U.S. player ratings against Slovenia
GK Tim Howard was once again solid on a night where his back line was erratic
Hoffenhim's Fabian Johnson had a positive debut on the left side of midfield
Forward Edson Buddle pressed his claim for a regular squad place
U.S. player ratings Tuesday against Slovenia (scale of 1-10, 10 as best)
GK, Tim Howard, 6 -- No blame on either goal and sure handed on a wet and foggy night. He has also toned down his act a bit in chewing out defenders who err, taking a more nurturing role, presumably. One critical goal-line save and a big punch at a time when things were looking dicey in the back.
D, Steve Cherundolo, 6 -- The U.S. steady-eddy at right back needed about 30 minutes to sync up with Michael Bradley, who played ahead of him but pressed inside regularly. Once Cherundolo felt comfortable going forward he added something to the offense, providing two great crosses near the end of the first half. The longtime Hanover fullback also put in a night of solid defensive work against Andraz Kirm, the home team's left-sided threat.
D, Clarence Goodson, 4 -- Like everyone else along the back line, some sloppy moments in the clearance department marked this one. And like central partner Carlos Bocanegra, the marking sometimes needing patching up. Generally, he was linked and coordinated with Cherundolo on the right (certainly better so than Bocanegra and Tim Chandler across the field). After being outmuscled for the goal against France, Goodson was stronger and meaner when he needed to be at a late, critical moment Tuesday.
D, Carlos Bocanegra, 4 -- The U.S. captain's landmark 100th cap was hardly a banner night, undermined by some faulty marking and capped by handing Slovenia a late scoring chance on a free kick from 20 yards. No one on the back line looked good on the Slovenian's first-half goal, and that included Bocanegra. He probably should have let Kyle Beckerman deal with a situation unfolding a few yards ahead of the back line. When Bocanegra stepped into the breach but didn't win the tackle or interrupt the play with a foul, things were badly out of alignment behind him. He did rescue one bad situation after Goodson was beaten.
D, Tim Chandler, 3 -- They call these "learning experiences." It sure wasn't a good night, but perhaps it can be an important one for the young German-American, who sometimes looked naive and left everyone with the understanding that he's still a work in progress at left back. It sure didn't help his confidence to play Zlatan Ljubijankic onside right away, an unsightly sequence that could have turned the night disastrously. Later Chandler found himself out of position, or on the forward's wrong shoulder or cheating too far forward. Finally, Chandler needs to recognize that if he steps up high to challenge, he absolutely must win the ball. On the positive side, he's showing he can cross from the left side.
M, Michael Bradley, 8 -- This was the change so many wanted to see, the former coach's son, now playing regularly in Italy's Serie A, starting in place of a largely ineffective Maurice Edu. Bradley did his part to validate the move in a big, bold performance. Playing on the right but moving inside liberally, Bradley covered massive amounts of ground. He got inside to help Kyle Beckerman but never left Cherundolo stranded behind him. On the attack, he was the best U.S. passer. His set-piece delivery was always sharp, as on Clint Dempsey's corner kick goal.
M, Kyle Beckerman, 4 -- The Real Salt Lake man, noted for tackling and mettle, will never be at his best when the game is wide open, as this one often was. Plus, his relative lack of speed becomes more of an issue when he holds the midfield by himself, giving Beckerman additional ground to cover. So he was OK, but nothing special in this one. He sometimes lost the link with the back line but found himself too close to it other times. Another trend starting to become apparent: Beckerman just doesn't look the same on his second night on these double sets; he looked fresher last Friday against France.
M, Clint Dempsey, 7 -- Asked to play at the top of a midfield diamond, the Texan had some trouble finding an early groove during the flow of play. Edson Buddle, Jozy Altidore and even Bradley found themselves competing for the same space with Dempsey. That said, in classic Dempsey fashion, he still found important ways to impact the result. His shrewd recognition and quick pressure led to the turnover that created Edson Buddle's early goal. Later, his header strike off Bradley's corner kick was quintessential Dempsey, separating from his mark with muscle, precise timing and lots of determined want-to. By the second half, with Buddle and Jozy Altidore remaining slightly higher, Dempsey had more of the ball and found more of the links around him.
M, Fabian Johnson, 6 -- A quality debut for the Hoffenheim man, who made an impact right away, forcing a save with a great early strike. Shortly after that he fed a wonderful ball to Altidore, who surely should have converted. Johnson faded a bit once Slovenia adjusted at the break, and his one-on-one defending wasn't always tiptop. Still, his presence helped enliven the offense overall. Some of the U.S. opposition will be better in future matches, of course, but based on Johnson's first start, Klinsmann may have just added another good option to his choices along the outside.
F, Edson Buddle, 7 -- The Ingolstadt 04 man desperately needed a big night to fortify his spot in the pool, and he sure had one. He showed great initiative on the 9th-minute strike from 22 yards, a goal that meant so much to a side badly in need of a result in the year's final contest. His confidence on high from there, Buddle worked his way into some other positive first-half sequences with quality touches and passing, before turning a bit quieter after halftime.
F, Jozy Altidore, 4 -- It would be nice to say Altidore followed up on a big night against France with a second consecutive strong outing -- but that wasn't quite the case. He didn't look as comfortable as Buddle in the two-forward alignment, and wasn't great in possession when he dropped into midfield areas. Altidore did connect with a few passes when he could gather possession. His biggest blunder, of course, was failing to convert from point-blank range early; a front-runner simply must finish that one at international level. The AZ Alkmaar striker did hit his first-half penalty kick with authority.
M, Brek Shea, 5 -- Shea's first two crosses (upon entering in the 61st minute along the left for Johnson) needed more precision, maybe just a little more patience. Once he settled in, Shea was handy in helping his side keep possession. Overall, perhaps Johnson's presence as another viable left-sided option will push Shea as the new year approaches.
M, Maurice Edu, 6 -- Entered in the 77th minute for Buddle in a tactical shift; Jurgen Klinsmann subtracted a forward for a midfielder to protect the late lead. Edu added some strong tackling and a couple of thumping clearances at a time when U.S. legs were tiring around him.
D, Danny Williams, 5 -- Interesting that Klinsmann trusted Williams, usually a midfielder, to finish out at left back. He entered in the 82nd for Chandler, who was probably OK to get off the field in this one.
M, Jermaine Jones, NA -- Came on in the 90th for Beckerman as a delay tactic as much as anything, as Klinsmann did his part to nurse home the result.
M, Robbie Rogers, NA -- Same as above, entering in the 94th for Bradley.