U.S. player ratings at World Cup
Tim Howard was solid, but not the hero some expected him to be
Too much was asked of Oguchi Onyewu after 8 inactive months
Stuart Holden was barely a factor, but could be key in 2014
Individual game ratings, in parenthesis, are sequential from matches against England, Slovenia, Algeria and Ghana, respectively. Dashes represent "no appearance." Players are listed in order of average rating by position.
Tim Howard (8, 6, 7, 4)
Average grade: 6.25
Howard was a giant in the first game, big enough in the middle two and a little disappointing in the knockout-round loss to Ghana. He was a step out of position on the initial Ghanaian goal and, perhaps unfairly, he is the one U.S. player who simply could not afford an error. Overall, Howard may not have been the superhero people wanted but he had a respectable World Cup, not just for his significant and typically safe on-field contributions but for his important overall leadership qualities.
Steve Cherundolo (8, 7, 8, 5)
Average grade: 7
Going with Cherundolo's vast edge in experience over challenger Jonathan Spector (the popular choice in a lot of ways) proved one of Bob Bradley's best choices. Cherundolo was simply the best U.S. defender, although he did seem to tire and had his worst outing by far against Ghana. He immediately established a strong World Cup to come by clobbering England's James Milner, then stifling substitute Shaun Wright-Philips. Linked impressively with Landon Donovan throughout and was the most dangerous U.S. threat out of the back by a long, long way. Truly a great World Cup, although probably his last given his age (31).
Carlos Bocanegra (5, 6, 7, 5)
Average grade: 5.75
Really found his stride in the third game when moved into the center against Algeria, capping the hole left by Oguchi Onyewu's shaky displays. Bocanegra started on the left for two matches and, although a little exposed for speed, he was an adequate defensive presence. His attacking from the left was garden-variety, another reason why his move into the center was useful. The U.S. captain wasn't particularly bad in the loss to Ghana, but he wasn't assertive enough at the critical moment on the African's extra time goal.
Jay DeMerit (5, 7, 6, 4)
Average grade: 5.5
For a scrapper who has made his own way, having toiled away in England's lower tiers, he exceeded expectations in South Africa. DeMerit occasionally looked stretched, and he was rarely elegant, but he usually got the job done through tenacity and sheer will. Like everyone else around him, his overall body of work suffered due to a wobbly performance in the elimination contest. All in all, he stood tall and had a World Cup to be proud of.
Jonathan Bornstein (-, -, 5, 5)
Average grade: 5
Got into the starting lineup when Bradley determined Bocanegra was required in the middle instead of the struggling Onyewu. Bornstein was a little slow to get into the attacking action, appearing somewhat tentative against Algeria. But he finally located his attacking verve against Ghana after the break, following another quiet half. You get the feeling he was one match away from really pepping up the left side offensively. Then again, it's a World Cup, so there's no waiting around. Players have to make the moment when given the chance.
Oguchi Onyewu (6, 4, -, -)
Average grade: 5
His best moments came in the second half against England, when it was more about determination and being strong in the moment, and less about being in the right spots and thinking through the game. Because by and large he was a step behind the play, bitten by iffy positioning on crosses and marred by several costly mistakes. He was partially at fault on the first three goals allowed by the United States -- and then benched for the last two matches. Immediate immersion into soccer at the highest level after eight inactive months was simply too much to ask.
Landon Donovan (6, 8, 8, 5)
Average grade: 6.75
He's now the U.S. all-time leader in World Cup appearances and tied for most goals. Donovan's inspirational strike against Slovenia ignited a rally that made a country proud, a true fortune-changing moment. And what to say about that landmark strike against Algeria, which will take its place among the most important goals ever scored in a U.S. shirt? Donovan also calmly finished a penalty kick, so he accounted for three of five U.S. goals in South Africa. His set piece strikes, accurate and crisp, provided a constant threat. And he was almost always a danger on the attack outside of a couple of tame halves. An undistinguished outing against Ghana will be Donovan's only South African regret.
Michael Bradley (6, 7, 6, 5)
Average grade: 6
A very professional set of four matches from the team's top two-way central midfielder. He was a battler when he needed to be (against England), inspirational when his team required it (second half against Slovenia) and solid all the way around when the situation called for it (Algeria). He managed to be strong in the tackle without any of the discipline indiscretion we've seen before. One of his signature late runs into the penalty area provided what looked like the best U.S. moment of the tournament, the highly dramatic equalizer versus Slovenia to keep his country in the hunt. Not as strong against Ghana, looking a bit drained. That's not surprising since he was one of seven Americans who didn't miss a minute, a lot to ask from a central midfielder.