U.S. Player Ratings: Altidore strikes; Bradley and Johnson pull the strings

By Mike Woitalla

Nine days before the USA opens its World Cup campaign against Ghana, it delivered one of its most convincing performances of the Jurgen Klinsmann era in a 2-1 win over Nigeria in Jacksonville, Florida. Jozy Altidore emphatically ended his scoring drought with both goals. The only blemish on the dominating display came when Americans gave up a penalty-kick goal late in the game.

6 Tim Howard (Everton/ENG), 100/0.
Well-positioned on Nigeria’s few first-half shots. In the second half he made a sliding leg save and smothered Emmanuel Emenike’s shot – Nigeria’s best chance until Victor Moses converted the 86th minute penalty kick

7 Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim/GER), 22/1.
His forays from right back were key to the U.S. attack. He nicely served up Jozy Altidore for the 1-0. Besides that, defensively solid.

5 Matt Besler (Sporting KC), 17/0.
His clumsy challenge on Victor Moses gave Nigeria its penalty kick and goal – ruining an otherwise composed outing.

6 Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG), 27/1.
Won air battles and a broke up a counterattack in the second half with a timely tackle. His pass to Jermaine Jones started the play that led to the 1-0.

6 DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla/MEX), 116/17.
Back in the running for the starting left back spot after preventing attacks on his flank and creating a few of his own.

6 Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake) 37/1.
Stayed home deep in central midfield in an unspectacular performance -- but he swept in front of the backline and enabled Bradley (and Jones) to focus more on offense.

7 Jermaine Jones (Besiktas/TUR), 42/2.
Paired up with Beckerman in defensive midfield duo. Took pass from Cameron and darted forward to deliver ball to Bedoya on first goal. Broke up a dangerous counter 64th minute. Surged forward a couple times late in the game.

8 Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), 86/12.
In the first half, had a few bad passes but sparked several counterattacks -- and his long-range 23rd minute shot forced good save. Near perfect in the second half on both sides of the ball. Set up Dempsey for two good chances and served an excellent pass to Altidore for the 2-0.

6 Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes/FRA), 28/1.
Had the second assist on the 1-0. Darted around to receive balls and helped U.S. keep possession. Could have done more when freed on the right wing in the second half.

6 Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders) 105/37.
Neat flick pass set up Bradley’s good first-half shot. Active as usual, though had a great chance saved when he eluded a defender in the 65th minute and mis-trapped Bradley pass in scoring position.

8 Jozy Altidore (Sunderland/ENG), 70/23.
Broke scoring drought with first-half tap-in and a rocket shot in second half after taking Bradley’s pass and juking past Joseph Yobo. Moved back often to make himself available during several buildups.

4 Graham Zusi (Sporting KC), 23/3.
Replaced Bedoya with 30 minutes left. Hit a corner kick out bounds in tepid performance.

4 Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg/NOR), 20/3.
Replaced Beckerman with 18 minutes left. Squandered two shots in the penalty kick and misplayed a pass on a third chance.

NR Timmy Chandler (Nuremberg/GER), 13/0.
His 15 minutes were highlighted by a run all the way to the end-line for a late scoring chance.

NR Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), 20/0.
Got 10 minutes of action.

NR Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), 20/9.
Entered in the 87th minute.

(1=low; 5=average; 10=high)

27 comments about "U.S. Player Ratings: Altidore strikes; Bradley and Johnson pull the strings".
  1. cisco martinez, June 7, 2014 at 9:40 p.m.

    I heard so many negative criticisms of alitore, I wonder what I would say if I said such a thing? Altidore is a great forward, holds the ball well, lays off to bradley, relieves pressure, and show tremendous strength and power on the counter. Klinsmanns formation was defensively sound and countered really well, klinsmann tactically shifted a 4-4-2 diamond to a 4-3-2-1, moreover he solved the midfield runs by clogging the midfield, prevent inside out runs of forwards and midfields, and the results definitely showed over 90 minutes.

  2. Zoe Willet, June 7, 2014 at 9:55 p.m.

    These are kind of subjective- over time I have noted that you have your picks. I have mine too. In this case, if you're going to give 7 to Johnson and Jones, then Beasley and Dempsey (and maybe even Beckerman) should be 7 as well. I think Mix and Besler were about on a par with each other- they both made mistakes below World Cup standards. But Jozy- I'm delirious with joy! He and Ade show how a manager's faith can be repaid.

  3. Charles Stamos, June 8, 2014 at 4:30 a.m.

    Today's biggest disappointment was Dempsey and JK not taking him out earlier. He is so selfish! He had Altidore for an assist, but no he takes the shot and it's saved and that's his game. If he could trap the ball, he would have had anohter easy shot at goal. Third game in a row that we also had a breakdown on the left wing late leading to the PK. Since it was after Beasley left the game, he is not responsible, and I don't think TChandler is at fault. Still, our opponents will be attackng and scoring from their right wing. Fantastic plays by FJohnson and Bradley lead to most of our scoring chances. Spme scary moments in the middle on defense; we just don't have enough time to get the back four playing like a unit. We can beat Ghana, anything else is extra. By the way, get over the formation numbers, we had 2 forwards on the field, 4 midfielders, and 4 defenders. They don't play in a straight line! We don't have a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1 or a 1-3-1-2-1-2. It's soccer/football. The players go all over the field. Sometimes Bradley is right behind Altidore and Dempsey, at other times he was forward of them! Is that a 4-3-2-1? No.

  4. Bruce Gowan, June 8, 2014 at 7:55 a.m.

    I agree with Stamos about Dempsey. If I were JK I would have pulled Dempsey earlier. He played with no commitment to the game. I noted several times that he either did not put in the effort to make a play or he made a bad decision about his run so that a pass could not be completed. The US will not win on skill and can only win with effort and teamwork.

  5. Philippe Fontanelli, June 8, 2014 at 7:56 a.m.

    Agree with CS on Dempsey he is selfish not a team player. He was subpar at best. Besides failing to pass to Altidore, he has missed and fumbled several (around) clear chances on goals. He is a dud. And Zusi instead Donovan? "Gimmme a break". Klinsman is an egotistical moron.

  6. Mark Hardt, June 8, 2014 at 8:22 a.m.

    I think the Donovan argument is over. Even if Donovan is better than some of the 23, which he is, this was a message cut. National team players don't take sabbaticals and don't run away from Europe on the first sign of trouble. National team players never show self doubt and never publicly declare they can't do this or that. The act like Altidore and say everything is fine don't worry.

  7. charles davenport, June 8, 2014 at 8:56 a.m.

    The instinct and work of a striker is to shoot and score, not necessarily pass the ball. Thought the defense was sloppy late; some diagonal Nigerian runs got thru the back line; watch out for Ronaldo.

  8. David Mont, June 8, 2014 at 10:03 a.m.

    I'm surprised no one seems to have noticed that the penalty was a direct result of Chandler's not even making any kind of an effort to get back after his run to the Nigerian box. If you have a chance, watch that moment again, and you can see that Chandler is jogging back very leisurely, almost walking, while Nigeria is breaking down the right wing.

  9. Mark Hardt, June 8, 2014 at 10:05 a.m.

    On Besler, He has the Job because there is nobody better. But the two PK's were poor choices. On the handball he could have moved his body to get his chest or side in the way or lunged to head it. On the other foul all he had to do was shadow the player and look for a toe poke. Or Howard would have saved it. Either way a spot kick is a lot easier than a kick under pressure with an onrushing goal keeper. He can't do that against Ghana.

  10. cisco martinez, June 8, 2014 at 11:01 a.m.

    Stamos, formations can and do matter, if they didn't klinsmann would not have changed it post turkey. If you actually do an analyst of the game defensively, they were a 4-3-2-1 that transitioned on the counter to a 4-2-4. The 4-3-2-1 is used to absorb pressure, prevent midfield runs, and counter effectively. Believe it or not coaching use players to fit their formations to get the best result for their team.

  11. Scott O'Connor, June 8, 2014 at 11:26 a.m.

    I've been hard on Jozy here before. His drought though seems to have made him a better player. Much more committed to doing the "other" things (than scoring goals) that forwards have to do. He wasn't doing them a while back, just hung around waiting for the perfect ball to score with. Bravo Mr. Altidore. Perhaps he'll score in another 5 straight games like he did starting last June when Fabian Johnson set him up for a goal against Germany....

  12. Scott O'Connor, June 8, 2014 at 11:37 a.m.

    As for the undeserving captain, Clint "It's all about me baby" Dempsey, I really have soured on him lately in his national team duties. He is selfish. He doesn't run hard. I saw little to no defensive effort from him. He's the first to raise his arms up when a teammate shoots instead of sending a pass his way but the last to ever pass up a low-percentage shot for a pass to an open teammate. My final concern about him is that, unfortunately, we didn't draw any penalties in the send-off series so that he could louse them up in a friendly rather than in a world cup game where it could be our only real chance to score against a Portugal or Germany. He's a lousy penalty taker but as captain he gets to grab the ball and take it himself. Oh well. For all that, he is the only guy on the team who might actually concern opponents because he is a bit unpredictable because, as Bruce Arena famously said, "He tries Sh*t". He's capable of so many little bits of technical skill, unlike the typical American player, that he could single-handedly make something out of nothing and this World Cup could have a lot of nothing given the quality of the opposition.

  13. Scott O'Connor, June 8, 2014 at 11:49 a.m.

    Defense. Defense. Defense. The back line is so bad that we've had to place not 1 but 2 holding midfielders in front of them. That limits the number of players available for pushing forward. That said, against the competition in Brazil, we need to take more of a defensive posture and counter out of it. We got some great practice at just that last night. I'm worried about this new set piece posture that we've taken. Zonal marking for some and man for the rest. When Geoff Cameron and Clint Dempsey are your "best guys in the air" who are allowed to freelance and go for the ball, I think we will be in trouble. Ronaldo and Bruno Alves (just ask Mexico) are very strong in the air for Portugal and Germany is perennially a strong team in the air. Tim Howard, bless his heart, is a great keeper but his one weakness in my opinion is that he is far too passive on set pieces. He let's the ball get played and hopes to be in the right place rather than going for balls that look to be in his reach in the air.... Perhaps it's just admitting that this group doesn't have the marking ability of previous teams and this is what we have to do to reduce the likelihood of set piece goals.

  14. Charles Stamos, June 8, 2014 at 12:07 p.m.

    cisco - I like your analysis, transitioning from defense to offense and back again is the key to success and our failure to do so when TChandler pushed forward led to the PK as David noticed. I'm saying we need a few more quality players and a few more years to place a top team on the pitch and no formation can hide that fact.

  15. john max, June 8, 2014 at 12:19 p.m.

    So happy that Jozy was able to score not 1, but 2 to boost his confidence entering the World Cup.

    Dempsey, on the other hand, was selfish, lazy and needed to be subbed out. I think Klinsi should consider Johansson in Clint's spot.

  16. cisco martinez, June 8, 2014 at 12:24 p.m.

    Not a fan of chandler on the left, I think he is better served on the right side. Sure we need better players, Donovan was one that can expose a teams defense with his speed by transition. I am a huge critic of klinsmann, especially leaving out Donovan, Goodson, and oneywu, but Klinsmann does not get enough credit for his tactics, formation shifts, and analysis.

  17. Kent James, June 8, 2014 at 1:48 p.m.

    Cisco, excellent analysis on the formations, highlighting the difference between when we are playing defense and when we transition to offense. And you are right to credit JK for this innovation; I was concerned that by focusing on defense, and having Jozy as a lone striker, we'd have no offense. But against Nigeria, Bradley and Bedoya were quickly into offense, joining Dempsey and Altidore, and because we attacked with speed, the attacks were quite effective (without leaving us exposed at the back). On the other hand, Charles has a point that formations evolve during the game, so while they're a good starting point, they're not as important as who is on the field.

  18. Kent James, June 8, 2014 at 2 p.m.

    I agree with those who pointed out that Dempsey did not have a great game. While Dempsey gets credit for creativity ("trying s***" as Arena aptly put it), and he has a knack for goals (which is priceless), I've never been impressed with his attitude. I find it ironic that people criticize Donovan for his attitude (humble, reflective, honest) but give Dempsey a pass. In contrast to Dempsey, Donovan has always been an exceptionally hard worker, and willing to come back (effectively) on defense. Additionally, Donovan was a reliable penalty kick taker, which might be a skill we'll need. If Dempsey can latch onto some goals, we have a chance. But if he's not scoring, I hope Johannson or Wondo come off the bench a bit earlier.

  19. Gole goal, June 8, 2014 at 2:17 p.m.

    As I watched the USA MNT play Nigeria it was very difficult for me to feel satisfied with the US performance. Yes I know the US won Jozy scored 2 goals the ESPN announcers were praising the US play and it's coaching staff who was happy and clapping. I was more interested in what wasn't being said about the game and what's was seen but yet unseen. The unsaid: the announcers and analyst gave consent praise to the US stating how a confidence builder this game is for the team and for Jozy. What was failed to be mention was perhaps these questions. How was it possible when ever Nigeria wanted to attack they did it so freely? Didn't Nigeria seem as if they could have tied up the game very easily or even won it if they pushed a little harder? How is it possible that the US nearly collapsed in the last 10 minutes when they thought they had it won? These are questions that should have been asked or brought up. What we saw was a US team that showed so many weaknesses whose defense doesn't handle fast creative players very well and whose defenders on the outside lack any attack. Oh and let's not mention the center mid play in transition is very slow and their is no quality 1v1 play on attack.

    What was seen but unseen: We saw a Nigerian team that flew over 5,000 miles to a game were there is a 5 plus hour difference and a team that didn't want to run at full pace so it wouldn't risk injury. Nigeria looked as if they were dominated but in realty they were playing not to get hurt and they looked under slept and rested. Did the US really win or did Nigeria just didn't want to play at full pace?

    I am a US supporter since 94 and I have to say this may be a repeat of the 98 World Cup were we didn't get out of the group stage. Wait! This will be worse then the 98 World Cup, Klinsman is going to play not lose to that of playing to win and he knows it. As for Jozy and the rest of the team good luck scoring and beating some of the best in the world with a coach who is afraid to play. Let's be honest here Germany, and Portugal are not ranked below 30 like Nigeria.

  20. Robert Heinrich, June 8, 2014 at 7:30 p.m.

    Completely agree with the Dempsey comments. The problem is Klinsmann can't sit him because he'll go into a pout. His attitude is abominable. I just hope he can pull off a "magic" goal that gets us 3 points when we really need it. Otherwise he's a waste and play Johansen instead. I was at the game and Jermaine Jones was Man of the Match for me. Best game I've ever seen from him. Cameron was excellent and DaMarcus Beasley is our left back.

  21. David Mont, June 8, 2014 at 7:40 p.m.

    I agree with much of what has been said here about Dempsey; however, let's be honest, the US doesn't have many (if any) creative, international-level players. Dempsey is now the closest we have to one. He seems to be the only player on the team capable of doing something inordinary. The team badly needs that.

  22. Geren Nichols, June 8, 2014 at 8:18 p.m.

    Jermaine Jones had a fabulous game. Indeed whatever the system in use both Bradley and Jones were making critical defensive plays, we're connecting and distributing in midfield and available for meaningful shots on goal.

  23. James Madison, June 8, 2014 at 8:34 p.m.

    First everyone got on Altidore. Now everyone's getting on Dempsey. Truth be told, he's in a goal drought just as Altidore was, so maybe it's just as understandable that he will be selfish in trying to break his drought. Fortunately for Gonzalez, he was only in for 10 minutes and, therefore, did not get a "4" for the awkward tackle that left Besler with no option other than to foul in the penalty area.

  24. Vince Leone, June 8, 2014 at 9:16 p.m.

    Despite his few minutes, Omar Gonzalez should have gotten a low rating. He stepped forward too late and allowed the best Nigerian opportunity of the night, and his getting beat for pace on the touchline created the PK situation. So basically, in 10 minutes he almost undid all the good work that had been done until then.

  25. John Roode, June 8, 2014 at 10:24 p.m.

    Mike, Mike, Mike... Don't blame Besler for the "clumsy" tackle when back-tracking on a player that should never have received the ball to begin with. Blame Gonzalez' abysmal flank defending and Cameron's "clumsy" attempt at whatever it was he was trying to do. For that matter, blame Klinsmann for substituting Gonzalez at that point in the match in the first place. But don't blame Besler for attempting to rescue others from unforgivably crappy play.

  26. Barry Thomas, June 9, 2014 at 11:19 a.m.

    A little late, I know, but Mark Hardt's comments above (June 8, 8:22 a.m.) made me think: How is Donovan's statement about not being able to put in 12 great training sessions in 12 consecutive days any different from JK's comment that the US can't win the World Cup in 2014?

  27. Greg Morris, June 9, 2014 at 2:53 p.m.

    Not a Chandler fan but he was not the player beaten on the play leading to the PK. As an outside back, particularly in that formation, he was supposed to be up the field to provide width. The CB opens to cover the opposing forward. Unfortunately, that CB was Omar. He was poorly positioned, indecisive and lacked pace. I would like to see Besler trust in Howard rather than take the PK with the foul but that was Omar all the way.

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