By Ridge Mahoney
The value of Michael Bradley to the U.S. national team was proven yet again by his absence.
Forced to the sidelines when he turned his ankle during pregame warmups, Bradley sat out a 3-1 defeat to Costa Rica Friday night at the National Stadium in San Jose. Replacement Geoff Cameron did reasonably well, but the Americans paid the price of a horrible start during which the home team scored twice in the opening 10 minutes.
6 Tim Howard (Everton/ENG) 92/-.Save on scuffed shot in opening minutes only temporarily bailed out the U.S. No chance on the first two goals, came up with one-v-one save on Joel Campbell with the score 2-0. Third goal nicked off inside of his right heel after he’d closed down the angle.
3 Michael Orozco (Puebla/MEX) 10/2.He labored to secure the right side and was caught upfield numerous times in the first half. He lost contact with his teammates on the defensive side too often, couldn’t contain Raul Oviedo, and though he looked more secure in the second half he didn’t contribute much getting balls forward.
5 Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy) 13/0.Gonzalez survived a few shaky moments and bailed out his floundering teammates on occasion. He crashed the near post contest a Donovan corner kick and won many balls in his own penalty area.
3 Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City) 11/0. Howard bailed him out in first half when beaten by ball played over the top to Campbell but he couldn’t even get a touch on the ball when Campbell broke free again in the final minutes to ice the win. Bryan Ruiz caused him a few problems as well. Sharpened his passing after the Americans’ rocky beginning but will sit out the Mexico game after picking up a rather dubious caution.
3 DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla/MEX) 110/17. This was a game to forget. Cristian Bolanos glided past him several times, the first Costa Rican goal bounced off his head as he guarded the near post on a corner kick, and Celso Borges overpowered him to head home the second. Like many players, he improved in the second half and did more offensively but simply couldn’t cope at critical moments.
6 Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04/GER) 34/2.His workrate and ruggedness dragged the Americans back into the game after their terrible start. Once he and Cameron sorted out their assignments, the central midfield took shape, and his short passing led to some promising attacks through the middle. However he didn’t do much to thwart Ruiz.
5 Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG) 20/1. Forced into emergency duty to replace Bradley, Cameron struggled for most of the first half as the Americans gradually gained a foothold in midfield. In the second half, his role was more clearly defined and he dropped deeper to screen the back line and deliver balls out of the back, one of which freed Orozco down the right flank to hit a cross that was blocked.
5 Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City) 15/1.Quickly taken free kick caught Costa Rica by surprise and produced penalty kick that Clint Dempsey converted. He delivered a few good crosses but combination play was spotty and defensively he seemed completely lost trying to deal with a five-man midfield.
6 Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim/GER) 17/0.A searing shot forced an excellent save by Keylor Navas and he burst into the penalty area to draw a foul by the Costa Rican keeper. His tough tackling and hard work helped the Americans come back into the match yet there times that he, too, scrambled to close down the opposition. There will be calls for him to play left back after a rough night defensively for the U.S.
6 Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy) 152/56. His creative work opened up the Costa Rican back line though none of his touches led to a goal. He floated to the left wing to drill a diagonal ball for Dempsey that yielded a good shot and he nearly slipped Dempsey clear with a through ball that Michael Umana desperately cleared. His serves on set plays were reasonably good.
6 Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders) 100/36. He thumped home a penalty kick to celebrate his 100th cap with a goal but might have cost the team a goal when he lost the mark on goalscorer Johnny Acosta in the second minute. Slickly set himself up for a shot from near the penalty arc but his curling left-footed effort rang off the upright. He’s not fully fit yet played all but the final few minutes and if he recovers quickly should be sharp against Mexico.
5 Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders) 58/18. He effectively checked back to find the ball and work a few combinations but seemed to have no interest in running at people and threatening the goal.
4 Jozy Altidore (Sunderland/ENG) 62/20.Worked himself into a good spot to get a shot but picked up a lamebrain caution in the final seconds by bumping into Michael Umana that will keep him out of the Mexico match.
NR Aron Johannsson (AZ/NED) 2/0.Made first competitive appearance for USA.
(Ratings: 1=low; 5=average; 10=high.)