USMNT v. Trinidad – The Ratings

Well….that was ugly. No balance, no shape, no ideas, no gameplan. I could go on for a while with that line of thought, but I’ll save it for tomorrow’s article.

For now, I’ll just stick to the ratings:

The Starters

  • Tim Howard – 7 – Pretty outstanding game in goal for Howard, as he made some critical saves to keep us in the game. His distribution leaves a bit to be desired, but a solid ‘7’ tonight, and that might be a bit harsh.
  • Jonathan Bornstein – 2 – Out of position and completely lost on the pitch. He was better than Saturday, but my god he couldn’t have gotten any worse. It’s time to put him out to pasture and forget that he’s eligible for our national team.
  • Carlos Bocanegra – 4.5 – A fairly erratic game from the captain, and it’s hard to tell how much was due to Bornstein’s poor positioning and overall play.
  • Oguchi Onyewu – 6 – He was solid, but he was given very little option to play out of the back and didn’t look too happy about it. I  thought he had some unfortunate calls against him too, as he didn’t actually foul that often.
  • Jonathan Spector – 8 – My MOTM for this one, as he consistently shut down Carlos Edwards on the flank. This was the real Spector tonight, as he took smart angles to the ball and was the only calm defender on the ball tonight. He should never be left out of our lineup from here on out.
  • Landon Donovan – 5 – Again, I know I’ll take heat for this one, but I’m not impressed at all with Donovan’s play lately. He’s supposed to be a supporting wing, yet he spends 80% of the game up with the strikers. I would understand this if our team was setup in that manner, but it’s not and his unwillingness to maintain shape and positioning makes for an unbalanced team. At this point, he’s hurting us in quite a few ways because we insist on making him play on the wing. He’s actually best suited, right now, to playing in behind the 2 strikers and in front of a 3-man midfield. At least then we can balance ourselves better (and drop Dempsey from the lineup). Today was not one of Donovan’s better efforts.
  • Rico Clark – 5.5 – Up until his goal, Clark was utterly invisible. He spent all of his time roaming forward with Davies and Altidore, but very little time actually challenging for possession. The goal seemed to energize him a bit (as well as change the formation a bit in his favor) and he played fairly well afterward. However, I’m just not sure he’s a better option than Feilhaber or Torres at this point. Hopefully Mo Edu and Jermaine Jones are healthy soon.
  • Michael Bradley – 7 – I thought this was a quality game from Bradley. He recognized early that Clark was leaving his position (whether by design or not) and he sat deep in front of the defense and quietly controlled the team. He made smart passes and good runs, but he didn’t overplay like he has a tendency to do. Anyone crying “nepotism” still needs to re-evaluate their understanding of the game.
  • Clint Dempsey – 2.5 – This is the Deuce we know and (sorta) love. Aimless dribbling, horrible passing, and the ever-so-faint glimpse of talent. He is a fantastic header of the ball, but my god he does nothing else while he’s on the field. I think it’s high time we give him some time away from the team.
  • Charlie Davies – 6 – It certainly wasn’t a night for the strikers as the team behind them essentially gave up on trying to possess the ball at all. Davies got a few chances and was rightfully selfish in trying to go for goal. Personally, I like the fact that we finally have a cocksure striker that is looking to score on every touch.
  • Jozy Altidore – 7 – I think we’re slowly seeing Jozy emerge as a star. We knew he’d get there eventually, but he’s rapidly developing vision on the ball as well as deft touch on his passes. He obviously won’t be consistent with it from game to game at just 19 years old, but this is the first extended stretch of games where Altidore is showing more than his athletic tools and his rocket right foot.

The Subs

  • Benny Feilhaber – 7 – Came in and immediately changed the way we moved the ball, even though he was only stationed on the right. He shows such great touch and vision on the ball that I can’t believe we go a game without him starting. He needs to be starting on this team.
  • Stuart Holden – 5 – He got in his token “great cross” but did little else on the field. The hype is certainly there from just about anyone on the internet, but I’m just not seeing the justification for it. Jose Torres should have gotten those minutes.
  • Brian Ching – N\A – I refuse to rate him anymore, he doesn’t deserve it.

The Coaching

  • I’m going to write an in-depth article tomorrow on our coaching, but let’s just say I was wholly disappointed in our approach to the game and our management of it. Very poor.

18 Responses

  1. Haha at the Ching rating. I agree though what is the point of Ching anymore? He comes into the game looks slow and does nothing. When I saw him coming into the game I almost threw up.

    Bornstein should just be left off this team for good. He does no attacking or defending.

    Bocanegra had his usual mental lapse in concentration. He almost cost us a goal.

    Bob Bradley really does need to be fired. Everybody start preparing to watch the usa go three and out at the world cup.

  2. I think you are missing the point with Landon’s role. It seems like BB is letting him roam free as a LAM like Brazil allows Kaka and letting him run at defenders all day which he has been doing for almost every match this summer. In fact, I am impressed in this regard by both BB and LD in that they have recognized that this free roaming role is what best suits Landon and the national team. While you can argue that Donovan hasn’t come back and helped on defense as much as needed by a wing mid, he is still doing much better than his counterpart Dempsey on the right side.

    As for the 5 rating for Donovan, I don’t really know what warrants that. He has been the best field player and an assist machine in all the goals in WCQ since his pass to Davies at Azteca. Thats a total of 4 assists in 3 games. I’m not sure what more you want.

    • I disagree wholeheartedly that Landon has been the best field player for the US, and he hasn’t been for some time now. Tonight, Spector was our best player, followed by Bradley and Gooch. Because Landon has defensive responsibilities down the left flank and rarely makes the effort to cover them, I rate him lower than most expect. It’s time we stop giving Landon a free pass just because he’s the “face” of this squad (and even that is arguable now).

      I think the problem is that Donovan gets so much hype and praise that people just assume he played well and never really want to criticize him anymore. The American press will never, ever criticize him and I think that creates some problems.

      As for his role, I agree that it’s best for Landon, but it badly unbalances the squad. If we want him in that role, we need to adjust the midfield to suit him. If we put a 3-man unit behind him, say Feilhaber\Bradley\Torres, then I think we’ve got a very balanced and workable midfield. I love Donovan in a more advanced role because it limits his defensive duties.

      • You just spoke to my soul with that midfield shape. That would be, I think, the defining tactic that would push us over into a better, more confident team. I also love that you have Torres included there, Demps needs a wake up call badly. We still have basically a 4-4-2 so Bob could be satisfied(i know its not a 4-4-2) and it would also provide cover for the backs, i.e. Spector and Dolo(wake up Bob) to push forward more. As you said in your post, they cant afford to because we have no defensive shape in the midfield. This in turn creates more service for the strikers, and also opens space in the middle of the pitch. I think your on to something with this.

  3. Spector made up for ES but I’m not sold on him until he can play consistently – something he hasn’t shown the ability to do. I think that’s the real Spector. I’m not big on saying anyone is a lock given one good game here or there.

    His one-on-one isolation was really great but his decisions to move forward leave something to be desired. I recall only one dangerous cross and he was a bit awkward getting forward. When he dribbles up top, I cringe. Sometimes he looks a little lost. I’d like him to be more decisive with his choices to attack. That, and he needs to get crosses off more quickly. The one he had in the second half took so long to get off, T&T’s back line and keeper were set up before it left his foot.

    Overall, a pretty terrible first half of soccer. The errors where contained more convincingly in the second but we still should have controlled the game much better. For a WCQ of these stakes, the USA should play with much more conviction.

    My MOTM was Howard. Without his early saves, the USA would have lost 2-1 or 3-1.

    • Given how poorly Dempsey played, it’s no surprise Spector was lost on that side behind him.

      • My issues with Spector of late have nothing to do with Dempsey’s lack of support and/or defense on the right side.

        If an outside back is going to move forward, he needs to commit or not, IMO. He also needs to move into the appropriate space. Specs overran some people he was passing to and just brought the ball up in awkward ways.

        Of course Dempsey could help him out on the right but I’m not speaking to those aspects of his game.

  4. The funny thing was before Clark’s goal, Bradley was about to sub him out for Holden, so you never know what’s going to happen, I guess.

  5. I wont be as harsh on some of the players as you are. We did play very eratic and I was starting to worry that goal was not going to come. Dempsey has had a number of inconsistent outings lately but he is trying stuff (not working most of the time) I do like him being confident on the ball but like it better when he is more up front. What if Bradley would move him up front with Altidore and drop Davies back along the likes of Landon. They both like to take on defenders and might free space for Josy and Clint…Whats with Cherundalo not playing? I am worred in the big matches remaining that Borenstein will make a costly blunder.

    Things just didn’t look smooth at midfield, we need crisper passing, better ball handling. Defense was only as good as we needed (vs T & T) but Gooch MUST be playing in Italy to regain his form.

  6. As always, Ryan, you tend to add 1-point to a rating if a player plays in Europe while subtracting 1 if they play in MLS. You’re love of the Euro-fairy dust needs to stop, my friend. It’s like a teen girl and the Jonas Brothers. 😉

    That said, you’re not all that far off. Bornstein was better than what you think, but that still doesn’t make him all that useful to the NT under ideal circumstances. Davies had his first bad game for the US and you have to wonder if he was a bit hurt after Saturday. Holden was instant impact, which you continue to miss, and I think you didn’t notice that Donovan was essentially a 1-man offensive unit for most of the game. He was a leader.

    So that makes 1 over-rated player (Euro-based) and 3 under-rated. Hey, they all play in MLS!

    P.S. Dead-on about Spector and Benny….time to just lock them in as starters and let them find some comfort as part of the starting unit.

    • You and I might never see this exactly eye to eye on this, but I want you to know that I don’t hold a grudge against anyone that plays in MLS. However, I think it’s mostly a coincidence that the few players I’m harping on are also MLS players.

      Holden could be playing for Boca Juniors or Sevilla or Fiorentina and I still wouldn’t be a fan of his game. My issue with him should only be taken in context of the Nats setup, simply because I think he’s a poor “wing” as we employ him. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t like him as a player – he’s fun to watch with Houston – I just think he’s not a good fit for our current system. I’ve been saying for a while that I think we could be a better team if we had a different formation\system, namely one that utilizes Donovan as a trequartista, rather than as a wing. If we were to do that, I think Holden would actually be a brilliant substitute in that role. He’s very adept at playing as the top midfielder in a diamond, but I think his carelessness on defense and with the ball does us more harm than good as a wing.

      As for Clark, I’ve never been a fan of his game, mainly because I think he’s a poor-man’s Mike Bradley. I think a move out of MLS will do him some good, but I’m convinced he’s already maxed his potential as a midfielder, MLS or not.

  7. It amazes me how many people are content with performances like last night’s. Maybe it’s conditioning. Even I was saying “Bornstein doesn’t look too bad tonight” even though it was more because he looked so atrocious against El Salvador.

    I don’t understand why US soccer isn’t held to a higher standard. When the US men’s basketball team wins every game but only does it by 10-20 points, that team gets ripped. This team plays two bad games and escapes with victories that could have easily been losses and everything is fine cause they win? These are not world powers on the schedule here. If we have to scrape by El Salvador and T&T, what awaits us in group stages of 2010?

    On the plus side, I liked what I saw from the forwards. How often have we heard how Brian Ching couldn’t create because he had no service as an excuse? Well Alitdore and Davies had awful service yet still created chances for themselves in the first half. That bodes well for the squad in the future.

  8. For once, I don’t really agree with most of your ratings. I’ll offer my own:

    Howard- 7. I do agree with you on this one, lol.
    Bornstein- 4. Vast improvement from Saturday. Granted, he had nowhere to go but up, but at least tonight he was able to shut T + T down most of the time. But that is exactly the problem- we were playing a very mediocre T + T team, and he couldn’t shut them down 100% of the time.
    Boca- 4.5. Looked a little shaky most of the time. I like him on the left better.
    Gooch- 5.5. The usual force back there. He gets a lower rating for me because he seemed too willing to merely dump the ball downfield, rather than trying to keep possession by passing to Clark or Bradley.
    Bradley- 6. Pretty good game on both sides of the ball.
    Clark- 5. You’re right about Rico; he was absolutely invisible until his incredible goal. I’d probably give him a 4 under normal circumstances, but that goal is worth an extra point itself, and he did improve after he scored it.
    LD- 5. He did not have his best game. There were flashed of brilliance, but we’ve always known Landon can be explosive and brilliant. He showed us that in the Confed Cup. But he hasn’t shown us ever since the Swine Flu thing. He still needs to regain his form.
    Clint- 2. Ugh. I don’t even want to talk about him. Disgusting, appalling, insulting effort from a guy whom many feel is our most talented player.
    Davies- 5.5. Wasn’t given much of a chance to do much, but he did put in a solid effort, albeit while making a couple bad decisions.
    Jozy- 6.5. If this is him at 19, I can’t wait to see him at 28. He looks like he could be one of the world’s best at that point.

    Feilhaber- 5. Was he even on the field? I only remember hearing his name once or twice.
    Holden- 7. Looked pretty sharp, and defended with intelligence and vigor. Color me impressed. I’m been a bit hard on him in the past, but I really liked his performance, even if it did mean he stole minutes from Torres.
    Ching- 4.5. As much as I hated to see the sub, he wasn’t awful. He did what he was supposed to do; be physical and hold the ball up top.

    • I forgot Spector! I wasn’t quite as impressed with him; he seemed a little indecisive going forward, but he kept Carlos Edwards in check all night long, so I’ll say 6 or 6.5.

  9. Looks like that article I promised won’t get done today. Been taking care of some school stuff before the weekend and won’t get to the soccer stuff until Saturday probably.

  10. I think you are being overly harsh in your evaluation of Donovan. Just because the media is too soft on him does not mean that you have to make up for that with excessive criticism. As said during the game, he has scored or assisted on 10 of our 14 goals in qualifying. And especially during the ES game, he was working hard on the defensive end as well. My main criticism of him is that he is a subpar finisher. He had a couple good chances against TnT and couldn’t capitalize. Maybe his ideal position would be behind the forwards, but I don’t think we have the talent to move the ball through the midfield with just three guys. It is hard enough to keep possession and move the ball now with 4 midfielders.

    • This isn’t to pile on; I’ve long been a Donovan hater who came away impressed with his play in the Conf. Cup. But his play as of late in qualifying hasn’t been great. He’s going to assist on most US goals, or at least he should considering he touches the ball any time the US gets to the attacking third. He also takes every corner, set piece and penalty. If the US scores the odds are always going to be in favor of Donovan being directly involved in some way.

      He deserves props for fighting through Swine Flu to put up a slightly below average performance (seriously, playing at a decent level while ill is impressive). But not been his best in these last three games. His distribution has been hit or miss, usually with a Dempsey-esque success rate of one or two great passes per game and lot of not so goodness the rest of the time.

  11. Donovan was justly criticized. Davies had zero service all night, and Donovan missed him behind the D at least twice.

    Bob Bradley sucks.

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