USMNT player grades vs. Turkey: Davis stands out, Chandler struggles out of position

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It’s time to hand out our grades for the US national team’s 2-1 victory over Turkey.

It was a big of an ugly match, but in a good way – from a neutral perspective – as shaky defense led to plenty of chances on goal.

Unfortunately, both teams also struggled to finish, as the scoreline could very well have been much higher.  Few players made glaring mistakes, but few players also played well enough to distance themselves from the median.

Let’s run through the starting lineup first, and then touch on the substitutes.

Tim Howard: 7

Howard had little to do at first. The United States defense was nervy throughout, but it mostly cleaned up its own messes.  However, Howard was solid and didn’t let any mental lapses by his defense affect his goalkeeping, and a number of times it appeared had the Turks gotten solid shots off, Howard had the goal covered anyways.

The only moment Howard was truly caught out was on Nuri Sahin’s 13th minute shot, but it hit the post and went wide.

Timmy Chandler: 5

Chandler looked a bit over his head in the left-back position. It’s odd that Klinsmann would even put him out of position in the first place, given that Fabian Johnson has proven capable on the left despite not being right-footed.  He ultimately gave away the ball that would lead to Turkey’s only goal late, forcing Brad Guzan out of goal on a one-on-one situation and causing defenders to slide onto the goal line.

Hopefully Klinsmann has learned to use Chandler in his natural position only, because mistakes like this would without a doubt be lethal in Brazil. Klinsmann shouldn’t be tinkering too much at this point, and hopefully that’s the last we’ll see of it.

Matt Besler: 6

Besler still has communication issues with the defense constantly changing around him, but overall he remains solid at the back. Nobody in the US defense had a particularly good match, and Besler only played 45 minutes but didn’t make any glaring mistakes.

Geoff Cameron: 6

Much the same as Besler, he is emerging as the best option for Klinsmann in the center of defense, but still has communication issues.  It’s imperative that Klinsmann instill an environment of consistency as soon as possible so the defense can play as a unit rather than four members.  Still, Cameron himself didn’t make any glaring mistakes, and hopefully the big picture improves going forward.

Fabian Johnson: 7

Johnson covered an incredible amount of ground today, and while the defense as a whole struggled, Johnson stood out going forward.  He was constantly in a positive position in the attacking half, and still managed to get back and cover for his fellow defenders after a spell in attack.  It’s beating a dead horse at this point, but like the others, Johnson can improve by communicating more and working together with his back line.  For a night when he picks up his first international goal, we’ll give him a pass for other small issues.

Jermaine Jones: 5

Jones was a constant source of turnovers, and while he remains an athletic and technically gifted option, it’s becoming more and more of a question whether he can handle the duties that fall to the man in back of the midfield diamond. Jones appeared to be frustrated at being shackled by Klinsmann’s tactics, and his playing style is much like Michael Bradley’s rather than the Kyle Beckerman mold that fits that position perfectly.  Jones never seems to shake the sentiment that he’s a red card waiting to happen, either, and it’s all fans can do to hope that doesn’t hurt the team in Brazil.

Graham Zusi: 6

Zusi put in his usual quota of quality crosses, something that US fans have gotten accustomed to.  Don’t. They’re fun to watch, and are incredibly important, as they give the formation yet another threat out wide. However, he also found himself bit by the finishing bug, and blasted into the side netting on a wonderful opportunity from a tight angle.  Zusi is the ideal player for Klinsmann’s formation, and he will be a lock going forward.

Brad Davis: 7.5

While it’s hard to give him an 8 given how much he seemed to drift in and out, Davis was the most effective midfielder the US had in the first half, and he also delivered some beautiful crosses in for the big Jozy Altidore to handle. Brad’s backtracking appeared worse than it really was thanks to Chandler struggling mightily one-on-one. His handball is whatever, that’s not an important talking point. With Ale Bedoya, Aron Johannsson, and Davis all vying for the starting wing position, Davis – like Bedoya last weekend – did his best to show Klinsmann he’s the right choice.

Michael Bradley: 7

While not as sloppy as against Azerbaijan, Bradley still has strides to make in the ball security category.  However, his brilliant flick to spring Fabian Johnson for the goal was superb, and had Fabian not gotten there Clint Dempsey was waiting in the wings to finish it.  Bradley is the most creative American on the pitch when he gets the license to roam as he pleases, and he has just that at the top of the diamond.  If he can clean up the rest of his game, Bradley will be a gamechanger for the US in Brazil. But you already knew that.

Clint Dempsey: 6.5

Dempsey found himself in plenty of attacking areas and in gobs of space, but was overshadowed by Jozy Altidore in this match. While that’s not exactly a bad thing, he didn’t necessarily take his few chances to heart either.  His goal was silly – a straight-up gift – which he acknowledged with a hearty chuckle after putting the ball in the back of the net.  He displayed an incredible double-touch to get past a defender, but couldn’t get back into a shooting area. Dempsey is an important player, and while he looked bright at times, the US may need a little more from him in the coming days. His play, however, has that feel of a player just starting to heat up…

source: Getty Images
Jozy Altidore found spaces well and unlocked the Turkish defense, but struggled to finish confidently.

Jozy Altidore: 7

Altidore did exactly what he’s done for Sunderland all Premier League season: get into excellent areas, find space, unlock teammates, and body down defenders, only to fail at the final moment.  He was by far the best attacking option the US had throughout the match, but just couldn’t find the finishing touch.  It’s imperative we give Altidore credit where credit is due, as he played exceptionally well, but he has to score for the US to be successful – and for his own confidence – in Brazil.

Altidore hasn’t gotten many breaks either, as the referee ruled out an obvious Altidore goal for an incredibly soft foul.  But he also blew numerous other chances at their vital moments, and after so much hard work it’s a shame he remains goalless for club or country since December 4th.

Substitutes:

Brad Guzan: 7

Guzan faced much more action than Tim Howard, and he was up to the task.  The Turkish attack wasn’t exactly launching missiles into his top corners, but he was still equal to everything he faced until the penalty.  He looked somewhat anchored down on the penalty stop, picking the correct side but not getting all the way to the post, but it was a quality penalty.

Kyle Beckerman: 6

Beckerman doesn’t do anything flashy, but he’s not supposed to in that position.  He holds the back of the diamond down with expert skill, and covers for his defenders so well nobody even notices he’s doing it.  Still, with Turkey pressing towards the end, Beckerman wasn’t exactly throwing his body on the line either (nor, frankly, should he just before the World Cup). A solid performance but nothing that stands out.

John Brooks: 5.5

Brooks came on at halftime for Besler, and he continued the back line theme. There was little teamwork, and although the penalty can’t be blamed on him whatsoever, he didn’t do much to prove he’s on the level of Cameron or Besler and multiple times he lost his mark in the box.  Brooks, like a few of the other defenders, is lucky Turkey didn’t have their shooting boots on.

DeAndre Yedlin: 6

He didn’t do much in the half-hour he was on the pitch, and Turkey gained a presence on possession after he entered.

Julian Green: 6

Green still appears to be a little nervous, and he’s not fully confident on the ball either.  He had a very tough task in front of him while receiving a long ball from the back, and just touched too hard bringing it down in the box for his best chance.  At this point it’s hard to see him getting much time in Brazil, but it’s possible Klinsmann gives him a full 90 against Nigeria to try and bring out his confidence and show the fans what he’s capable of.  We still don’t have a very good bead on his abilities at this point.

Hernandez, Araujo score in 1st half, Mexico beats Costa Rica

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Javier Hernandez and Nestor Araujo scored in the first half, and Mexico overcame the absence of half a dozen players to beat Costa Rica 2-0 on Friday night in a World Cup qualifying match.

Hernandez scored on a cross from Carlos Vela to open the score in the seventh and Araujo added a goal on a header in the 45th.

[ USMNT: Recap & videoPlayer ratings ]

Hernandez scored his 46th goal with the Mexican team and tied Jared Borgetti as the all-time leading scorer.

With the win, Mexico remains undefeated and has seven points after three rounds to take sole command in the six-nation tournament. Costa Rica stays on six points and is second and Panama is third with four.

The top three teams qualified for the Russia 2018 World Cup.

Mexico beat Costa Rica for the first time since September 11, 2012, when they prevailed 1-0.

Running Away With It

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Christian Pulisic scored and played a part in three other goals as the United States rained goals down on Honduras in a 6-0 win at Avaya Stadium in San Jose early Saturday morning.

Clint Dempsey scored two goals, and Michael Bradley and Sebastian Lletget also scored as the U.S. moved into fourth place in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Their next match is Tuesday in Panama.

[ MORE: Player ratings | Three things ]

The United States men’s national team’s bid to recover their 2018 World Cup hopes got off to a flying start.

Sloppy Honduran defending caused a turnover outside the 18, and Jozy Altidore played Christian Pulisic in on goal. Keeper Donis Escober got a piece of Pulisic’s shot, but no one followed Lletget to the back post and the ex-West Ham and current LA Galaxy man quickly put the Yanks up 1-0.

The Yanks didn’t stop, and Lletget drew a yellow card when he beat Ever Alvarado down the right flank and forced a take down from the Honduran defender.

Alberth Elis slipped John Brooks’ mark, and the Houston Dynamo man turned to fire on goal. Tim Howard was well positioned to scoop it up.

Lletget turned out to be injured by the Alvarado foul, and Bruce Arena turned to Alejandro Bedoya in the 17th minute.

Geoff Cameron was given a yellow card in the 25th minute for a foul on Roger Espinoza. That gave a free kick to Honduras from 30 yards out, and Romell Quioto fired right at Tim Howard.

Then it was the captain who doubled the lead, as Honduras inexplicably gave him the room to walk across the arc of the 18 to rip a shot across goal. 2-0.

It was Clint Dempsey’s turn in the 33rd minute, after an otherworldly scooped pass from Pulisic.

What. A. Pass. Kid.

Honduras then took a bigger hit: the loss of star attacker Romell Quioto (Houston Dynamo) to an apparent shoulder injury.

Brooks bailed out an out-of-position Gonzalez just before halftime to keep the lead 3-0.

The Yanks needed 15 seconds to make it 4-0, with Dempsey winning a 50-50 tussle and finding Altidore for a flick to Pulisic. He netted his fourth USMNT goal. He’s 18.

Pulisic then won a free kick 25 yards out from goal by embellishing a foul, and Dempsey’s free kick tricked Escober. 6-0. For real.

A scary moment late as a dazed and wobbly John Brooks was forced off despite no apparent injury. Fox’s Jenny Taft said he was dehydrated, which is a relief.

LINEUP

USMNT: Howard; Villafana, Gonzalez, Brooks (Ream, 70′), Cameron (Zusi, 58′); Bradley, Lletget (Bedoya, 18′), Nagbe; Pulisic, Dempsey, Altidore.

Goals: Lletget (5′), Bradley (27′), Dempsey (33′, 49′, 54′), Pulisic (46′)

 

Player ratings from USMNT’s pounding of Honduras

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Battered. Throttled. Eviscerated.

Pick your verb of dominance, the United States likely fit it well in a 6-0 destruction of Honduras at Avaya Stadium in San Jose.

[ MORE: Recap + video | Three things ]

The win boosts the U.S. in World Cup qualifying after their 0-2 start, but how did the individuals fare? Obviously well.

Starting XI

Tim Howard — 7 — The team just feels in a safer place with the veteran back there. If the U.S. goes to the 2018 World Cup, Howard remains their No. 1 (and there probably never should have been a question. Sorry Brad).

Jorge Villafana — 7 — Tidy passing and a low-risk game from the Santos Laguna man.

John Brooks (Off 70′) — 7 — An early error before recovering to be his usual free-clearing, athletic self. Scary injury took him out late, as he looked dazed. Fox’s Jenny Taft said he was dehydrated, which is a relief.

Omar Gonzalez — 5  — He wasn’t bad, but Gonzalez is still a positional question mark. Bailed out a couple times by Brooks.

Geoff Cameron (Off 59′) — 6 — Out of position and a bit hobbled, he wasn’t at his best.

Michael Bradley — 7 — One of his better USMNT games in a long time.

Sebastian Lletget (Off 17′) — 8 — Scored, then got hurt on a roasting run down the right.

Darlington Nagbe — 6 — One or two electric moments in the first half, but overall a quiet enough night for the Timbers man.

Christian Pulisic — 9 — Hard to not to hand the kid a 10. He’s quite frankly the most exciting American talent in the history of the program.

Clint Dempsey — 10 — Along with Howard, the sort of player you knew would make sure this game ended with three points. The fact that he nabbed three goals, too, is just a bonus.

Jozy Altidore — 7  — Pretty darn good night holding up the ball, and passed as well as ever, but did he drop a bit too deep too often? The answer is probably, “Who cares? They won 6-0, dude.”

Subs

Alejandro Bedoya (On 18′)  — 6 — Typical high energy, space eating job in the middle of the park from the Union man.

Graham Zusi (On 58′)  — 6 — Good late clearance preserved the shutout.

Tim Ream (On 70′)  — 6 — Interesting to note that Arena went to him over Walker Zimmerman or Matt Besler.

Three things to take away from USMNT 6-0 Honduras

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The United States men’s national team pulled a Leicester City.

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That’s a joke with truth wrapped around it, because the Yanks have had plenty of time and even a pair of friendlies to respond from the firing of Jurgen Klinsmann.

But in their first serious match without their old coach, the U.S. looked a team renewed and unleashed. Now the Americans may find themselves back in an automatic World Cup qualifying spot with a win on Tuesday in Panama.

Things change.

Vindicated

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and all of the USMNT players waited months and months to get the chance to answer their critics following a pair of embarrassing losses to open the final round of World Cup qualifying.

Sure, having Clint Dempsey, Geoff Cameron, and Tim Howard back helped a whole lot, and the seasoning Christian Pulisic is getting at Borussia Dortmund is unquestionably good for an 18-year-old.

But there’s little doubt Michael Bradley and Co. were fired up to silence their critics. Whether they admit it or not, this is a bunch that was stung by those who said they failed their old coach.

Most expected the U.S. to get a point or better against Honduras, but to do it the way they did is an unexpected bonus. A win in Panama on Tuesday would boost them into the Top Three.

And don’t worry, the old boss was pleased for his former charges.


The future is now…

I Tweeted the following after a late second half pass from Pulisic, and there was little disagreement.

Pulisic won’t be credited with an assist for his shot which rebounded to Sebastian Lletget for the opener, but he will walk away with his fourth international goal and two proper assists.

One was an absurd scoop to Clint Dempsey’s chest, and the other was a long avenue that shouldn’t have existed. Still, Pulisic found that street and provided an absolutely dynamic force all over the park.

There have been U.S. teens at big European clubs, and U.S. teens who’ve made impacts on the national team, but never both at the same time and never both at this level. Pulisic is for real, and finding his ceiling is an adventure we’re all undertaking with great enjoyment.


…But the legends sure helped

Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard will go down as two of the most important players in United States men’s national team history.

Actually, they may be duking it out for Nos. 1 and 2 when it’s all said and done.

Dempsey’s hat trick was his career in a nutshell. The first saw him body off a defender while collecting a Pulisic pass off his chest, then lashing a shot with power despite said defender dragging him down.

The second was a burst of speed to run onto Pulisic’s through ball and classic calm in the face of an onrushing keeper, holding onto the ball before sliding it home from an acute angle.

The third was this free kick. A bit aided by goalkeeper Donis Escober, but such is life.

And don’t sleep on Howard’s early performance as Honduras tried to find some sort of foothold in the match. Always well-positioned, the team just feels safer with the Colorado Rapids man between the sticks.