The USMNT scored a goal Wednesday against Honduras in San Pedro Sula despite giving up two, so there had to be positive rating numbers awarded to someone on this roster.
The lone American goal was a beauty. Nice ball movement produced an opportunity for Jermaine Jones to loft a perfectly played feed over the Honduran defenders. Clint Dempsey caught it in stride with his first-touch soft volley over the keeper and into the net.
As for the other 89 minutes of this long-awaited hexagonal opener, there was not much about which USMNT fans can feel the least bit comfortable.
The balmy Central American weather was a factor. The U.S. players looked every part of the long flight from more wintry climes. But that's always the case with these early hexagonal away games.
From front to back, here are the USMNT player ratings:
Jozy Altidore: 4.0
Where is the striker who is tearing it up for Alkmaar or was visible in every third of the field against Russia?
Altidore, though possessing impressive size and strength, made no memorable challenges on a defender. He did not shoot, and his passing often lacked creativity and purpose.
A couple positive moments stand out. He was the last player to touch the ball before Jones’ brilliant assist.
Altidore made no major mistakes, but he also made very little happen.
Clint Dempsey: 5.5
Dempsey was one of the more visible U.S. players in a game that featured a shocking lack of movement. And he scored one of the nicer goals in recent CONCACAF play.
(The goal was completely upstaged just four minutes later, but we're not rating the Hondurans here.)
Dempsey also tried a couple ridiculously hopeful shots and seemed generally out of sync with the players around him.
While obviously game-fit from his service to Tottenham, Dempsey still seemed to fade some in the second half.
Eddie Johnson: 4.5
Johnson is making the most of his national team resurrection. He is picking up where he let off last year and giving his all.
He navigated Honduran defenders to cleanly head a corner kick. The attempt was well over the crossbar.
He also played two dangerous feeds from the left. One was aimed for Altidore, but well defended. The other came just before the end of the half. Johnson found Dempsey, who couldn’t handle the cross.
In the second half, Johnson also revealed his limitations. Spirit directed him to do what few others Americans were willing to try. He took on a defender. That challenge, however, was easily handled.
Sacha Kljestan: 5.0
During coach Jurgen Klinsmann's wild substitution spree early in the second half, Kljestan came in for Eddie Johnson at left wing. The problem with this is he is more effective as a central playmaker than a winger.
Kljestan worked the ball around nicely between Michael Bradley and Fabian Johnson. And he gave his best efforts at playing the wide winger, but just does not possess the speed that was required for any push down the left touch line.
Michael Bradley: 5.5
At times, he was uncharacteristically sloppy. But every game it becomes clearer just how essential Bradley is to this national side.
Working his familiar box-to-box role, he was frequently involved in play, as is the norm. What was a bit unusual was the degree to which that didn’t matter. Credit the Honduran defensive scheme. The U.S. was mostly left searching for answers in the attacking third, even when Bradley was involved.
The Roma midfielder tried an opportunistic strike at goal. That attempt seemed to catch the Hondurans by surprise, including the defender off whom that ball deflected. It bounced a little wide of the right post however.
Jermaine Jones: 5.0
For fans waiting to see what a more controlled Jermaine Jones would like in a U.S. jersey, Wednesday was their day. Jones was more effective with his passing than usual, including the highlight assist on Dempsey’s goal.
And he brought some of the usual grit, too. As the right winger, he was problematic for Honduras and greatly responsible for the Americans’ advantage in corner kick attempts.
Jones is still capable of more. It was not a great performance. But it was a good one, which was enough to stand out.
This is one factor that made his substitution seem so odd. (Another factor was it being the third substitution, with significant game time remaining.) However, to be fair to Klinsmann, Jones may have signaled he was winded or injured. We’ll have to wait to hear.
Whether because of temperature or flight fatigue or lacking familiarity with the position, Jones was not as effective in defense phase as we have seen in the past.
Graham Zusi: 2.5
Zusi looked poor Wednesday. There are not many other ways to put it.
His lacking first touch led to an unpressured hand ball on what otherwise might have been a promising switch to his side. During other possessions, he demonstrated again what should have been clear from last summer. Zusi doesn’t have the skills and agility to be effective in tight spaces.
He did show one promising aspect. Perhaps this was the result of coaching instructions before coming on the field for Jones.
Zusi looked completely dialed in during defense phases. Playing like a right-sided defensive midfielder, he kept himself behind the ball and, when facing opposing midfielders, kept his body in a ready side-on position.
Danny Williams: 2.5
If Zusi looked poor, it isn’t clear what adjective can effectively explain that Williams looked worse, at least in attack phase. The only positive is that none of his lost possessions led to goals this time around.
If there is an argument for a higher rating, it would be that no dangerous through balls occurred on his watch. Williams was the holding midfielder that Honduras chose not to challenge up the middle. It is debatable whether the Catrachos were avoiding him or just pursuing other plans of attack.
Maurice Edu: 4.0
The initial two substitutions brought on Kljestan and Edu. And with that, the U.S. controlled the field more easily and seemed poised to regain the lead.
However, Edu did not seem to contribute toward that. His biggest plus was taking Williams off.
Fabian Johnson: 4.0
Johnson made some plays, but also looked beatable at left-back. Also, Johnson was not a factor in many attacks up the left side.
The only memorable push down the left side came in the waning minutes. When the team has no luck establishing effective wing play, aggressive attack runs by the outside backs are all the more important.
In just the short time Johnson has been a USMNT regular, fans have come to expect more.
Geoff Cameron: 4.5
Serviceable for most of the game, Cameron plays a position that is harshly judged after momentary breakdowns. In this case, he may be judged unfairly as well, because the biggest defensive breakdown of the day was more a keeper mistake than a center defender mistake.
But Cameron was in the middle of that play. It is one of his few moments that stood out.
Omar Gonzalez: 3.5
Fans wanted to see him and now may have buyer’s remorse. A lot of discussion will follow on Klinsmann’s decision to start Gonzalez over Bocanegra. One is experienced. One isn’t. One is in midseason form. One isn’t.
That said, Gonzalez looked like what he is, which is the new kid on the block. This was a transition that had to happen. Some will argue that Gonzalez should have been seasoned in Gold Cup play, but that argument conveniently ignores the center-back woes this team experienced against lesser opponents than Honduras.
In this game, he looked apprehensive and uncertain of himself.
At times, his physical abilities were on full display. His one vs. one and even one vs. two positioning is well-honed.
He is a possible scapegoat for Honduras' winning goal. There would be grains of truth there, but that would not be the full story. Still, Gonzalez should have tightly marked his attacker and didn’t.
Timmy Chandler: 4.0
The big defender news of the day is Chandler is now cap-tied to the USMNT. However, he is capable of better play than he showed Wednesday.
The right side (Honduras’ left) was vulnerable for much of the game. Chandler didn’t control his space and Honduran attackers beat him several times. Worse, he was frequently caught out of position, which left an inexperienced center-back hanging out to dry.
In attack phase he rarely was a factor. The point made above with Fabian Johnson not overlapping down the left applies to Chandler on the right.
Tim Howard: 4.0
The first goal allowed was Garcia’s monster bicycle kick. There is nothing Howard could have done to stop it except be lucky enough to stand in front of it.
The second goal was a keeper mistake. When a keeper comes out for the ball, he has to get the ball.
Defenders are trained to not continue chasing down a ball once the keeper breaks toward it. The reason is to avoid unexpected touches and to avoid unnecessary contact between the keeper and his defender. When the keeper breaks for a ball, he either gets there or gets blamed for whatever happens next.
Howard did have a nice stop and a strong earlier deflection over the crossbar.
His distribution was spotty. He still favors long balls out of the back, though it is not clear whether that is a general preference or the result of any lacking confidence in teammates.
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