Howard, Bradley, subs lead U.S. player ratings draw with Russia
Tim Howard conceded a penalty, but he came up with big saves time and again
Michael Bradley had a virtuoso performance, scoring and running all over the field
Juan Agudelo, Terrence Boyd and goal-scorer Mix Diskerud were strong as subs
|Final :: Krasnodar, Russia|
At times on a wild evening in Krasnodar, Russia, the U.S. men's national team looked overmatched, out of sorts and disorganized. And at times, the U.S. men were valiant, heroic and persistent. The 2-2 draw earned by Jurgen Klinsmann's men won't mask the fact that there are issues that still need to be corrected ahead of the 2013 CONCACAF hexagonal, but the end result was that of a team that worked hard to overcome two awful mistakes to earn a road draw against a stout Russia side that is perfect in four matches of UEFA World Cup qualifying. Here are player ratings from the match (as always, on a scale from 0-10):
GK, Tim Howard, 9 -- The only way Howard could have had a better night was if he had saved Roman Shirokov's penalty. Time and again Howard came up with big saves, both of the standard and atypical variety, to keep the U.S. men in the game and avoid a multi-goal deficit. Howard could do little about either goal conceded, as the first one was off a gifted breakaway following a horrendous Danny Williams mistake, and the second was the penalty -- one that was given when Clarence Goodson collided with his man as it appeared that Howard was in position to prevent all of that and take the ball off of the attacker's foot. This is right up there among Howard's best performances for the national team.
D, Timmy Chandler, 5 -- Chandler's return to the national team after a year absence was decent. He was not beaten from his slot at right back for any dangerous chances, and he showed glimpses of what he's capable of bringing to the table when getting forward, with a pair of dangerous crosses from the right -- one of which came after a lengthy run up the flank. Having Chandler back in the fold is a nice get for Klinsmann, who could use the fullback depth and a player with Chandler's dynamic qualities, but time will tell whether Chandler's newfound "1,000 percent" commitment to the U.S. is for real. An appearance in the World Cup qualifier in Honduras on Feb. 6 would lock him in.
D, Geoff Cameron, 5.5 -- Cameron recovered from a shaky opening few minutes to turn in a sound overall performance, marshaling the back line after Carlos Bocanegra left injured. His distribution out of the back was uneven, but his positioning was decent, and the occasions he was caught out of position, he recovered. Cameron's confidence and level of comfort appears to be growing, and even though he is mostly playing right back for Stoke City, he is a fixture at central defense for Klinsmann.
D, Carlos Bocanegra, 5 -- The captain exited after 18 minutes, tweaking his left hamstring and not taking any chances given the meaningless nature of the game. The injury robbed Bocanegra, who had a big recovery run followed up by a poor giveaway out of the back, of gaining more cohesion and understanding with Cameron in central defense, as it appears that those two are the unequivocal first-choice pairing going forward. Bocanegra has plenty of time to recover ahead of the next U.S. game, which is not for almost three months, but it remains to be seen how much club time he will have to miss with his fresh injury.
D, Fabian Johnson, 5 -- Johnson's ability to get involved in the attack out of the back was on display repeatedly, and he and Michael Bradley were responsible for a lot of the build-up on the left when the U.S. started to find more of the game. Defensively, Johnson was guilty of committing the foul that set up the free kick that led to Russia penalty, and when he got got forward, he left the rest of the back line vulnerable and was caught out of position a number of times. Not his best overall showing.
M, Jermaine Jones, 4.5 -- When Jones gets put in a role where he has to be more attack-minded, good things don't usually happen. More of a destroyer, Jones' decision-making and overall sloppiness impeded the U.S. attack at times. On the other end of the spectrum, it was not all horrendous for Jones, who sporadically got forward in an effective way and made things happen when he was sent out wide left. His ability to get to the end line and cross for Sacha Kljestan in the second half almost set up a U.S. equalizer; however, Jones was guilty of overhitting a perfect setup from Jozy Altidore at the top of the box, given the time and space to put a blast on target. It's not Jones' fault for being put in a more attack-minded position, but his execution was off.
M, Danny Williams, 3 -- Williams has had some good times in a U.S. jersey. None came Wednesday. His dreadful giveaway off a quick restart in his own half instantly put Russia through on goal for an early lead, and he hardly improved after that. When the midfield was struggling to take control, Williams looked the most lost out of the U.S. trio. When he did something positive and tracked back to provide defensive cover along the back line, he conceded possession by the corner stick, a play that yielded a dangerous cross. When the U.S. was looking for a goal to tie, he sent a back pass off a U.S. corner from the attacking half of the field all the way back to Howard's goal. Williams was overmatched Wednesday but can -- and has to -- be much better.
M, Michael Bradley, 8.5 -- Another virtuoso performance. When the U.S. was not seeing the ball in the opening 25 minutes of the first half, Bradley was running all over the place to track it down. And when the U.S. finally got a foothold, Bradley was a difference maker and the focal point. He showed his consistent ability to strike a ball from long range with his game-tying volley that stunned the Russians, and his long ball out of the back helped set up the second equalizer. Bradley's only miscue in the second half was rushing an open diving header from the center of the area, when it looked like he had time to settle Sacha Kljestan's lay-off header and strike with his foot. Regardless, Bradley's willingness, never-ending work rate and class shone through in a big way.
F, Josh Gatt, 5 -- Fresh off winning a Norwegian league title for the second straight year, Gatt's anticipated debut left a promising impression. Known for his speed, Gatt showed a tenacity and physicality to his game as well as he went up against two fullbacks not afraid to mix it up. His decision making in terms of when to pass and when to take defenders on was uneven, and the times that he did try to go 1-v-1, he mostly came out on the wrong end. When Gatt switched to the left side after starting on his more favored right he was more effective, but he exited in the 63rd minute as Klinsmann's first tactical substitution. Even so, there are things to build on for Gatt, who can enhance Klinsmann's flank options going forward.
F, Jozy Altidore, 5.5 -- Altidore's return to the national team after a month hiatus had everyone's attention, and he did not quite deliver the statement to win over Klinsmann permanently. It's not as if Altidore, who displayed a solid work rate, had a completely poor game. The U.S. men could hardly find a way to possess the ball and set up forwards in the opening half, and Altidore did what he could to dip back to find the ball and hold it up. Altidore's best chance on goal came in the first half when he settled a Jones pass off his chest and ripped a clean hit that went just over the bar. His touch in the attacking third let him down on a number of occasions, though, especially one time when he was played through into the center of the box and was onside only to have the ball carom off his right foot as opposed to smoothly settling it and having a go. He was robbed of a would-be assist when Jones over-hit his pinpoint setup pass to the top of the box, and Klinsmann must have cracked a smile when Altidore continued to work hard, tracking back deep into his defensive half toward the end of the second half to win possession.
F, Herculez Gomez, 4.5 -- Gomez worked hard per usual and at one point was perhaps unfairly punished for winning a header while colliding with the Russian goalkeeper, but his overall performance and impact left plenty to be desired. In terms of the run of play, Gomez was hardly involved during a time when the U.S. was searching endlessly for possession. When given the chance to contribute off set pieces, Gomez was uncharacteristically dreadful. His service of corner kicks and his over-hit free kick from about 30 yards needed to be better. He was substituted off in the 65th minute for Sacha Kljestan.
D, Clarence Goodson, 5 -- Goodson was pressed into action after Bocanegra's injury and held his own for the most part. He was his usual self in the air but was part of a unit that got stretched way too many times. The times when he was caught out of position, Cameron was there to back him up. His huge error came toward the end of the match, when he was guilty of conceding the penalty to Russia off its quickly taken free kick in the U.S. half, one that caught the Americans napping. If Cameron and Bocanegra are both healthy, Goodson is still a third-choice center back.
F, Juan Agudelo, 6.5 -- Some may have questioned Agudelo's inclusion given his unspectacular MLS season, but the 19-year-old forward left quite the impact as a second-half substitute. He was eager to contribute as soon as he came on, and his ability to win the header to set up Bradley's goal was immense. Agudelo did have a golden chance off a header inside the box but could not put it on frame. Two years ago on this fixture date, Agudelo was a wide-eyed 17-year-old who scored a game winner in South Africa on his debut and was full of potential. Now, he's a bit more comfortable, seasoned and still carries that potential up top as a difference maker.
M, Maurice Edu, 5.5 -- Edu, who has been an afterthought at Stoke City, came into the midfield and made an immediate impact, sending the ball forward to Agudelo that led to Bradley's goal. After that, Edu had a bit of a mixed bag, losing possession in the midfield and conceding it in his own half late in the game, but on the whole Edu brought a positive influence off the bench.
M, Sacha Kljestan, 6 -- Kljestan entered on a torrid run of form with Anderlecht and was useful as the game opened up and the U.S. searched for goals. His decision to head down Jones' cross for Bradley instead of having a go at goal on his own may be questioned, but with a defender right up on him and Bradley wide open, the unselfishness was not a poor play. With the U.S. starved for midfielders who can spark the attack, Kljestan should maintain his place on the roster going forward.
F, Terrence Boyd, 7 -- All of the talk about roster snubs for the last set of World Cup qualifiers involved Altidore, but Boyd was also left behind, and he used his few minutes on the field in Krasnodar to tell Klinsmann that he belongs with the first team. Boyd combined with Jones for one promising sequence down the left and did textbook target work to head down the ball that led to Diskerud's game-tying goal. Sometimes it is difficult to make a tangible impact entering a match cold with just a few minutes to play, but Boyd managed to do so Wednesday.
M, Mix Diskerud, 7 -- Like Agudelo, Diskerud has developed a knack for coming through on this fixture date. In South Africa, it was Diskerud setting up Agudelo for the game winner at Green Point Stadium. In Russia, it was Diskerud being in the right place to latch onto Boyd's headed-down ball and lace a deflected shot for the equalizer, marking his first goal for the USA. In just a few minutes on the field, Diskerud -- who is still not cap-tied to the USA and maintains Norwegian eligibility -- showed some of his growth as a player and his ability to come through.