U.S. Report Card: Few good marks on a rather bad night

By Ridge Mahoney

Whether or not the U.S. national team is ready, the Hexagonal can’t come soon enough.

Friendlies can be wildly, entertaining affairs, or they can be deathly flat, and a 0-0 tie with Canada in Houston Tuesday night was certainly the latter.

Three starters and two substitutes earned their first caps and while a seldom-tested defense posted a clean sheet, the attack seldom conjured up a good scoring chance. Centerbacks Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez and midfielder Kyle Beckerman were the most prominent of the U.S. players, but off this showing not many would be serious candidates to play in Honduras next Wednesday.

5 Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire) 3/0.
Sauntered through a very quiet night, other than a good reflex save of a Dwayne De Rosario shot hit right at him at a comfortable height. Canada’s sporadic, mediocre crossing didn’t trouble him.

4 Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake) 1/0. Completely lost on far post cross that De Ro hit on the bounce at goal, played competently going forward, yet with time and space and Chris Wondolowski at the near post clipped a ball that hopped waist-high. Showed a willingness to play combinations and overlap but shied away from the byline.

6 Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City) 1/0. Sure, Canada showed little in the attack other than De Ro, but Besler whacked a few balls out of danger areas, stepped into midfield when required, and always looked to play through the middle or out wide. This is probably sacrilege to some, but he’s faster than his central partner and just as good on the ball.

6 Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy) 3/0. Strong in the air and confident on the ground, Gonzalez also asserted himself in other ways. He looked like a leader, gesturing to his teammates and organizing them as necessary, since he had the middle locked down. On a well-timed leap he headed a free kick over the crossbar and he also served well as a decoy to draw defenders.

5 Justin Morrow (San Jose Earthquakes) 1/0. A couple of shaky moments allowed Touissant Ricketts and others more space than was wise but he more often than not had the measure of his opponents once he chased them down. Unlucky a couple of times to have crosses blocked when he joined in the attack.

6 Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake) 24/1. Latched onto a half-clearance and took a first-timer from about 40 yards that looped right to the keeper, which unfortunately turned out to be one of the better-hit U.S. shots. Played a sharp, lively game screening the back four and pushing past to the midfield line to deliver balls into effective spots. Floated to the right and served a good ball that was headed over the bar.

5 Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders) 7/0. Skinned in the opening minutes when Nik Ledgerwood got past him to hit a dangerous cross, for the most part he worked well with Beckerman in central midfield though neither took on a true playmaking role. He shifted from midfield to right back in the second half and handled that job adequately.

4 Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City) 7/1. With a pair of straightforward central mids, he and Davis were expected to spark the attack and though he probed for openings, he didn’t deliver ideal service and seldom burst past opponents on the dribble. He took a nasty knock at the end of the first half and was subbed in the 64th minute.

5 Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo) 6/0. Looked clean and sharp on the ball but the ideas and instincts we see so often in MLS seldom materialized. Elected to trap and shoot from close range when a first-time hit looked like the better option. Drove a few threatening balls on set plays that weren’t exploited. Unfortunately, all too typical of his performance was a low, dribbling cross from near the byline after a nice ball from Eddie Johnson played him into space.

4 Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes) 11/0. Worked both sides of the field to combine with Zusi and others, but couldn’t test the keeper with any of his shots: a long bouncer from distance, an overhead kick off a knockdown, a header from a Beckerman cross, and a tough-bounce delivery from Beltran. On the good side was his ability to escape the stifling Canadian defense and contribute some clever one-twos.

5 Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders) 45/14. Didn’t pose the goalmouth threat that was expected, though his hold-up work and linking play created openings and drew fouls. A very slick collection and pass freed Davis down the left side late in the first half, and he also set up Davis for a shot with a crisp cutback. He faded in the second half and was replaced in the 74th minute.

4 Joshua Gatt (Molde/NOR) 2/0. Can be applauded for his willingness to take people on, but the renowned speed wasn’t there and neither was a knack for knowing what to do on the left side.

5 Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City) 32/2. Hit at least two excellent set plays and used the ball well, yet also hit a few clunkers including one right into the wall with a few minutes left.

5 Juan Agudelo (Chivas USA) 17/2. Made his 24-plus minutes count by drawing two fouls that produced cautions and spiritedly running through the attacking third.

6 Alejandro Bedoya (no club) 14/0/. Got into the flow right away to hit a sharp ball to Agudelo, whipped in a good corner kick, and got wide to drive a telling cross; maybe fitness precluded him from starting, perhaps centrally?

5 Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin/GER) 1/0. For some reason, he got the shot on a last-second free kick and saw it blocked; otherwise he filled the bill.

4 Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo) 1/0. More or less invisible after his entry in the 74th minute.

(1-low; 5-average; 10-high.)

7 comments about "U.S. Report Card: Few good marks on a rather bad night".
  1. Robert Kiernan, January 30, 2013 at 7:16 a.m.

    Well at least you didn't give anyone over a six, but get real now giving the defenders a "6" when they had next to no defending to perform is rather curious, Beckerman played VERY far back and VERY defensively against a side that barely attacked, so a "6" seems a bit too high... generally I'd say most of your ratings are too high, but giving Bedoya a "6" and Gatt only a "4" seems just strange, Gatt certainly deserved higher, Brad Evans was practically anonymous out there, yet you give him the same rating as Feilhaber, who clearly changed things out there as well as Agudelo who also did much the same and actually ranked him higher than Gatt who actually took players on, something that Davis and Zusi failed to do... so in short you rank Besler, Gonzalez, Beckerman, Bedoya all at a "SIX"... then Sean Johnson (who barely faced ANY shots), Morrow (who did very little), Evans (who did even less), Davis (who did nothing to speak of),Eddie Johnson (who actually held possession),Feilhaber (who actually changed the match), Agudelo (who drew two Yellows and worked to keep plays going)and Morales (who barely got in the match) all at a "5"... and gave booby prizes to Beltran, Zusi, Wondolowski and Gatt at a "4"... I guess I think that nobody deserved above a "5", but you give Gatt a lower rank than he deserved and Bedoya a higher one... that Beckerman had little to add to the ATTACK despite having less of a challenge coming from a listless Canadian attack, so he did not deserve the highest ranking in this group... overall, it was a very poor display from the team as a whole. ... (ICE)

  2. beautiful game, January 30, 2013 at 10:58 a.m.

    Player ratings are too generous for a pitiful team performance

  3. Walt Pericciuoli, January 30, 2013 at 11:26 a.m.

    I don't think anyone deserved a ranking above 3, considering that the entire Canada team was a best a 2.

  4. Chris Sapien , January 30, 2013 at 1:24 p.m.

    This amounts to two hours I will never get, three weeks of prep time for that performance? The idea that Klinns is reportedly considering as many as seven or eight of those in camp for early qualifiers is astounding! I don't know, I better stop now, or I will be here all day writing how woefull things appear going forward with this next "up & comers" group. I love the Nats, but this was sadly uninspired.

  5. Bill Anderson, January 30, 2013 at 9:06 p.m.

    Any rating over a 4.5 is totally B.S. Most deserved a 3 for participation. The shame of wasting their opportunity to impress is well deserved. The players need to understand that their job is to put fannies in the seats, to pimp for beer, erectile dysfunction drugs, and auto manufacturers. If they don't have the stones to show something (anything) how can they ever hope to help the NATS?

  6. Dennis Mueller, January 30, 2013 at 11:49 p.m.

    Silly. The 5 players who were dedicated to watching DeRo got high ratings. They did darned little, never assisted the attack which was stranded with 5 players attacking 10. Surely some of the back 4 and Beckerman could have gotten forward to support the attack rather than sit back and make mostly sideways passes. Pathetic. The consistent lack of attacking play from the backs must have come from Klinsmann, else he would have changed them. No rating for the mastermind behind this hopeless tactical setup, really! Do you love Klinsmann so much that you won't even pretend to rate him?

  7. Paul Bryant, January 31, 2013 at 12:14 a.m.

    Dennis you saw it the way I did. It was embarrasing how the entire backline all had eyes for DeRo. They looked like freshman playing on the varsity for the first time. DeRo's a decent enough player, but he's a 34 year old striker coming off a knee injury. Klinnman is basically telling us he has no confidence in the one-on-one defending of his backline players.

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