By IVES GALARCEP
It wasn’t exactly a perfect performance, but there were stretches of the U.S. Men’s National Team’s 5-1 win vs. El Salvador that felt like some of the best soccer we have seen an American team play in recent memory.
Landon Donovan snatched the headlines with his outstanding performance, but he was far from alone in pulling off some of the best passing and movement of the tournament. The first 20 minutes of the match, and the last 30, were showcases of crisp passing and creativity, and gave us a good look at a team that is really finding a rhythm.
Eddie Johnson was a key force in the second-half surge, coming off the bench to contribute speed and aggressiveness in the final third that El Salvador simply couldn’t cope with.
Then there was Kyle Beckerman, who while he didn’t register any goals or assists, was still vitally important in keeping the U.S. possession game flowing, and making sure the ball went to the playmakers in good spots to create.
Who else stood out vs. El Salvador? Here is a rundown of SBI’s Player Grades for the U.S. team’s win vs. El Salvador:
USMNT 5, El Salvador 1: SBI Player Grades
NICK RIMANDO (7). Made some key saves in the first half to keep El Salvador of the board until the penalty kick. Did well to command his penalty area, and also completed 26 of his 28 passes.
MICHAEL PARKHURST (6). Was beaten a few times on the counter, and had his share of turnovers, but turned in a reasonable enough performance to be considered a good bet to continue in the starting right back role for the rest of the tournament. Had a great pass on the sequence leading to Clarence Goodson’s goal.
CLARENCE GOODSON (7). Scored a goal, put together an outstanding night passing the ball (completing 75 of 79 passes) and defended steadily. Might not be enough to keep the starting job for the semifinals, but has helped solidify his place on the USMNT centerback depth chart.
MATT BESLER (7). The busier of the two centerbacks from a defensive standpoint, Besler led USMNT defenders in tackles won, clearances and headers, had another steady not passing wise. Remains the class of the U.S. centerback pool.
DAMARCUS BEASLEY (6). Loses a grade for giving up the penalty (even though it looked like a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge, but covered the left flank from end-line to end-line, made some key passes, and did his best to keep El Salvador from attacking down their right flank.
KYLE BECKERMAN (7.5). While others scored the goals, Beckerman was the heartbeat of the attack, keeping the ball moving all over the field and while he doesn’t get the credit he deserves from some segments of the USMNT fanbase, El Salvador’s head coach became the latest coach to sing his praises.
MIX DISKERUD (6.5). Arguably his best overall game as a starter so far, Diskerud was effective getting forward, making effective passes and even making some defensive challenges. He did appear to fade mid-way through the match, and struggle with the pace of the game, but finished out the match in style with the final goal of the contest.
JOSE TORRES (6). Was very active in the passing game, moving well to make himself available to teammates, though his crossing left something to be desired. That said, he was a key figure in some of the team’s best stretches of possession and passing combinations.
JOE CORONA (7.5). Another strong showing for the Club Tijuana midfielder. His goal was expertly taken, and he was a driving force in the team’s strong start. Had less of an influence in the second half, but still enjoyed another quality game that suddenly has him in the conversation for taking on a bigger role with the full U.S. team.
LANDON DONOVAN (8.5). The most dominating individual USMNT performance in recent memory, Donovan played a part in all five U.S. goals. His movement, timing and passing touch were outstanding. The scary part is he could have been even better had he been able to finish the multitude of chances that he put himself in position for, only to miss.
CHRIS WONDOLOWSKI (5). Not his best game, and he was quiet on the stat sheet, with only his pass setting up Joe Corona registering. While he didn’t score any goals, what he did do was make good runs to create space for teammates, and kept some consistent pressure on El Salvador’s centerbacks.
EDDIE JOHNSON (7.5). Mr. Instant offense, Johnson scored 14 seconds after entering the match, and the proceeded to keep terrorizing El Salvador’s defense with his speedy runs and shifty moves. Delivered a perfect assist to spring Donovan on his goal, and made a very strong case for starting in the semifinals.
BREK SHEA (6). It was a brief cameo, but Shea looked confident, completed every pass, and had the stride of a player who had benefited greatly from his game-winning goal vs. Costa Rica.
MICHAEL OROZCO (NR). Helped close out the match and completed all nine of his passes.
JURGEN KLINSMANN (7). Deserves credit for starting Beckerman and Diskerud together, and for his game-changing substitution of Eddie Johnson for Wondolowski.