Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By IVES GALARCEP
CLEVELAND– When asked to list three bright spots for the U.S. Men’s National Team from Wednesday night’s 4-2 loss to Belgium, Jurgen Klinsmann gave a wry smile that acknowledged just how tough a task that was.
Klinsmann wasn’t quite able to come up with three, and that told you all you needed to know about Wednesday’s match. It was largely forgettable and for some U.S. players, a wasted opportunity to shine. Yes, Belgium came in as the favorite, and boasts one of the most talented teams in Europe, but the way the U.S. team sleepwalked through the match for long stretches made it tough to find consolation in a loss that didn’t play out as closely as the score might suggest.
Defensively, the Americans were ripped to shreds, and none of the cohesiveness and organization that the team boasted in March’s World Cup qualifiers could be found against Belgium. It wasn’t all down to the back four though. The midfield offered little defensive support, leaving gaps for Belgium to exploit, and providing a harsh reminder of just how important Michael Bradley is to the U.S. team.
Offensively, there were more of the same struggles. Yes, the U.S. scored two goals, but neither came in the run of play. It isn’t exactly embarrassing to struggle against a defense boasting the kind of talent Belgium has, but the U.S. quite simply did very little to even trouble Belgium. The wings provided little and Jozy Altidore struggled once again to find chances, lasting just 45 minutes in the process.
So what were the bright spots? There were a few. Clint Dempsey was once again a player who could find success even as his team struggled. DaMarcus Beasley turned in another solid showing at left back, while Jermaine Jones showed his usual determination and bite, even if he once again showed a penchant for poor discipline and organization in midfield.
Here is a closer look at the USMNT player grades for Wednesday night’s match:
USMNT PLAYER GRADES (vs. Belgium)
TIM HOWARD (5)
Could have done better on first Belgium goal, but made necessary plays throughout first half.
DAMARCUS BEASLEY (5.5)
Not perfect defensively by any means, but still another solid showing, and flashed some good attacking qualities in the second half.
OMAR GONZALEZ (3.5)
Still wins most balls in the air, but in space he looked lost and insecure at times. His timing was off and he looked like a far cry from the dominant force that faced Mexico in March. Won’t be his last chance, but failed to pull away from other centerback contenders in the race for starts in central defense.
CLARENCE GOODSON (4)
Fared only slightly better than Gonzalez. Didn’t exactly play well enough to be considered a lock starter.
GEOFF CAMERON (4.5)
Did well to get in position for the goal, but he provided little getting forward and struggled to deal with Belgium’s attackers on the flank. His worst game at right back to date.
BRAD DAVIS (4.5)
Anyone expecting magic from the Dynamo star came away disappointed, but he did have some moments where you could see his soccer brain at work. Didn’t do enough to grab the starting left wing spot and it is unclear whether he will see another chance in the coming weeks.
SACHA KLJESTAN (5)
If you wanted him to be a playmaker you came away disappointed, but if you focused on the defensive work he put in, you saw a reasonable performance. Not enough to be considered a starting option, but enough to keep in the conversation for minutes.
JERMAINE JONES (5.5)
You have to take the good and the bad with Jones. The good is his relentlessness and ability to set a good tone for the U.S. The bad is his penchant for freelancing and running himself out of position, which can often leave teammates in bad spots. Until he shows more discipline, the U.S. defense will continue to struggle with him on the field.
GRAHAM ZUSI (5)
Provided quality set-piece service, and never stopped hustling, but took an inordinate amount of uncharacteristically bad touches that led to far too many turnovers.
JOZY ALTIDORE (4)
Once again, Altidore tried to be the hold-up striker, but only ever seemed to find Dempsey moving off of him and making himself available. Fitness was an issue, as evidenced by him having to leave the match at halftime.
CLINT DEMPSEY (6)
Once again, Dempsey led the way. He provided consistent movement with purpose in the attack and was the only player who didn’t look out of place against the Belgians. Struggled to combine with the midfield, but not for a lack of making himself available.
EDDIE JOHNSON (5.5)
A very encouraging cameo for Johnson, who just might have moved himself closer to a starting role against Jamaica in the June World Cup qualifier. He was aggressive, fast and contributed at forward as well as on the left wing.
TERRENCE BOYD (3.5)
Didn’t have as much success as Johnson at forward, and struggled to find the game. A disappointing out from a player who should be motivated to prove something on Sunday when the USMNT faces Boyd’s native Germany.
BRAD EVANS (4)
Provided some hustle, but did little to help the U.S. threaten in the attack. Looks more like a Gold Cup squad player than someone who will have a role in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
BRAD GUZAN (4)
Saw his goal overrun, and could have done better on at least one of the three goals he surrendered.
MATT BESLER (4)
Given 21 minutes alongside Omar Gonzalez and didn’t look quite as confident as he did when the two last partnered, against Mexico in March. Provided some good passing, but might seen his defensive sharpness hurt by the recent stretch of matches he missed due to injury. That said, he should still have a chance to start on Sunday vs. Germany.
STUART HOLDEN (NG)
It was only a cameo, but Holden’s inclusion had considerable significance. He held his own during his nine minutes on the field, connecting on passes and looking aggressive and eager. Tough to say whether Belgium had taken their foot off the pedal by then or not, but Holden definitely looked ready for the challenge. He should see some minutes vs. Germany on Sunday.
What do you think of the grades? Any grades you think are too harsh? Any grades you consider too generous?
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