U.S. vs. Slovenia player ratings
Landon Donovan rebounded from a quiet first half to inspire the U.S. in the second
Michael Bradley, who scored the equalizer, displayed outstanding work rate
Forward Jozy Altidore played the target-man role for the U.S. to perfection
Player ratings from the U.S. team's 2-2 draw on Friday with Slovenia (scale of 1-10, 10 being best):
GK, Tim Howard, 6: He wasn't particularly at fault on either Slovenian strike, but the team needed one big stop from the U.S. No. 1, either on the dipping long-range effort or the one-on-one chance that slipped beneath him. He may have been pulled slightly off the preferred line of attack on Zlatan Ljubijankic's goal. Otherwise, it was a night of doing everything well, choosing to punch safely more often than toying with the tricky catch.
D, Steve Cherundolo, 7: A second consecutive strong outing. He didn't get forward much at all in the first 45 minutes but certainly did more to push past the halfway line after the break. As we saw Saturday against England, he links extremely well with Landon Donovan. Cherundolo supplied the entry ball on Donovan's goal. Defensively, he dealt well with the speedy Andraz Kirm, generally stifling service attempts from the wing. He was one of three Americans in card danger, but smartly avoided the booking. The man is having an outstanding World Cup.
D, Jay DeMerit, 7: A real blue-collar effort. He was absolutely uncompromising in the tackle, clearing everything he got near and never allowing a ball into his area to go unchallenged. His header from 18 yards was one of the U.S. bright spots on attack before the break, which says a lot about that feeble first 45. A night to be proud of for a man not terribly accustomed to soccer at this level.
D, Oguchi Onyewu, 4: Painfully slow to get out and meet the shooter on Slovenia's first goal. He even seemed to retreat a step or two, unwisely, tentatively. Perhaps even worse, he was a lone ranger on the second goal, compromising the back line by not recognizing his three defensive mates had stepped forward. Otherwise, he was very physical with Milivoje Novakovic and Ljubijankic, which is essential in dealing with target play, so that part came off OK. In the big picture, the United States has allowed three goals at South Africa, and the big guy's paw prints are all over each one.
D, Carlos Bocanegra, 6: Got pulled out of position a couple of times, which is always dangerous for someone not known for speed. But he was mostly smartly positioned otherwise. He didn't get forward often, even when down by two goals. He certainly never linked with Donovan in the first half the way Cherundolo did against England.
M, Landon Donovan, 8: His goal was a little bit of luck and a little bit of magic. A ball slipped through fortunately when the Slovenian defender failed to clear, and Donovan took full advantage, taking the initiative when neither Clint Dempsey nor Benny Feilhaber could lose his mark. And he supplied the entry pass into Jozy Altidore that led to Altidore's knockdown for the mighty equalizer. Donovan lined up on the left initially, unlike Saturday against England, and was fairly tame before the break, only kicking his way into higher gear here and there. He was more effective when switched to the right after intermission, even if he did have a difficult time on occasion with the physical Bojan Jokic. His set-piece deliveries contained the usual accuracy and authority, and that means a lot to this team.
M, Jose Torres, 4: If he was introduced to ensure tidy possession and a slow build with lots of lateral passing, then mission accomplished. If he was introduced to make penetrating passes and break down the defense, which presumably he was, then the young midfielder failed in a big way. He was clumsy with some tackles and sloppy on occasion with the little passes. Most important, he needed to justify his lack of defensive discipline by branding the game with attacking creativity; he never came close to doing so and was removed at the half. Best moment: his well-hit free kick from a difficult angle that nearly sneaked in.
M, Michael Bradley, 7: His signature late run into the penalty area is a big reason why the final U.S. first-round match still means something. He was partially at fault for the second goal when he didn't win a midfield tackle that he absolutely had to win. On the plus side, he won more second balls than most teammates, and his work rate in the second 45 was nothing short of fierce, an inspirational example for others.
M, Clint Dempsey, 5: Another relatively uninspiring night for the Fulham man, who was conspicuously quiet for most of the first half but did mix it up in the penalty area more in the second 45. Lined up on the left to start, he may have been lucky to survive being sent off in the opening minute when he delivered a fairly nasty elbow, one not too far from Daniele De Rossi's crack that opened up Brian McBride four years ago and left the Italians a man short. Dempsey provided little width on his side, looking better after a move to second striker in a halftime tactical tweak.
F, Jozy Altidore, 8: A real breakout performance for the young striker, who was a tour de force of target play, punctuating a big night with an immaculate layoff for the onrushing Bradley. Through smart positioning and sheer will, he created danger, earned fouls in dangerous places and drew two yellow cards. His ability to turn and run at the Slovenian defense (or run in behind) was a constant menace. He was not done any favors by a referee who sometimes let defenders obstruct or hold up runs. In fact, with a referee who was more on top of things, Slovenia may well have been a man down for some of the rough stuff against Altidore.
F, Robbie Findley, 4: For all the speed we always hear about, he's yet to pull away from anyone in South Africa. He scurried around a lot and tried to make himself available, and was very unlucky to collect his second yellow card in as many matches and will miss the next match.
M, Maurice Edu, 6: Restored some sorely needed defensive midfield shape, which the Torres-Bradley combo failed to provide. He sat in the pocket where Slovenia was finding space and calmly cleaned up matters in front of his center backs. And, of course, he scored a goal that perhaps should have counted ... and perhaps could have sent the Americans through to the knockout stage. Edu's only flaw was a couple of wobbly minutes just after his halftime introduction.
M, Benny Feilhaber, 5: Entered at halftime as coach Bob Bradley adjusted tactically, playing on the left while Dempsey moved to striker. Late, as the Americans pushed to make up the deficit, he was more or less a left winger.