High marks for resilience in crucial victory

U.S. Report Card
By Ridge Mahoney

Soccer in a snow globe was on display Friday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park near Denver, and in a battle against the elements the Americans beat Costa Rica, 1-0, with a Clint Dempsey goal.

A sloppy, messy game marred by giveaways and turnovers nonetheless offered up great drama. A trip on Dempsey went unpunished, a Costa Rican goal was disallowed for offside and early in the second half referee Joel Aguilar briefly suspended play.

In a game lacking shape or elegance, the Americans resorted to toughness and determination to withstand the blowing snow, 29-degree temperatures, and numerous harsh collisions.

7 Brad Guzan (Aston Villa/ENG) 21/0. Aside from flailing at and missing a corner kick into the goal area, Guzan coped admirably well, recovering the few balls he couldn’t handle cleanly and getting down to smother a couple of tricky low shots. In treacherous weather no player is more vulnerable than the goalkeeper, yet Guzan stayed poised and confident.

6 Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG) 13/0. He passed most of his tests, though Bryan Oviedo got past him a few times in the first half and a couple of his fouls gave Costa Rica free kicks in dangerous positions. He tried to link up with Zusi to mixed success and really struggled with his crossing. Defensively, he was strong in the air and in the second half figured out his footing to clear low balls more confidently.

7 Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy) 5/0. Rugged and confident performance in a pressure game against a good opponent justified his selection. He kept his balance while fending off an opponent to neatly trap and clear a low ball driven through the middle by Michael Barrantes, and nimbly dug out centering passes when a miskick or scuff would have been costly. Crucial block in the waning seconds snuffed Costa Rica’s best opportunity of the first half.

7 Clarence Goodson (Broendby/DEN) 35/3. Neutralized Alvaro Saborio often enough in the first half that the RSL forward tried his luck against Gonzalez with much the same result. Looked secure and sure despite the thickening snow, undoubtedly a product of his time in Denmark, and may have saved a goal when he headed away Bryan Ruiz’s free kick for a corner.

7 DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla/MEX) 98/17. The Beas scampered in the snow, perhaps flashing back to his days with PSV Eindhoven and the Fire. He gave some width to the attack by working up the left flank to link with Gomez, and tracked back tirelessly to scrape away balls from the skidding Costa Ricans. A few giveaways weren’t punished and the rare occasions he got caught too far forward weren’t exploited.

6 Jermaine Jones (Schalke/GER) 28/2. He ended the match wearing a shower cap of snow on his fuzzy dome after squelching numerous attacks in the middle of the park and beating his opponents to knockdowns and second balls. A rather foolish forearm caught Bryan Ruiz in the face but he escaped punishment. He kept his focus despite absorbing fierce hits and painful kicks before being replaced in the 83rd minute.

7 Michael Bradley (Roma/ITA) 74/11. In a two-man central midfield, he plugged up the middle much of time as a screen behind the more aggressive Jones. Bradley played a lot of good balls out to the right flank for Zusi and Cameron, and resorted to lumping the ball forward less often than his teammates. His run diagonally across the goalmouth drew defenders as Altidore’s shot was deflected to Dempsey.

5 Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City) 9/1. Missed connections with Cameron several times down the right flank and untypically over-hit a few crosses. A couple of other balls tested the Costa Rican defense and he worked hard defensively, though his positioning and decision-making were at times questionable.

7 Clint Dempsey (Tottenham/ENG) 93/32. Ranged back into midfield to find the ball and popped up in several threatening spots to keep the Costa Ricans off balance. Pounced on a deflected Altidore shot to score the game’s only goal and returned the favor with a couple of clever flicks that set up chances. Nicked the ball past Roy Miller and was tripped without a whistle. Got his foot to a Zusi cross but his side-volley went wide.

6 Herculez Gomez (Santos Laguna/MEX) 20/5. He didn’t have his best day offensively, though late in the first half he so frustrated Cristian Gamboa that the right back shoved him to the ground and conceded a free kick. Gomez thwarted Costa Rica often by tracking back and getting in tackles. Late in the game he plowed through the snow and barreled over Juan Madrigal. His set plays were hit-and-miss, and quickly whistled fouls negated what looked to be effective serves.

7 Jozy Altidore (AZ/NED) 54/13. Hard work and determination enabled him to win many battles, and thus his hold-up play and flick-ons produced sequences that provided the Americans throw-ins, free kicks, and corner kicks. He made space to fire a low shot that deflected to Dempsey for the goal, and got free again late in the match but rolled his shot wide. Plagued by a reluctance to shoot in past U.S. games, he got assertive at the right time.

5 Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders) 46/14. Ran at the Costa Ricans a few times to pin them back in their own half and a cross required a sharp goalkeeper catch, yet he missed a couple of defensive assignments.

NR Maurice Edu (Bursaspor/TUR) 44/1. Replaced Jones for the final minutes.

NR Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake) 25/1. Cameo sub for Gomez.

(Ratings: 1=low; 5-average; 10=high.)

13 comments about "High marks for resilience in crucial victory".
  1. T michael Flinn, March 23, 2013 at 6:41 a.m.

    The grounds crew should have gotten high Marks. Klinnsman seemed more animated.

  2. Tim Gibson, March 23, 2013 at 9:03 a.m.

    Well played by both teams & nice to get the badly needed 3 pts. We can't give up late free kix on Tuesday in Azteca like we did lastnight or we're toast.
    GO USA!

  3. Walt Pericciuoli, March 23, 2013 at 11:39 a.m.

    3 points, all that matters. How do you rate anyone in those conditions? Give them all 10's for effort.

  4. feliks fuksman, March 23, 2013 at 12:16 p.m.

    Good result for USA! Next test is important and we can do it! Si se puede!!

  5. Kent James, March 23, 2013 at 3:03 p.m.

    I agree with Walt, though once again, Jones commits a completely unnecessary foul that should have gotten him at least a yellow card. I don't understand how such an experienced player can commit such a stupid foul (especially on a day when free kicks are potentially so dangerous!), especially when he should have gotten rid of the ball before he was even challenged. The Costa Ricans deserve credit for not trying to get the game shut down, and credit also to the supporters who attended in such abysmal weather and made it a great atmosphere.

  6. Alex G. Sicre, March 23, 2013 at 6:21 p.m.

    I agree Walt, and Hercules deserves better.

  7. Luis Arreola, March 23, 2013 at 9:57 p.m.

    Wait a minute, how can anyone praise this game?? This was not soccer. We got 3 points but not playing soccer. We hosted a game in the worst possible playing conditions for a "home field" advantage. And please dont say playing in 100 degree weather is unplayable conditions. That can be comparable to playing 20 degree weather but not to a snow storm!! The ref should have stopped the game. How can you play soccer when you cant see the 1/2 way line or the penalty box??? And you guys wonder why we dont have more USA fans?? I dont want to see that garbage. We must have more pride in what we expect of our National Team. Did they show heart ?? Yea, sure. Why not expect heart along with skill from our national Team??? Is this what we want our kids to look up to?? Resorting to playing soccer in Blizzards to get 3 points?? Yea that will motivate our youth teams to not bunker and play kick it down the field!!!

  8. Chip Thomas, March 24, 2013 at 1:39 a.m.

    Luis, you must have never played soccer based on your comments! I have played, coached, and reffed the beautiful game for over 30 years, and yes snow, sleet, hail, rain, wind, and heat...I've been in it all!

    As for the game, I was was an amazing experience! 19,000+ there watching the game, it was loud and obnoxious! It was a blast! That game did more for the sport on this country than any before it!!

  9. Luis Arreola, March 24, 2013 at 8:58 a.m.

    Chris, they showed grit. No one is denying that. I just don't want to see that type of game again. I can se how you and other die hard fans enjoyed the turf win but I fail to see how this game did anything for soccer in USA. Would we play basketball in those conditions? No we would not. Because people want see skill displayed. Not how hard you fought through snow. I am talking about a majority. Not of 19000 fans that some of you happen to think is a big crowd for a game like this. If that is the only fan base you expect for future USA home games then Congrats!! No doubt.

  10. Walt Pericciuoli, March 24, 2013 at 11:22 a.m.

    Relax Luis. This game was a one and a million. We'll probably never see a National team match in those conditions again (at least I hope not). Just take a moment to savor the 3 pts that keeps us in the hunt?The game says nothing about our soccer development, and it does not need too. I think the fans that attended the game had a great night, and I think they will be talking about it for the rest of their lives.On to Mexico.

  11. Bill Anderson, March 24, 2013 at 12:25 p.m.

    Chip, you are correct on two counts. 1) Luis never played so he doesn't get it. 2) That type of emotional atmosphere and extreme weather will galvanize the current Nats, it was magic, not to be forgotten, EVER!

  12. Luis Arreola, March 24, 2013 at 9:09 p.m.

    Ok. You guys played I guess at a high level in USA. Thats great. Congratulations. My common sense doesnt permit me to celebrate such things. It was an ugly game that anybody could of won because it required zero skill. Sure, our USMNT showed heart but so did Costa Rica. Whats going to eventually seperate us from these 3rd world extremely small countries?? Magic?? Ok. You guys must have played pro. That's why dont get it. Our Worl Cup Qualifiers shouldnt say anything about our development?? I must ahve not played then, because that just sounds .....

  13. Kent James, March 25, 2013 at 10:37 p.m.

    Words of wisdom from Walt. It was a once in a lifetime. Sometimes its better to be lucky than good, but in this case, our boys made their own luck. Credit to them for doing so.

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