Grading the USA's performance in the World Cup
The USA came into the World Cup with lofty expectations. The fans’ expectations were surpassed only by the expectations held by Bob Bradley, the team’s head coach, and the players. While they did not live up to their ultimate goal, they can go home with their heads held high. They saved soccer in America. For a week, they were America’s team. They won their group for the first time since 1930. Many fans may have been heartbroken on Saturday, but none of them should have shed a single tear for sadness. They should be proud of a team that fought every game from the opening faceoff to the final whistle. They represented this country well, and the world now knows that America is here to stay.
I will now grade each player’s performance during the World Cup on an A to F scale. A is high, F is low. This is purely based on performance, not by meeting/exceeding/failing to meet expectations.
Tim Howard: B-. He had an off game against Ghana, and could have been better against Slovenia, but he carried our defense during the England game and had several key saves against Algeria. It is sad to say this, but I think we might have just seen the last of Timmy Howard in goal for the USA in the World Cup.
Carlos Bocanegra: B+. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, our most consistent defender during the World Cup. He did get beat in over time against Ghana, but overall, without him, we wouldn’t have been playing Ghana to begin with. I came in with relatively low expectations from him, seeing as how he was recovering from a hernia surgery in spring, but he wound up being a huge surprise. He has a good shot at a starting job on the 2014 World Cup team, even though he’ll be 35 in 2014.
Jay DeMerit: C+. DeMerit came into the World Cup with a total of 21 appearances with the national team, and none at the World Cup level. Against England, he shut down one of the world’s elite players in Wayne Rooney, and saved several goals against Slovenia. He went down hill from there. He got beat twice against Algeria, and he misread the plays that led to both of Ghana’s goals. Overall, his performance was acceptable. Unless the United States is still lacking in the defender department in 2014, I don’t see him being on the team. Even if he is on the team, he won’t be a starter like he was in this World Cup.
Oguchi Onyewu: C-. Overall, a disappointment. Played alright against England, and seemed unfocused and unable to compete physically against Slovenia. Bradley sat him after the Ghana game, a decision that most people at the time blasted. Onyewu was simply not up to the task of playing in the World Cup less than a year after tearing his ACL. He gets brownie points for even being out there though. He should be back in 2014, hopefully 100% healthy.
Steve Cherundolo: B+. Arguably our best player during the World Cup. Not only did he dominate wherever he played, he was also very active in our offense, as is he was one of the guys moving the ball up to the midfielders. Only blemish was his game against Ghana, but that can be said of several of our defenders. I think he’ll still be on the team for the 2014 World Cup, possibly as a starter because of his all-around ability and his ability on the counter attack.
Jonathan Bornstein: B. Overall, he was probably the biggest surprise of any of the US players. Bradley went all-in by replacing Onyewu with Bornstein, and Bornstein made sure that gamble paid off big time. He had a terrific game against Ghana, and had a solid outing against Algeria. Apparently he listened to his critics who blasted him for his weak playing style, because he was extremely agressive, especially when playing the ball and moving the ball up the field. There’s a very good chance we’ll be seeing him again in 2014, probably in a starting role.
Michael Bradley: A-. In my opinion, America’s best player during the World Cup. Did a terrific job as the team’s defensive midfielder. One of the best players on defense, and also proved to be more than one-dimensional with his crisp passes and extremely aggressive play. He had one of the most memorable goals in US history against Slovenia to tie the game. He struggled at times to finish his chances, but he’s a defensive midfielder so that is to be expected. He’s only 22, so we will be seeing a lot of him in 2014. He’ll be in his prime then, so you should definitely keep an eye on him.
Clint Dempsey: B+. Despite only scoring one goal, he still did a terrific job leading the attack. Dempsey got better with each game, and he was a pest against Ghana all afternoon. He took a brutal beating every game, and it only seemed to motivate him. He responded well to being moved up at times by Bradley. This is probably where we will see Dempsey in 2014. With his leadership, heart, and experience, he will find a way to get on the 2014 World Cup team, even if it is just in a sub role.
Landon Donovan: A-. How ironic is it that in his last two games, both in which he scored huge goals, he also had his least-effective games? He disappeared against Algeria until he found the loose ball against Algeria and scored the most memorable US goal ever. He had a below average outing against Ghana, but he did cooly score on the penalty kick that wound up taking the game to overtime. The only knock I have on Donovan is that he can be inconsistent- he tends to disappear at times. But he’s basically like Kobe Bryant: You know he’s going to come through in the clutch. You just KNOW it. However, like Kobe, he can’t do it on his own. He will definitely be on the 2014 World Cup team, barring severe injury.
DaMarcus Beasley: C-. Didn’t get to see much of him, but when he did play, he looked physically outmatched at times. Definitely played with a lot of passion though, and his leadership was evident. Also was a mentor for Bradley to look up to and learn from. Got a yellow card against Algeria. Though it pains me to say this, I do not think he will be on the team in 2014. Cheers to a terrific international career DaMarcus, it was a great ride.
Maurice Edu: B. First off, I don’t care what the ref says, he scored against Slovenia. Edu was a pleasant surprise for the Yanks, providing a spark on defense to the midfield whenever needed. Still very raw with his ball skills, but he has terrific instincts, which is typically what matters in soccer. He was a battering ram against Ghana, playing physical and wearing out Ghana’s bigger and stronger midfielders. He got on Coach Bradley’s bad side against Algeria by turning the ball over too many times. Expect to see him on the 2014 team, maybe in a starting role if he can iron out his inconsistencies on offense.
Ricardo Clark: D. Very poor performance in the World Cup. Had a costly turnover against Ghana that wound up leading to an early goal. Had the same thing happen against Slovenia. If I see him on the 2014 team, unless he improves A LOT, I’m going to kill kittens.
Jose Torres: C+. Still very raw, but I like what I saw from him. He’s a project player who’s still getting used to the fast pace and physicality of the international game. Has terrific instincts, and he’s got good ball skills. Just needs to eat more protein bars, drink more protein shakes, and pump some iron to toughen up. As long as he keeps on improving, look to see him on the 2014 team.
Stuart Holden: C. Got limited playing time against England. Didn’t get to see much of him. Showed some good things on offense, getting the ball moving on what eventually became Dempsey’s goal that will forever haunt England. Has a good shot of making the 2014 team, but really needs to show more creativity and physicality.
Benny Feilhaber: B+. Benny was one of our most consistent performers during the World Cup. He played the role of “super sub”, and he flourished in that role. He brought energy to the midfield, and his creativity led to a lot of chances. He is also a terrific team player, and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Expect Feilhaber to get a shot at a starting role on the 2014 World Cup team because he has certainly earned a shot in my mind.
Jozy Altidore: B-. Without a doubt, the USA’s best forward during the World Cup. Yes, he did score no goals. However, he was terrific at moving the ball up the field and getting chances. Problem is, he didn’t finish them. He was extremely aggressive throughout the tournament except for the first half against Ghana, and he drew a ton of penalties. Altidore seems like he thinks a little too much out on the field. He needs to stop thinking and just attack the goal because that is his job. He’s extremely raw, but he’s only 20 and he will certainly improve in the next 4 years. He’s a virtual lock to be on the 2014 World Cup team barring severe injury. Bold prediction: he will be our best player in 4 years.
Edison Buddle: C+. Buddle showed glimpses of something great against England and Slovenia, and had a solid game against Algeria. He was extremely aggressive and creative with the ball, but like Altidore, he needs to stop thinking so much and just attack the goal. If he improves, I could see him as one of the starting forwards on the 2014 World Cup team. He also has great chemistry with Landon, for what it’s worth.
Robbie Findley: D+. Findley was a huge disappointment, and I question Bradley’s decision to put him on the team over someone like Eddie Johnson, who at least has Olympic experience. The main reason that he was added was because of Charlie Davies’ health issues. Findley is fast, but his main weakness is he seems lost whenever he actually gets the ball. He led the team in yellow cards. I do not expect to see him on the 2014 World Cup team unless he improves drastically.
Herculez Gomez: C. The stats might not show it, but Gomez had a decent World Cup. He was our best forward on defense, and he made smart decisions. He got some good chances and he is a pretty strong finisher. He nearly scored twice against Ghana, forcing their keeper to make two good saves. He was almost invisible against Algeria save a few missed chances. He’s one of the team’s better finishers, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s on the 2014 World Cup team, although it will certainly be in a sub role.
Coach Bradley: C+. Bradley was the right coach for this team. He is a terrific motivator. With that said, his tactical decisions are going to be questioned for the next 4 years, namely his decision to add Findley to the team and his decisions to start Findley and Clark. Even if he’s not the head coach in 2014, I would like to see him on the coaching staff because like I said, he’s a terrific motivator.
Overall, I am very proud of our performance in the World Cup. We simply aren’t among the world’s elite right now, but in four years, I think we might be ready to be an elite team. Feel free to leave comments, and also let me know what you want to see as far as soccer posts.