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Final USA World Cup Report Card
by Ridge Mahoney, July 4th, 2014 3:31AM

MOST READ
TAGS:  men's national team, world cup 2014

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By Ridge Mahoney
(@ridgemax)

A memorable campaign ended in the round of 16 as it had four years ago, and the grades show a wide range of performances.

Tim Howard (A-). Two tough goals at the near post and the whiff on Nani’s shot that set up the spectacular left-handed save on Eder’s follow-up aside, Howard excelled. His game against Belgium has to be one of the top five in U.S. Soccer history and with a long-term deal in place at Everton don’t be surprised if he takes a real shot at the 2018 tournament.

Fabian Johnson (A-). During the warmup games, he alleviated a lot of concerns about a problem spot. His touch, work rate and positioning were consistently good and there’s little doubt had he not tweaked his hamstring against Belgium the game would have been more balanced. He impressed teammates with his workrate, commitment and team spirit every day in training. The search for Steve Cherundolo’s replacement couldn’t have turned out much better.

Geoff Cameron (C). He didn’t deserve all the abuse piled on him for the second Portuguese goal; he couldn’t keep up with a sub in the 95th minute of a game played in jungle conditions and was beaten by a perfect cross. It happens. A terrible scuff gave Portugal the chance for its first goal and forced the U.S. into chase mode. As holding mid against Belgium, he didn’t do badly defensively but missed a few opportunities to cut out passes and wasn’t effective on the ball.

Matt Besler (B). By overpowering him to set up the first Belgian goal, Romelu Lukaku exposed perhaps Besler’s only shortcomings: strength and bulk. He’s got just about everything else. He was excellent against Ghana, and as the USA battled back against Portugal he kept the back line in sync with the front six.

DaMarcus Beasley (B). The Beas was often overmatched by the European teams, but his spirit, energy, experience and tenacity limited the damage. The USA needed attacking impetus from him against Belgium and he managed to get forward a few times despite a crushing defensive workload. Had his setup touch and crossing been sharper there would have been more attempts at goal. Still, he did himself and his country proud in his fourth World Cup.

Omar Gonzalez (B+). Knocked to the canvas – i.e., benched – during the warmup games, Gonzalez got up to play the last few minutes against Portugal and start the last two matches. After a shaky start in the German showdown, he played a monster game, not only dominating in the air but snuffing dangerous situations with interceptions and slide tackles. He couldn’t clear the centering ball from which Belgium scored its first goal. When recalled, he got back up to speed quickly despite not playing competitively much for several weeks.

John Brooks (A-). One of the fairy-tale stories of a dramatic World Cup, Brooks contributed some solid defense when summoned against Ghana to replace Besler on short notice and kept his cool to nail a Graham Zusi corner kick for the winner. The heroics didn’t yield any additional playing time for the USA yet may help his club career.

DeAndre Yedlin (B+). He brought energy to the right flank as a sub against Portugal and cut back a ball that yielded the second U.S. goal, then took over for Johnson at right back in the round-of-16 match and again brought a presence offensively. He didn’t hustle back on the second Belgian goal but might have been hampered by fatigue and/or cramp. He’s incredibly poised for a 21-year-old American, has good feet and can really blossom as his defensive abilities improve.

Jermaine Jones (A-). Even in a relatively quiet game, he finds a way to contribute; Jones won a duel in the air to knock down the ball that Chris Wondolowski fired over the bar in stoppage time against Belgium. He was one of the few American players who held strong against Ghana and he dominated midfield against Portugal before and after blasting a spectacular equalizer from about 25 yards. He wasn’t quite as impressive in the last two games yet still worked hard.

Kyle Beckerman (B). One can only wonder why Cameron replaced him against Belgium, as the U.S. surely missed his ability to win balls and block passing lanes and play short passes and establish tempo. With Jones playing a two-way role, Beckerman took the holding role and seldom looked outclassed against some very tough players. If there’s one veteran who has blossomed since Klinsmann took over, it is Beckerman, who raised his game from MLS All-Star to solid international.

Michael Bradley (C+). He looked a lot better in the warmup games than he did in the World Cup, which could be due to the competition but also could indicate a minor injury cropped up. He should have done more to control the midfield against Ghana and took heat for losing a ball that Portugal turned into an equalizer, though a lot of other things went wrong on that play. Contributed to some good sequences against Germany but also lost too many balls. The Belgium game was better and the chip for Julian Green’s goal truly elegant.

Alejandro Bedoya (C). Tailed off after starting the tournament well against Ghana. He worked hard defensively to moderate effect without recovering the offensive guile he’d shown before the tournament.  

Graham Zusi (C). Earned assists with a corner kick in the Ghana game and centering pass Clint Dempsey re-directed into the Portuguese net. Overall, passing and combination play were inconsistent and he lasted only the first half against Germany. He battled willingly defensively but suffered from his positioning and decision-making.

Brad Davis (D). Couldn’t handle the assignment against Germany and didn’t get off the bench in the finale. He hit a few dead balls but seldom found the time and space to cross during the run of play.

Clint Dempsey (B-). Scored twice but obviously struggled without consistent support from the flanks and because of Bradley’s demanding workload. Soldiered on after a wayward shin swing broke and bloodied his nose and nearly stunned Belgium with a late equalizer that was saved.

Julian Green (B+). Scored with his first touch that looked like a mis-hit and in his 15 minutes of game looked deserving of many more.

Jozy Altidore (I). Departed midway through the first half against Ghana and never got back into the picture. He said this week he suffered a grade 2 hamstring tear.

Aron Johannsson (C-). Didn’t dazzle off the bench when Altidore when departed and though he gave an honest effort that was the end of his involvement.

Chris Wondolowski (D). Agonizing miss on a half-volley that would have won the Belgian game will haunt him for a long time. Nice touch set up Dempsey for shot that was saved.

-------------------------------------------

Jurgen Klinsmann (B). Elected not to select a direct replacement for Altidore and as a result attack sputtered much of the time. Goals for Brooks and Green off the bench were spectacular, and how different the tournament might have been if Gonzalez were deployed in the back line against Portugal. Yedlin justified his selection though there’s much needed improvement while defending. The players bonded well and endured a long preparation camp and all the pressures of a World Cup as pros should. Klinsmann led and the players followed.



20 comments
  1. Randy McKee
    commented on: July 4, 2014 at 11:22 a.m.
    I can agree with many of Ridge's evaluations with a couple exceptions. Cameron does not deserve a C! I have coached U-14 center backs who have more awareness of what's going on behind them. Imagine being Cameron's coach, hollering from the sideline, "GEOFF! WATCH BEHIND YOU!!!" Seems absurd, doesn't it? But someone should have been in charge of that. It's unbelievable that a guy who wants to play at that level can't be bothered to glance over his shoulder. Cameron failed over and over at center back and also at messer in the Belgium match. This was critical - especially when he was trying to occupy the RCB spot because Johnson often just took off and was not dependable defensively at right back. Johnson is a great winger, but I would never trust him in the back. So Johnson - as a right back - should take a hit on his grade, as well. That is Ramos soccer. Just send guys forward without giving a hoot about eventually having to defend that space. Beasley had as many opportunities to go forward but chose his forays far better - possibly in direct opposition to Ramos' instructions. And Beasley's intelligence on the left led to far less of the emergency defending we had to do because of abandonment of that space on the right. Finally, Klinsmann's WC performance should be a C at best. He did a great job preparing the team for the tournament, but really screwed the pooch in his game management. And that has been pointed out in comment after comment on prior posts so I won't go in to that. As a post script, I do give Cameron a B on his stylish hairdo.

  1. Dean Costalas
    commented on: July 4, 2014 at 11:32 a.m.
    Klinsmann gets a C, at best (and only because they advanced...D if they hadn't). This team performed worse than the 2010 version, yet played the same style of pack-it-in defending with zero creativity up front vs the better teams. Sure, losing Jozy hurt, but JK did not put his overall team in a position to succeed. The clear cut 10 person starting line up (in a 4-2-3-1 formation) should have been: Howard GK, FJohnson RB, Omar and Besler CBs, Cameron LB, JJ and MB as holding MFs, Dempsey CH, Donovan RH, Zusi LH, Altidore F. Beckerman should have been the first holding MF off the bench, Diskerud and Bedoya the two outside halfs off the bench, Yellen and Beasely the 2 outside backs off the bench. Once Jozy went out, Bradley should have been moved into Clint's spot, Clint and Landon up front, Diskerud in Landon's spot and reformulate to 4-4-2. Not hard. We didn't see anything remote similar all tournament long. Landon didn't even make the trip, Diskerud didn't see a minute of action, Cameron played out of position all tournament long, as did Bradley. This stuff should have been decided back in April...familiarity is an important element of a total team sport, and with the actual group that played, there was none, further putting our boys at a tremendous disadvantage.

  1. Xavi Hernandez
    commented on: July 4, 2014 at 12:47 p.m.
    These grades read like we're working in a steel mill or a coal mine rather than positively playing a beautiful game. When did creativity, skill and attacking flair become more associated with other countries than America? US soccer, F.

  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: July 4, 2014 at 2:14 p.m.
    There were so many pundits that craved for Wondo; and when the moment came, he wasn't able to deliver...that's the biggest difference between quality players and those that lack that extra component of making things happen under PRESSURE.

  1. Kent James
    commented on: July 4, 2014 at 3:18 p.m.
    Beasley deserved a higher grade (B+); he was one of our most consistently effective players. While Bedoya did not make things happen much on offense, he did a lot of the thankless tasks on defense (more than Zusi, whose defense was weak), so probably a C+ to Zusi's C. Gonzalez's grade should probably be a B, not a B+. But overall, pretty accurate.

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: July 4, 2014 at 3:39 p.m.
    R. Mahoney is sure kind to Bradley, who shoulda received a C-, and I am mildly surprised that he gave the Coach a B, tho' in this professor's grading policy he should been given a B+. (Hey, does ANYONE know where Martin Vazquez, Klinsmann's former coaching colleague, ended up?) Feel sorry for Wondo, and a B+ for Beasly is greatly deserved. Deuce, well he is what is and was during the games but not deserving of a B- but more like a C+. Lastly, For one of the few times, and with the exceptions I note here,I really agree with him Bien hecho don Ridge Mahoney!

  1. cisco martinez
    commented on: July 4, 2014 at 4:21 p.m.
    Klinsmann deserves a C, no replacement for altidore, bradley is not a creative midfielder, leaving beckerman off against Belgium was mind boggling, Davis over Donovan, tactically very defensive against Germany and Belgium, no wonder we had no offense.

  1. Ginger Peeler
    commented on: July 4, 2014 at 6:04 p.m.
    Dean, with your clear understanding of the game, I can only hope that you have or are working on your Coach's A license. You have an exciting career ahead of you. We really do need experienced coaches at all levels who can teach and train our players.

  1. Mark Hardt
    commented on: July 4, 2014 at 6:07 p.m.
    Klinsman's most glaring mistake was not bringing along Terrence Boyd when he could have. Boyd is a direct replacement for Altidore and had a better season with 20 goals in all competitions for Rapid Vienna including Europa league. If Boyd was there we may be playing tomorrow.

  1. Gus Keri
    commented on: July 4, 2014 at 6:33 p.m.
    Klinsmann deserves no better than D. A manager whose mantra is "better lucky than good" is not good manager. He has relied on luck for so long until his luck ran out. He made so many bad decisions that affected the team and prevented it from achieving its potential.

  1. John Hofmann
    commented on: July 4, 2014 at 7:44 p.m.
    I've seen allusions to why Boyd was not in Brazil -- a tweet re his scoring a goal? If that was his only transaction, as a relatively young kid, I would have far more concern about that act by Coach K than much of the other things that people are bringing up, especially since are entire line-up suffered because of no one to even halfway fill the vacuum once Altidore went out. Was that actually the reason for Boyd's departure?

  1. John Stiegeler
    commented on: July 4, 2014 at 9:28 p.m.
    Your rating of Chris Wondolowski is way too harsh, unless you want to rate every other player on one play. I was at the Portugal game and when Wondo came in he did everything that was asked. He could of been dangerous going at goal but was asked to "kill time" and did that very well (you probably want to blame the second goal on him as well). During the Belgium game the offense (moribund the entire game) finally came to life when Wondolowski entered the game. I guess that was also a coincidence. He earned more chances when he was in than Dempsey the entire previous time. Yes, he missed a big opportunity but giving the guy a D for one play, that is a bit harsh. I think if Wondo had started the second half the USA would of been much better off and much more dangerous.

  1. Richard Broad
    commented on: July 5, 2014 at 12:38 a.m.
    The US went as far as it did because of a TEAM effort. We went no further because our INDIVIDUAL PLAYERS were inferior to our opponents at virtually every position. Considering this, these grades are INCREDIBLE. I wish I had you for a teacher in high school, Ridge.

  1. Santiago 1314
    commented on: July 5, 2014 at 11:48 p.m.
    Sorry but as much as I like the guy.. Wondo gets an F.. GOT TO SCORE THAT SITTER... Boyd left off because he Tweeted that he scored a Goal in a Closed Door Practice Game, thereby trying to build up his chances to make the final Roster... If True, That's indefinitely Insecure on the part of Coach JK... It's like Blaming Benghazi, on "The Video "... Oops, that got away with that one also... Ginger, I hope you were being Sarcastic about Dean getting an A Coaching License... Besler??? After he got Run over by Lukaku???... Zusi??? After he got Run over by EVERYBODY???...Cameron at LT.??? Back, gotta be a typo... Beasley was Awesome, should have been tighter on Ronaldo, but he probably didn't expect Bradley to turn the Ball over in middle of the field.. D for Bradley/Dempsey, Because they Blindly Followed Jks Directions... Especially Dempsey... I've watched Dempsey since he was 12... He NEVER Followed a coaches instructions in HIS LIFE... That's what makes him Spectacular and Special... Now we know why JK made him Captain... That way he could Control him... Trust me, all of us Coaches have played that Mind F@ck game before... Dempsey has Never been a Leader... Marches to his Own Drum... Well JK took the Drum away from him by Not bringing a SUB for Jozy... Because of a Tweet!?!?!? JK you Miserable, Insecure, Flake... What did really happen with Martin Vasquez??? Can't wait for the Book, or "Video" Or TWEET ... SAD!!! Weakest World Cup EVER!!! Anyone could have won this... Including USA, If we just had a Coach that Believed... SUNIL, If he can't write in the Chalk Board 1,000 Times: " I BELIEVE THAT WE CAN WIN" ... Then FIRE his A$$

  1. Dean Costalas
    commented on: July 6, 2014 at 1:45 p.m.
    Santiago...Besler was outstanding this WC. The Belgians had 39 shots, 17 on goal. That doesn't speak to the defense, it speaks to the midfield and the overall game plan. Besler was our most consistent defender throughout and will get a chance to play in 1 of the big 5 leagues in Europe. Cameron should have started at left back from the spring games on. DeMarcus surprised and played well, but he's nowhere near the outside back that Cameron is...he's a full-time starter (at right back) on a top-half of the table EPL squad. The Zusi pick is more by default...not a whole lot else there pre-WC. And remember, this is what I was saying in April. Hindsight is 20-20.

  1. TK TK
    commented on: July 8, 2014 at 10:15 a.m.
    Why dont we start rating style and skill with the ball for our USMNT?? Does Soccer America really believe that this style of play will attract more diehard USA fans and more importantly our youth ?? If we keep applauding this type of play we might never evolve.

  1. Brian Something
    commented on: July 8, 2014 at 11:09 a.m.
    No way in heck does Bradley get a higher grade than Zusi.

  1. Brian Something
    commented on: July 8, 2014 at 11:11 a.m.
    Klinsmann gets a C or C+. Performances were poor... completely outclassed in 3 of the 4 games, couldn't pass or possess the ball. Personnel decisions (not only Donovan, but not taking Boyd or EJ as cover for Jozy) costs us as well. His grade is only helped by getting out of the group (because Portugal imploded vs Germany).

  1. Vendetta diPirlo
    commented on: July 8, 2014 at 1:42 p.m.
    Zusi and Wondo and Bradley get Fs, they are not at the international level. Bradley played well at Chievo but was jettisoned by Roma because he is no longer able to perform. To his credit Klinsmann was saddled with Bradley unlike Arena who had a competent Reyna. K got to the quarters but as this is not progress historically he is a B- and should not be confirmed as coach.

  1. Wayne Colasinski
    commented on: July 8, 2014 at 4:28 p.m.
    The whole Donovan affair has clouded my opinion of JK's performance. I give him a B+ as a motivator but a D for all the rest of his duties as coach / manager. He didn't give us any more than Bob Bradley did and less than Bruce Arena in 2002. I think leaving Donovan off the roster (for whatever reason) was near treasonous to our WC effort. Maybe Donovan was not liked by some teammates, and maybe he was a distraction in the locker room. Who knows? But didn't any of the senior members of the team (Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, etc.) go to Klinsman after the final roster was announced and say / demand that we gotta have this guy... even if he's to come off the bench. This whole fiasco stinks to high heaven.


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