U.S. player ratings against Belgium
Tim Howard was a first-half savior and had a big effort despite the goal he allowed
Striker Juan Agudelo was again better than the man he subbed in for, Jozy Altidore
Jurgen Klinsmann is winless, but the defining stat is one total goal in three games
U.S. player ratings vs. Belgium (scale of 1-10):
GK Tim Howard, 7 -- The savior of the first 45 just couldn't do enough to turn away Nicolas Lombaerts' uncontested second-half blast. Otherwise, it was a big performance, no question. But what else do we expect from the trusty U.S. No. 1? He had no issues dealing with the rain and a slippery ball (unless you figure that it contributed to the goal, which it might have.) Howard came for one corner kick that he didn't collect, a misdemeanor indiscretion certainly mitigated by three high-quality saves before the break, including a reaction effort against Everton teammate Marouane Fellaini.
D Steve Cherundolo, 6 -- The veteran right back, in his first test under Jurgen Klinsmann, was not at his tip-top best in one-on-one defending. But he wasn't bad, especially considering Belgian left wing Dries Mertens' quality. The Hannover captain came up big on a couple of important challenges inside the penalty area and ventured forward more often as his team pressed late, although he never really found a crossing touch. Cherundolo's ability to recover is underrated; we just don't get to see it very often because he doesn't get beat a lot. And one more thing: would anyone else prefer to see Cherundolo hit more set pieces and see Jose Torres hit fewer of them?
D Clarence Goodson, 7 -- Unbeatable in the air, effective in the tackle and usually precise on the pass, this was a very reassuring night from the veteran who lined up as a left center back in his first start under Klinsmann. Best quality of the evening: he always looked calm on the ball and almost always found the target. He usually did OK dealing with striker Igor De Camargo. A shaky moment late against promising young forward Romelu Lukaku was the night's only real foible, and even that might have been a slip.
D Carlos Bocanegra, 6 -- Unlike Goodson, Bocanegra struggled at times to deal with the physical De Camargo. Otherwise, he was almost always well positioned and making good decisions about when to challenge and when to hold the line. Most of the trouble originated on the wings out of Belgium's 4-3-3, although Axel Witsel's surges forward from midfield were causing some issues, too. This isn't all Bocanegra's fault of course, but Tuesday wasn't the first time a slowness to organize after a restart (a throw-in this time) has bitten the United States.
D Tim Chandler, 5 -- This was a big ask, having a young player accustomed to the right police an unfamiliar spot (left back) on the road against a mid-level European opponent. Oh, and Lille's Eden Hazard is a handful, too! So, all things considered, this was hardly a failed experiment. If Chandler wasn't a world beater on this rainy night in Brussels, consider briefly what some of the other U.S. left backs du jour might have done in a similar test. It wouldn't be pretty. Chandler did look a bit awkward going forward, ill-equipped with a bag of cut-back tricks. But if he can hold ground defensively as a left back, it would keep Bocanegra from pulling emergency duty over there, and that's something.
M Maurice Edu, 6 -- This was a second solid appearance in five days from the Rangers man, especially considering the ground he's being asked to cover as a lone holding presence in a 4-1-4-1. (Kyle Beckerman provided some additional cover after halftime.) Edu's distribution was adequate, although not as swell as his body of defending and covering. One nitpick: He was beaten on a header off the throw-in that eventually found its way past Howard. All in all, it's been a good week for a man who appeared to have lost Bob Bradley's confidence.
M Robbie Rogers, 4 -- A poacher's goal in Klinsmann first start helped earn Rogers two subsequent starts, but you'd have to say that the Columbus Crew winger didn't do much to impress the new boss or to exploit the opportunity. The high points Tuesday were two free kicks earned in dangerous spots. That's about it. Overall, he's just not making the volume of quality runs or engaging the game as aggressively as Brek Shea across the field.
M Jose Torres, 4 -- No one can say Torres isn't getting his chances under the new coach after making a third consecutive start Tuesday. Some good technical minutes are nice and all, but he still isn't making enough happen in the final third. (Stop us if you've heard this before.) Even when given the freedom after intermission to play a more advanced position, Torres passively preferring to orchestrate from more recessed areas. Sometimes that's OK, but eventually more aggressive action is required. For instance, a few more dashes into doggone 18 wouldn't hurt! Elsewhere, his size and strength remain an ongoing issue, one that becomes more obvious against the bigger, European teams. The guy looks like a garden hose in a room full of fire hoses, and he gets knocked around like a ragamuffin in most physical confrontations. Finally, as a central midfielder, his flawed defensive angles of pursuit fail him time and again.
M Clint Dempsey, 6 -- Torres needs to pay attention to the way Dempsey creates off the dribble, through trickery, hustle and moxie. He never could unlock the Belgian backline but did cause moments of concern, at least, by trying to dribble and by taking on defenders in midfield or in the final third (whereas Torres always generally moves the ball with less urgency.) There is no such thing as a friendly in Dempsey's book, apparently, as he was quick into the tussles and the jawing. Maybe a little more of that would serve his teammates well. His best moment was in the 71st, when Dempsey squirted through the Belgian back line but couldn't put enough foot on his effort at goal.
M Brek Shea, 6 -- The FC Dallas man was OK in the first half but even better after the break, gaining confidence and better spotting the opportunities to get around the left corner as he does so often in MLS. He keeps picking good spots on when to challenge and when to play simply, and his second-half crosses provided most of the best U.S. chances to score, few that they were. Shea's choices at full speed can sometimes be questioned, but his running off the ball and willingness to makes things happen have Klinsmann and everyone else giddy at the possibilities. This, remember, was just his third U.S. start.
F Jozy Altidore, 3 -- A bad night seemed ahead when he was sloppy and lazy right off the bat, whistled for offside at a moment that didn't call for flirting with the line. Playing as a lone striker, he never got a sliver of room against Manchester City center back Vincent Kompany and the rest of the home side's defense. His Gold Cup goals aren't likely to impress Klinsmann, who needs to see something in the here and now. Altidore's inability to manufacture so much as a shot on goal -- a scramble off a rebound was as close as he came -- just isn't good enough for a striker.
F Juan Agudelo, 4 -- Just as in Friday's loss to Costa Rica, he replaced Altidore (this time at the half) and was better than the starter. That doesn't mean Agudelo was anything special, just a little bit more effective that the man he replaced as a lone target figure. The youngster's touches in tight spaces and his overall anticipation still need some maturing. He was battered by Kompany (who deserved a yellow card) but didn't shrink as a result, and that's worth a slap on Agudelo's young back.
M Kyle Beckerman, 5 -- Entered at halftime for Rogers to assist Edu centrally in midfield, and to get Dempsey more offensively involved. The RSL man, having arrived into Europe only 36 hours before kickoff, did indeed add an element of grit and ball winning. He lashed a volley that went high almost immediately upon his introduction.
M Jeff Larentowicz, 5 -- The Colorado Rapids midfielder was the fourth MLS man introduced, earning his second U.S. cap when he entered in the 76th for Torres. Larentowicz kept his passes simple, but usually aimed forward.
Jurgen Klinsmann -- The performance wasn't poor, but zero wins in three matches isn't going to make anyone happy. (This is why a win last week over Costa Rica at home would have helped, because any result in Belgium would have been gravy at that point.) These three matches should give Klinsmann a better idea of who is and isn't up for the job -- which means fans will be less willing to hand over the mulligans if they see Edgar Castillo and maybe even Robbie Rogers again. Tuesday's 4-1-4-1 arrangement was a tactical tweak away from a slightly more aggressive 4-3-3 seen last Tuesday, a reasonable concession to playing on the road against a higher quality nation. Results in friendlies don't matter, but this part does: three matches under Klinsmann have delivered a grand total of one goal. And for all this talk of attacking soccer, there still seems to be too many occasions when the Americans just aren't getting forward in heavy numbers.