.
4 BRAD GUZAN (Aston Villa/ENG) 23/0. Saved a couple of routine shots comfortably. He could have been more aggressive on third Belgian goal but chose to stay on his line.
5 EDDIE JOHNSON (Seattle Sounders) 49/14. His pace and audacity caused Belgium a lot of problems, even if the handball call that resulted from his cross seemed fortunate. He ran and dribbled with confidence and his offside calls were products of aggression, not indifference.
3 TERRENCE BOYD (Rapid Vienna/AUT) 8/0. Flubbed touch on partial clearance led directly to Belgium’s third goal, and offensively he seldom found synchronization with his teammates.
4 BRAD EVANS (Seattle Sounders) 8/0. Crashed into the endboards after volleying a ball from Johnson during a spirited but ineffective effort.
4 MATT BESLER (Sporting Kansas City) 3/0. Stepping onto a sinking ship is treacherous enough, and he nearly compounded a bad situation with a mistimed challenge that forced a desperation recovery tackle.
NR STUART HOLDEN (Bolton/ENG) 18/2. Like U.S. fans, he looked really happy to get 10-plus minutes in his first U.S. appearance since October, 2010.
(Ratings: 1-low; 5 average; 10-high.)