Posted: Sunday June 26, 2011 12:22AM ; Updated: Sunday June 26, 2011 2:08AM
Steve Davis
Steve Davis>INSIDE SOCCER

U.S. player ratings against Mexico

Story Highlights

Tim Howard never made that game-changing save that could have provided a lift

In a stunner, Freddy Adu was the top U.S. player, partially a credit to Bob Bradley

Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan were average; Donovan had a poor Gold Cup

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Freddy Adu
Freddy Adu aided both U.S. goals, drawing his biggest start in international play.
Gary A. Vasquez/US PRESSWIRE

U.S. player ratings vs. Mexico (scale of 1-10).

GK, Tim Howard, 4 -- Not much Howard could do on either of the first goals, but the United States needed its best player to wear the superhero's cape on one of those Mexican second-half tallies. He may have been caught between steps on Mexico's third. He was solid on two tricky little shots, but Howard never really made that one game-changing save that might have provided a big lift or made the game slightly more manageable for his side.

D, Steve Cherundolo, Inc. -- An early ankle injury forced him out in the 11th minute, which definitely added extra pressure on a U.S. back line that was up against it anyway. Along with Carlos Bocanegra, he was there to supply the veteran calm, to keep things contained. Later, the U.S. needed his ability to combine with Donovan and others on offense. A very bad break for Bob Bradley's team.

D, Carlos Bocanegra, 4 -- He looked a little slow in this one, troubled frequently by Mexico's fleet force of attackers and menacing interchange. Had trouble holding the rear foursome in line several times and never really sorted out how to track all of El Tri's fluid movement. That's on all four defenders and the midfielders, too, of course, but more on Bocanegra. Afterward he copped to as much, a stand-up move by the U.S. captain. Bocanegra looked pretty wobbly on a couple of occasions when things went all helter-skelter near the U.S. goal. Passing from both center backs was splotchy at best.

WAHL: Postgame thoughts

D, Clarence Goodson, 4 -- Lost track of Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez once or twice early; of course, that's why Chicharito is what he is, because he's a specialist in shedding defenders. Goodson was a little better as the game went on at locating and containing Chicharito, but then Gio Dos Santos and others began shredding the rear guard. He was most bothered when Dos Santos went running at him -- but who on the U.S. back line wasn't?

D, Eric Lichaj, 4 -- The moment may have been a bit much for the young Aston Villa man, who looked nervous and was frequently out of position or shaped wrong. He started on the left, where he's been for the Gold Cup, but shifted to the right after Cherundolo's injury. Lichaj seemed uncomfortable defensively and unsure with the ball, looking quite shaky in dealing with Mexico's high pressure. His botched clearance was partially responsible for Mexico's second goal. Finally, Lichaj's offensive contribution was pretty much limited to one cross. He'll have better days if he doesn't let memories of this one linger.

M, Michael Bradley, 5 -- Bradley is always at his best when the intensity rises, when things start looking bleak. His first half was ordinary at very best; it might have been his worst 45 minutes of the tournament but for his early goal. For instance, he got caught with the ball twice, stripped in bad spots both times. And he never really did much to help his team establish possession before the break. Things looked better in the second half for Bradley, who dialed up the determination and got forward more often, dipping into his stores of energy and providing a little more offensive thrust.

WILSON: Mexico exploits U.S. back line

M, Jermaine Jones, 5 -- We know a lot more about the German-born U.S. convert after a full tournament of assessment. One thing we learned is that he paces himself. He looked tired in the first half, mostly just a passenger in Pasadena. He offered very little offensive contribution before the break, other than spraying a couple of balls out right for Freddy Adu. But he rose slightly in the second half, growing stronger with the match. He still wasn't great, but he made a few more connections on offense and finding a few more chances to tackle. He did get stretched out of position a time or two as the relationship and communication with Bradley still needs work.

M, Alejandro Bedoya, 3 -- Bedoya had one big match in the Gold Cup but faded as the competition improved. Saturday against Mexico he was out of his element. He was invisible early as the right-sided attacker in a 4-2-3-1. Bedoya found a few ways to get involved after 20-25 minutes, but he was never much of a factor and left after 62 minutes. Still, this wasn't a poor tournament for a young guy who was only here due to a late Benny Feilhaber injury.

M, Freddy Adu, 7 -- Easily the best U.S. player in the Rose Bowl -- and what a stunner that is. Playing beneath Landon Donovan as a central creator, frequently drifting to the right, he made big contributions on both U.S. goals. He helped win the corner kick and then served up Bradley to open scoring against the run of play. Then he helped move along the attack that found Donovan for a 2-0 lead. Early, he seemed to be the only U.S. player moving the ball quickly, which is what the United States needed against a Mexican side swarming in numbers. Later, as space opened up, he absorbed the ball and tried to dribble up a little trouble. Adu had a pretty good eye for finding space. He drew fouls and even won a header or two.

PHOTOS: Gold Cup final | U.S.-Mexico rivalry

M, Clint Dempsey, 5 -- He was just average in this one, but the Gold Cup as a whole seemed to elevate Dempsey's role in the program, cementing his position as a leader and as someone to rally around. He had little presence in the first 15 minutes or so Saturday but his assist on Donovan's goal seemed to get him going. He banged one off the post in the 60th that had Mexican keeper Alfredo Talavera badly beaten. He wasn't always getting the calls that he was in previous Gold Cup matches; a lot of physical stuff was permitted in this one.

F, Landon Donovan, 5 -- In a surprise, Bradley stationed Donovan as a lone striker. Perhaps that was an attempt to shake loose something from Donovan, who didn't have a good Gold Cup overall. The all-time U.S. leading scorer looked lost in the unfamiliar role but did finish with authority when Dempsey and Adu set him up beautifully. Later, he went back out wide and helped create some trouble here and there.

Substitutions

M, Jonathan Bornstein, 3 -- He was pretty bad, but what did anyone expect? His inclusion on the roster was something of a surprise, considering he was out of favor this spring for Tigres. So, this was a pretty big ask, to hop into the match in the 11th minute, against mighty Mexico, in his tournament debut, no less. He allowed Pablo Barrera to get behind him for the first goal, and it never really got any better. Late, as the U.S. hunted for an equalizer, he got in two crosses. All in all, you just have to keep asking about his place in the player pool; he just doesn't look up for the job internationally.

CANALES: Mexico's newfound resilience

M, Juan Agudelo, 3 -- So many of his touches were wooden after he entered in the 62nd minute for Bedoya. Agudelo had all kinds of trouble playing with his back to goal, unable to deal with the punishment being delivered by Mexico's intense back line. This is where the United States really missed the injured Jozy Altidore, who knows how to dish it out (and take it) in a game like Saturday's.

M, Sacha Kljestan, Inc. -- Came in late (86th minute) for the pooped Adu. The game was done by then, although he did wipe out one Mexican defender inside the penalty area, risking a late donnybrook.

Coach Bob Bradley -- His master stroke in the tournament was digging Freddy Adu from way, way down in the player pool. Then, the choice to start Adu in the final worked out extraordinarily well. There was nothing Bradley could do about his most experienced defender (Cherundolo) leaving early. But having only Bornstein to turn to as a replacement is partially on the coach. The let back spot is a toughie, as we know, but all the chances Bornstein has been afforded hasn't helped in bringing someone better along.

 
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