By Ridge Mahoney
Good games by several regulars and so-so displays by a few players on the bubble were the main points of a 1-0 loss to Austria in Vienna that closed out the 2013 schedule for the United States.
RATING PLAYER (CLUB) GP/G
6 Tim Howard (Everton/ENG) 96/0.Only his last save -- a one-v-one, point-blank blocked on Andreas Ivanschitz -- required his best effort. He collected crosses cleanly -- no easy feat in a heavy rain -- and smothered a few other balls rolled into the penalty area. He had no chance on the goal.
5 Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG) 23/1. He brought a lot into the attack while struggling at times defensively when challenged by Christoph Leitgeb and Martin Harnik. He gave opponents a yard of excess space while they crossed and that has to be corrected. He drove some effective crossfield balls from midfield, passed the ball well most of the time, hit a shot on goal, and arrowed to the near post on a corner kick to nail a header that might have crossed the goal line.
6 Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy) 16/0.Played a solid game with few hiccups. Stepped up smartly numerous times to intercept passes, thwarted just about everything that came his way in the air, and a few times closed up gaps left by teammates. Got forward late in the match and touched a nice ball that Altidore turned into a decent shot. Slipped after a slide tackle in the penalty area but Austria didn’t exploit the opening.
4 John Brooks (Hertha Berlin/GER) 2/0.A mistimed midfield challenge put the U.S. defense in jeopardy early in the match, and he should have gotten a foot to Gyorgy Garics’ low cross that Marc Janko smashed into the top corner. Smart block on David Alaba snuffed a dangerous chance. There were enough good moments to suggest he will attain this level someday, but off his two appearances, 2014 may be too soon.
5 DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla/MEX) 114/17.He couldn’t react quickly enough to close down Garics’ on the goal but had to tuck in because the U.S. was caught a man short in its defensive third. He seldom forged a bond with left mid Shea going forward and should have been tighter a few times when Marko Arnautovic dribbled into his area to cut inside for a shot or drive a ball across the goalmouth.
4 Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes/FRA) 25/1.Jumped above an opponent to knock down a Bradley cross into a dangerous spot and lofted a good ball to the back post that nearly turned into a chance, but overall influence was slight. He made space for Cameron’s pushes up the flank and seldom connected with him or teammates once the ball came into the attacking third. A badly overhit cross was one of the night’s worst deliveries. Defensively, he needed a lot of covering help from Jones when Cameron moved upfield.
5 Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04/GER) 38/2.Jones broke up a lot of Austrian possessions by applying pressure in their half of the field, which allowed Bradley to play as a sort of midfield sweeper, and getting out wide to help out the flank midfielders. He pounced on a loose Austrian pass to hit a great first-time ball that Altidore turned into a near-miss. He served a terrible pass on a feed from Bradley.
4 Michael Bradley (Roma/ITA) 82/11.A dearth of flank play necessitated he hit long balls out of the back; he connected on several sent wide to the flanks, and hit a superb ball that Altidore controlled in the penalty area, but most of his serves to the channels were cut off. Leitgeb stripped him on an egregious giveaway that yielded a great chance for Austria and he was late pressuring a serve. Offensively, he hit a string of good corner kicks and got into the box to drill a close-range shot that was blocked.
3 Brek Shea (Stoke City/ENG) 25/2. This has to be counted as a lost opportunity. There was little menace when he was on the ball and he and Beasley rarely clicked when the captain came upfield. He misread situations on either side of the ball. Fatigue and/or a couple of hard challenges that could have been fouls drained his energy, and he was replaced in the 62nd minute.
4 Aron Johansson (AZ/NED) 6/1. His hard work and smooth touches were rarely rewarded yet at times he lacked the required sharpness. His only shot on frame came from distance and was batted away by keeper Robert Almer. Yet it’s clear he’s getting to know his teammates and the system and he’s good enough for this level.
6 Jozy Altidore (Sunderland/ENG) 66/21. A good game except for a clear, close-range chance he set up by avoiding two defenders, only to top-hit a weak shot right to the keeper. He collected and held numerous balls, including several in the air, and maintained a high energy level for the entire 90 minutes as rain saturated the field. He cut a ball back that gave Bradley a prime chance. He got bold in the final minutes to bend a free kick wide; a miss is a miss, but remember what he did in Sarajevo?
RATING PLAYER (CLUB) GP/G
5 Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders) 61/19.His effort and energy livened up the U.S. attack but too many of his decisions and touches lacked crispness.
5 Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg/NOR) 16/2. Good movement and touches for the most part, probably passed up a shot or two he could have cracked at goal.
6 Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht/BEL) 45/4. Contributed to several threatening sequences, nearly set up Boyd with clever turn and short pass but an opponent cleared the danger.
6 Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna/AUT) 12/0. Directed several good balls to teammates, stretched the Austrian defense, fired a shot over the bar.
4 Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG) 10/0. He’s quick and aggressive getting up the flank and Austria nearly scored when it got behind him in the final minutes.
NR Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes) 17/6.Came on in the final minute. What’s the point?
(1=low; 5-medium; 10=high.)