By Ridge Mahoney
Two excellent goals by Clint Dempsey and fine performances by several other attackers gave the USA a much-needed confidence boost as a sold-out RFK Stadium crowd celebrated a 4-3 defeat of Germany on Sunday.
Jozy Altidore, one of several players harshly criticized for lackluster games in a 4-2 loss to Belgium Wednesday, electrified the crowd by hammering home a volley in the 13th minute, and with an own goal plus Dempsey’s strikes the Americans were able to overcome some late-game defensive shakiness.
RATING PLAYER (CLUB) GP/G
5 TIM HOWARD (Everton/ENG) 87/0. One tough save on a low shot, a couple of routine stops, and a near-post goal that zipped between him and the near post that he probably should have turned round the post. He also gave up a rebound on a catchable low shot that produced the another goal. Even though he conceded three goals, the constant action against a capable opponent sets him up perfectly to face Jamaica.
6 BRAD EVANS (Seattle Sounders) 9/0. The surprise starter reprised the right-back role he’s occasionally played for Seattle and the USA to good effect. He helped contain Lukas Podolski, a dangerous player who didn’t look all that interested in playing midfield, then like many of his teammates scrambled to subdue substitute Max Kruse. Yet he won tackles and twice cut out awkward balls he absolutely had to reach. He’s underrated offensively, as linking passes to Altidore, Dempsey and other teammates showed.
4 OMAR GONZALEZ (Los Angeles Galaxy) 8/0. Simply lost the mark on Heiko Westermann on a corner kick and thus did Germany get its first goal early in the second half. He helped neutralize Miroslav Klose, who was substituted, and wasn’t as successful when tested by Julian Draxler and Max Kruse. He gave away a ball in a bad spot as Germany came back in the game a few minutes before the USA hit its third goal.
5 MATT BESLER (Sporting Kansas City) 4/0. He looked the more confident and decisive of the two American centerbacks, and tackled solidly as Germany pressed forward in the second half. He cleared several dangerous crosses, and a very bad giveaway wasn’t punished. He got a shoulder at the critical moment into Klose, whose header skittered wide. Besler tired late and reacted a bit sluggishly as Germany came back into the game.
6 DAMARCUS BEASLEY (Puebla/MEX) 101/17. Held his corner secure most of the time, and his absence was glaring once he’d departed. Lost a duel when knocked over by Per Mertesacker, who is only a foot taller, more or less. His tracking speed is an obvious asset yet his positioning in this demanding position is also improving. He spotted an opening in the first half to veer inside and hit a low shot.
8 JERMAINE JONES (Schalke 04/GER) 30/2. He reveled in the space and time allowed by players he sees every week in the Bundesliga, and served passes that led directly to a pair of U.S. goals. He broke through pressure numerous times and showed again that he’s one of the team’s best passers over middle distances. A couple of missed tackles as Germany pushed hard late in the match were his only weak moments.
7 MICHAEL BRADLEY (Roma/ITA) 76/11. He played the supporting role very well, letting the wide players and Jones serve as the attacking catalysts. Only rarely was Germany able to thread balls up the middle of the park, as Belgium had done repeatedly, and he slipped numerous passes to his teammates. A quicker step-up might have shut off the final pass that Kruse drilled for the second German goal.
7 GRAHAM ZUSI (Sporting Kansas City) 12/1. He showed a wide variety of moves and ideas that confused the Germans. A clipped ball to Jones earned a corner, and he switched play a couple of times to open up space on the opposite wing. He served a good free kick that Jozy Altidore headed wide early in the match and a corner kick required a massive header from Mertesacker to defuse. Altidore’s volley for the first goal earned deserved praise, yet Zusi’s cross could not have been more precise.
5 FABIAN JOHNSON (Hoffenheim/GER) 12/0. He didn’t get deep into the opposing half very often, but his interplay with Beasley and the central players unhinged the German defense, and he buzzed their goal with an early shot. He also helped quell Germany’s flank attacks during the first half, after which he departed with a tight hamstring that had bothered him in training.
9 CLINT DEMPSEY (Tottenham/ENG) 96/35. This game is why USA fans can be confident in the team’s attack in the absence of Landon Donovan. Dempsey constantly menaced the German defense, both in the buildup and the finish. His ball to Zusi set up the serve for Altidore, and his goals – a first-time scorcher from Altidore’s cross and superb left-footed floater from outside the box -- oozed with quality. He shot wildly in an effort to notch number three, a miss for which the Germans were grateful.
8 JOZY ALTIDORE (AZ) 57/14. The energy and crispness shown in Holland but missing in Cleveland returned. He checked back to link up with teammates yet also hunted opportunities in the attacking third. He worked hard and intelligently from the opening kickoff and responded to his first chance aggressively to volley a great goal. Yet his assist – an immaculate collection of a long ball, patient control, and clipped ball that Dempsey slammed into the net-– impressed even more. As Jack Edwards said of another attacker 11 years ago, “That’s why he’s here!”
5 BRAD DAVIS (Houston Dynamo) 9/0. A few good left-footed serves tested the Germans and he worked hard defensively, but he gave little help on his flank in the final minutes.
3 EDGAR CASTILLO (Club Tijuana/MEX) 8/0. Contributed a nice back-heel during buildup to fourth USA goal, but Germany overran his corner several times in one-v-one situations, which is inexcusable while protecting a lead.
6 EDDIE JOHNSON (Seattle Sounders) 50/14. He found enough space and time to hit a low shot that forced a good save during a productive stint, though he, too, failed to scrape balls clear during Germany’s late surge.
NR TERRENCE BOYD (Rapid Vienna) 9/0. Didn’t get much of the ball after replacing Altidore in the 81st minute but definitely erred by running into a tackle and shooting wildly rather than killing time.