Monday, June 20, 2011

Gold Cup: US v Jamaica Player Ratings

Well, there were 2 big surprises for US fans right at the start of the game.  First, Landon Donovan was not starting.  They said it was the first time since 2007 that he has come off the bench.  I realize that he didn't arrive back in town from his sister's wedding until 7am Sunday morning, which I don't understand in itself - did he have to stay until the last dance?  Dempsey managed to get back by 2am.  But this was an elimination game in the most important tournament we'll be in for the next 2 years and Donovan at 75% is still better than any of our backup options.  Anyway, the bold decision paid off since he'll be that much fresher for Wed's semi.

The 2nd surprise was Bradley's decision to go with the 4-2-3-1 again.  After the previously horrible displays with three defensive mids in the middle, I was extremely thankful that he opted for Dempsey / Kljestan (whom seemed to be interchanging) at the attacking mid spot instead of Edu.  This time the tactical change worked.  Again, when we have Holden back, I do not mind seeing this as our preferred lineup going forward, since we obviously have many more options in the midfield than we do up top.

Anyway, while this strong performance should put everyone a little more at ease, Jozy's injury will be the newest source of consternation, right up there after the force that is Chicharito.

Tim Howard 7 - made the save of the game (for the US) in the 4th minute to keep Jamaica from taking the early lead.  He probably wouldn't have stopped the rebound shot, which fortunately sailed over.  His counterpart, Ricketts, is an absolute monster in size an athleticism - I don't understand how European clubs aren't falling over themselves to buy him.

Steve Cherundolo 6.5 - not as involved going forward this game (although he did send a beautiful cross which Dempsey headed into Ricketts) perhaps because of this formation, or because he was tired, or because he was tasked to slow down Jamaica's lightning fast wings.

Clarence Goodson 6 - defensively solid again but he did miss a golden scoring chance early on.

Carlos Bocanegra 6.5 - I used to rag on him for always just booting the ball out of bounds.  Now, I cheer him for it.

Eric Lichaj 7 - Another encouraging performance from our new LB - I don't even care that he doesn't have a left foot.  It was his threatening cross that led to Jones' goal.

Michael Bradley 5 - perhaps he's getting worn down, but it was his poorest game of the tourney so far.  The fact that he didn't close down the crosser and then lazily held another player onside led to Jamaica's 4th minute chance.  His beautiful through ball later in the half did give Lichaj a great chance.

Jermaine Jones 7.5 - Last game I talked about his physicality not leading to cheap shots - and then the first thing he did of note was get a yellow for taking a Jamaican down in response to getting elbowed.  But he did tirelessly dominate the middle all game and made several threatening runs into the box.  His first US goal was awesome when a Jamaican cleared a cross directly to him and he hit it before it touched the turf, scoring on a deflection.  You gotta love the celebratory salute - a fitting Father's day tribute to his father who is (or was) a US serviceman, the only reason why Jermaine is eligible to play for us in the first place.  The other play of note was the breakaway foul (or dive or embellishment depending on one's opinion), which led to the red carded non-protesting Jamaican.  Its obvious that his heel was clipped in full stride and its also obvious that Jones flailed his arms to draw attention to the foul.  And personally, I think his last touch had put the ball so far in front of him that it would've been at best a 50-50 with the keeper.  My take is that I wish he hadn't retaliated to earn that needless yellow and I wish he hadn't embellished that foul.  Its not the American way.  But, do I wish we had him instead of Ricardo Clark last summer in the World Cup?  yup.

Sasha Kljestan 6 - surprise starter in LD's place.  Again, a much better option than Maurice Edu at attacking mid.  He did a decent job keeping the ball moving and supporting the US attack.  He also tested Ricketts with a long-range effort which resulted in a diving save.  It will be interesting to see who Bradley prefers this next cycle - Kljestan or Feilhaber.

Alejandro Bedoya 7 - was very effective in the attack - constantly making dangerous runs and putting himself in good positions to score.  We've really got a great wing sub option going forward.

Clint Dempsey 7.5 - the difference between last game and this: he scored.  Dempsey continued to pepper the goal with shots throughout the game (including a gutsy bicycle kick and a flying header) and his goal was a classy display of control and confidence in maneuvering around Ricketts.  Not bad for someone who had just flown into town at 2am.

Jozy Altidore - no rating.  I knew it was his hammy when he didn't even try to meet the long ball which I thought he would've reached.  Not good, these things don't usually heal in days.


Juan Agudelo 6 - showed no fear in attacking Jamaica but he does lack Jozy's strength.  His interplay with Landon freed him to cross (between the defender's legs) to Dempsey for the score.  He'll probably be our starter vs Panama.

Landon Donovan 6 - by the time he came in, the game was much more free-flowing and he operated comfortably in space.  I thought he should have shot when he was put through with only the keeper to beat.  Instead he stopped and dropped back to Dempsey - the play was eventually whistled for offsides.  (Personally, I think its a ridiculous rule - if you've put yourself in such an attacking position that the keeper had to come out and a defender has to assume the goalline defensive position, that defender should still be able to hold the attacking players onside.  You've earned it.  Unless you give that defensive player the ability to use his hands, it doesn't make sense that he is seen as the keeper in the offsides rule.)  Anyway, the rest Donovan got this game better pay off the next two games.  We will need him, not Kljestan, especially vs Mexico.

Maurice Edu 6.5 - had an active run-out in limited time.  He nearly scored on a eye-opening blast late and could be needed depending on Jones' card situation in the next 2 games.

It works out perfectly for us - we will get to play Panama in the semifinal on Wed.  This means that we will definitely not overlook them for Mexico since it is a revenge game.  Add to that, one of their most threatening attackers, Perez, was red-carded and he will be out.  It will be very difficult to beat the US twice in the same tournament.

If it were up to me, I'd think about resting Michael Bradley and Steve Cherundolo on Wed.  They both looked rather worn out.  This really would have been a good game to have Timmy Chandler.  But I think we can take a calculated risk to rest some of these guys who have played just about every minute of every game in hopes of getting them ready for Mexico on Sat.  Edu and Spector would be my picks to replace them.

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