Bobby Wood

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Player ratings from the USMNT’s 2-1 defeat to Mexico

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The United States men’s national team started the Hex with a 2-1 against Mexico on Friday night in Columbus, Ohio.

It was a tale of two halves as the U.S. looked out of sorts in a 5-3-2 (or 3-2-2-1-2) formation as Mexico dominated play. Once the U.S. went down a goal it switched to a more familiar 4-4-2 and looked far more comfortable in the second half. However, Rafa Marquez scored late on against the run of play to steal the three points for El Tri.

Here’s how the players fared in this hotly-contested matchup.

[ MORE: Match recap | Three things ]

USMNT Starting XI

Tim Howard (Off 40′) — 6 — Made a fantastic save on Corona’s shot in the first half, tipping it off the post. Layun’s goal came off a deflection that directed the ball away from Howard. Suffered an injury off a goal kick.

Matt Besler (Off 81′) — 5 — Had a tough task being forced to play out of position and committed a number of fouls.

Omar Gonzalez — 5 — Not great distribution out of the back and missed a wide open header off a corner kick in the second half.

John Brooks — 5 — Had a few testy moments in the first half, including a silly yellow card within the first 15 minutes. Was badly beat on a run by Lozano in the second half.

Timmy Chandler (Off 74′) — 5 — Mexico successfully attacked down his right side throughout the first half, but he had some good attacking moments in the second half.

Fabian Johnson–6 — Looked more comfortable (like most others) when the U.S. switched formations. Had a goal-saving tackle on Chicharito in the second half.

Jermaine Jones — 5 — Had a few nice moments, but looked off the pace at times. That’s to be expected in his first start since the July 4.

Michael Bradley — 4 — An uncharacteristically poor performance from the captain. He wasn’t strong enough on a challenge that led to Mexico’s first goal and struggled throughout to put his influence on the game.

Christian Pulisic — 6 — Played through the middle early on and was his usual self once the team switched formations.

Jozy Altidore — 7 — Great run to set up Wood’s goal. Linked up well with Wood in the second half, winning seemingly every aerial ball he went for.

Bobby Wood — 8 — Didn’t do much in the first half, but came back strong in the second half scoring early on. Continued to wreak havoc on Mexico’s defense along with Altidore.

Substitutions

Brad Guzan (On 40′) — N/A — Could do nothing on Mexico’s second goal and faced little action besides that.

DeAndre Yedlin (On 74′) — N/A

Michael Orozco (On 81′) — N/A

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Mexico Starting XI

Alfredo Talavera — 6 — Didn’t face many shots in the first half. Got a hand on Wood’s goal, but could not stop the shot.

Miguel Layun — 8 — Had multiple positive moments in attack, including scoring Mexico’s goal in the first half.

Diego Reyes (Off HT) — 6 — A short shift for Reyes. Picked up an early yellow card for taking down Altidore, but didn’t make any costly mistakes.

Hector Moreno — 6 — Missed a challenge on Wood’s goal.

Rafa Marquez — 7 — It was a quiet night for Mexico’s captain until the 88th minute as his flicked header proved to be the winner.

Hector Herrera — 5 — Not much from Herrera on the night. Tried to draw a foul on Gonzalez in the box, but got a card for simulation.

Andres Guardado (Off 28′) — N/A — Subbed off with an injury in the first half. Didn’t get much opportunity on the ball.

Gio dos Santos — 5 — Directed the attack for Mexico, but didn’t create any dangerous chances.

Jesus Corona — 7 — Nearly scored in the first half, but Howard tipped his shot onto the post.

Carlos Vela (Off 73′) — 6 — Almost doubled Mexico’s lead in the first half with a header off the crossbar.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez — 5 — Made decisive runs to cause trouble for the U.S. defense, but could not find the final touch.

Substitutions

Carlos Salcedo (On 28′) — 5 — Strong tackle on Altidore late in the first half off a cross, but earned a yellow card for a foul on Pulisic and received a second yellow card for time wasting in stoppage time.

Hugo Ayala (On HT) — 4 — Got turned easily by Altidore, which led to Wood’s goal.

Hirving Lozano (On 73′) — 7 —  Was lively on the wings and nearly created a goal for Chicharito late in the second half.

Three things to watch in the USMNT’s World Cup qualifier on Friday

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Let’s not mince words: the United States is almost certain to pick up all three points in its World Cup qualifying match against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday.

In fact, they’ll likely win handily. A loss, even on the road in CONCACAF, would be so incredibly embarrassing and shocking it would make the Spring defeat in Guatemala look like an untied shoelace.

So instead of breaking down whether Oalex Anderson can have the game of his life on the same day Winslow McDowald morphs into the second coming of Edwin van der Saar, let’s focus on three players, positions or pairings that can make major statements to Jurgen Klinsmann.

[ MORE: USMNT preview | Lineup projection ]

Yes, the U.S. head coach will know that it was against the 156th ranked team in the world, but with Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, John Anthony Brooks, Gyasi Zardes, and Clint Dempsey all missing, some players have a relatively unique chance to impress their boss.

1. Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood — It would be shocking if this pairing isn’t up top for the United States, even if it comes with the mirage of Wood playing on the wing in a 4-3-3. Wood is possibly the future of the USMNT’s strike force, but there’s no question that an in-form Altidore is also a major asset for the Americans. With Klinsmann mainstay Gyasi Zardes injured, the pitch is wide open.

And he’s also under a bit of pressure. He’s back in America, 26 years old and just 23 goals behind Landon Donovan for the all-time USMNT mark. That once seemed a no-brainer, but with Wood, Jordan Morris, Aron Johannsson, Julian Green, Gedion Zelalem, Terrence Boyd and a host of other attackers salivating to be the go-to man for the Stars and Stripes… Jozy will always need to produce in prime time. This counts.

2. Whoever plays with Kyle Beckerman and Alejandro Bedoya in the midfield — We have little idea what Klinsmann is thinking when it comes to a lineup without Bradley and Jones, though we can be pretty sure Bedoya will join Beckerman on the pitch. Will it be Graham Zusi and Fabian Johnson outside in a 4-4-2? Could it be Darlington Nagbe joining the other two in a midfield triangle? Or will Sacha Kljestan get a surprise return to the Starting XI?

[ MORE: U.S. U-20 star signs for Schalke ]

In any event, given Bradley’s recent injury history and Jones’ problems with health and the yellow card accumulation in your average WCQ cycle, someone stands to profit big from these next two matches. Whether it’s an older MLS-based vet like Kljestan — remember that hat trick against Sweden in 2009? — or Nagbe, Paul Arriola, or Caleb Stanko, opportunity is knocking.

3. How much Pulisic will we see, and will he keep shining? Christian Pulisic is without a doubt the brightest young light in the United States, and he’s done little to let us down. The Pennsylvanian turns 18 next month, and opened his USMNT account against Bolivia this summer. We’d sure love to see him get at least a half to show his stuff against an SVG side that is far off his level. With a talent like Pulisic, we’ll always be watching to see whether he’s not just our next star, but our first true megastar (goalkeepers not withstanding).

With Dempsey out, US counting on Bobby Wood to keep scoring

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Between his surprising summer with the U.S. men’s national team last year and his dazzling Bundesliga debut with Hamburg last week, it’s been an impressive 14-month stretch for forward Bobby Wood.

It might just be the beginning, too.

With Clint Dempsey sidelined because of an irregular heartbeat, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann is counting on the 23-year-old Wood to continue his rise.

[ MORE: USMNT preview | Lineup projection ]

Wood likely will start alongside Jozy Altidore when the Americans play at St. Vincent and the Grenadines in a World Cup qualifier Friday. A U.S. victory coupled with Trinidad and Tobago beating Guatemala would advance the Americans to the hexagonal round that begins in November.

If Wood keeps playing like he has, he surely will become an integral part of the team’s offensive attack.

“Bobby made big, big strides, there’s no doubt about it,” Klinsmann said. “That jump from Union Berlin to Hamburg, to a big club, is huge. The way he opened up things in his first game with a beautiful goal, it’s a strong signal from him. He says, `I’m ready. I’m ready to take over maybe more responsibility here, maybe have a bigger load on my shoulders.’

“That’s what we were hoping for. And he seemed to kind of respond well.”

It wasn’t that long ago that Wood was widely viewed as an underachiever for the U.S.

[ MORE: U.S. U-20 star signs for Schalke ]

But he stayed patient, kept working on his game and then had a big breakthrough in 2015. He scored winning goals in an exhibition against the Netherlands and another five days later against Germany.

He followed that with another strong season for second division Union Berlin, scoring 17 goals, and then completed a transfer to Hamburg. He made his debut for Hamburg in a Cup match Aug. 22, then five days later controlled a kick from the goalkeeper, beat a defender and scored from long range against Ingolstadt in a 1-1 draw.

“It’s amazing,” Wood said. “It’s a really proud moment and something I worked hard for. … Strikers are all about confidence, and it’s nice that I got to score.”

Wood also scored once for the U.S. squad that finished fourth in the Centennial Copa America this summer. His recent play surely eased some of the criticism directed at him.

“I think he took a lot of stick in terms of just maybe not performing as well as he could be, but the group believed in him,” Altidore said. “We’ve all known him here. He’s been part of the camp, part of the team, for a long time. To see him now kind of come out of his shell is no surprise. He’s a talented player and he’s going to continue to grow.”

[ MORE: Geoff Cameron in demand ]

The Americans spent a few days training in Jacksonville before flying to St. Vincent. They will return to Jacksonville on Saturday and face Trinidad and Tobago in the finale of the CONCACAF semifinals Tuesday night.

Midfielder Michael Bradley and defender Michael Orozco, both suspended for Friday’s match, will return for the finale. Altidore will serve as captain until Bradley returns. Injured midfielder Jermaine Jones was dropped from the roster because of a knee injury.

Wood, meanwhile, will try to stay hot.

“He’s just well-rounded,” Altidore said. “I think his work rate is fantastic. He’s a little bit of a pit bull, you know? He makes it uncomfortable for defenses. It was rough on him in the beginning. I thought people were harsh on him. But I think now you see him starting to grow. He’s more confident. He’s got a great transfer in Hamburg, and you see around the group, he’s just brighter, happier, and I think he’s improved a lot and he’s going to continue to improve.”