By Ridge Mahoney
The USA is headed to the World Cup final for the seventh straight time after solid performances from front to back down the middle from Eddie Johnson, Jermaine Jones, Omar Gonzalez and Tim Howard, plus a goal and assist from Landon Donovan playing in his third Dos a Cero game.
RATING PLAYER (TEAM GP/G
7 Tim Howard (Everton/ENG) 93/0. Even a sputtering Mexico figured to get a few good looks, and so it did, but Howard parried two well-hit shots and spectacularly snagged a veering drive from Giovani dos Santos. His controlled aggression coming out for high balls, coupled with the play of his two towering centerbacks, neutralized Mexico’s desperate aerial attempts.
6 Fabian Johnson (Nuremberg/GER) 18/0.Switched from left mid against Costa Rica to right back to play a very solid and smart game before a hamstring pull forced him off at halftime. Coolly headed a ball back to Howard under moderate pressure and contained dos Santos well though he did foul him once to concede a free kick. Befuddled the Mexicans with back-to-back sombreros to deliver a ball Eddie Johnson reacted too slowly to exploit.
7 Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy) 14/0.A real tower of strength defensively and aside from one giveaway in the middle third, passed the ball effectively. Gonzalez waited out a few dribbling attackers to cleverly time his tackles and usually made the right choice of whether to step or drop. He gave dos Santos too much space late in the first half but Howard made the save.
6 Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes) 43/5.His smothering of substitute Oribe Peralta on a cross in the final minutes typified his tenacious work throughout the 90 minutes, though a couple of slow reactions gave Mexico a bit too much space. But he cut out several low crosses and had little trouble dealing with what he faced in the air. He and Gonzalez kept their balance and rarely looked out of sync.
6 DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla/MEX) 111/17.He handled a variety of attackers reasonably well, getting back to cut off dos Santos, Andres Guardado and Peralta when they attacked his corner, though the inside channel opened up a couple of times when he drifted outside. He got forward just enough to further unbalance the Mexicans as they grew more desperate.
7 Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04/GER) 34/2. With the American attackers in good flow yet playing patiently, Jones patrolled the center to prevent Mexico from breaking out or squelching whatever it tried to create in the middle third. In the second half, he calmly tracked Guardado before easily snuffing his attempted cross.
6 Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake) 32/1. He filled his role quietly and efficiently, buttressing the middle and quickly relaying the balls played to him. When Mexico did catch him with the ball, it either failed to win the ball or fouled him in the attempt. He failed to close down space near the edge of the penalty area occasionally as shots were taken. In the second half, Peralta chopped him twice in quick succession and he just got up and got on with business.
6 Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes/FRA) 21/1.He gave Mexico problems on the right flank with his touches and runs. He got to the byline to deliver a few good crosses, one of which led to the corner by which the Americans scored their first goal. He also served balls from deeper spots that forced the Mexicans to scramble.
7 Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy) 153/57. He saw a lot of ball and picked his spots to go at the Mexicans, often preferring to keep possession and draw them out. In the set play department, he delivered one ball that Eddie Johnson headed on frame, then a second that ended up in the net. The treasured 2-0 scoreline was secured when he finished a timely run by poking Mix Diskerud’s low cross high into the net.
5 Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders) 101/36. Fans were serenading him for the shanked stoppage-time penalty that preserved a fourth straight “Dos a Cero” in Columbus. He got a slight touch on the Diskerud centering ball that Donovan tucked away and contributed many complementary touches when the U.S. got close to shooting range. He did much better job winning the PK than he did converting it, but on this night the Americans had matters covered.
7 Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders) 59/19.After powering a first-half header that Mexican keeper Jesus Corona saved, Johnson nailed a second offering from a Donovan corner kick to break open a goalless game. He ran the channels well, checked back smartly to link up with teammates, and occasionally stayed high to pull the Mexican back line away from its midfield. A clever back-heel set up Dempsey for a shot that was blocked.
6 Michael Parkhurst (Augsburg/GER) 23/0.As he showed during the Gold Cup, he’s more than capable, either as a starter or, as in this case, injury replacement for Fabian Johnson. His interception of an attempted clearance led to the second U.S. goal.
6 Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg/NOR) 12/2. Snapped up his opportunity to make a play by chipping a ball into space and driving a low ball into the goal area that Donovan tucked away.
NR Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City) 15/1.Took over for Bedoya in the final minutes.
(1=low; 5=average; 10=high.)