CHRISTOPHER MCCOLLUM - Thursday, May 31, 2012
The U.S. lost 4-1 but the score did not tell the whole story of the game. It could have been better, and equally have been worse.
These are my player ratings after watching the game and considering the result over night.
Tim Howard - 6.5 - It's difficult to give a high rating to a goalkeeper that four goals were hung on, but Howard played well when given the opportunity to be in the game. He was outwitted by Neymar on the penalty kick and forced to move well before the 19-year old struck the ball, giving him ample opportunity to place his shot. The rest of the goals came from defensive lapses, and Howard did well to make several key saves to keep the U.S. in the game.
Fabian Johnson - 7 - Johnson has time and again proven himself to be a talented player with tons of potential, and he was able to put that on display against Brazil. While his defense was good enough to keep him on the left back position, it was his offensive play that shined. His run and combination with Michael Bradley led to assisting Herculez Gomez's goal, and his filthy feint and turn at the side of the box in the second half allowed him to freely find Gomez at the far post, almost resulting in a second goal.
Steve Cherundolo - 6.5 - Cherundolo did not have the opportunity to be as threatening down the right flank as he sometimes is, but he did well on defense, using guile and experience to mostly keep Neymar contained. His few opportunities to venture forward posed little threat to the Brazilian defense, but his tireless energy allowed for the field to remain stretched for the U.S. in the second half.
Oguchi Onyewu - 4 - It was a rough game for the towering defender, being caught flat footed several times, being a step slow on more than one occasion, and giving up a penalty kick due to a handball in the box. To be fair, the penalty call was harsh, and there wasn't a lot that could have been done to prevent it, aside from jumping at the ball with his arms tied behind his back. The worst parts of the game for Gooch were getting caught with the ball between his feet too many times, some clumsy clearances, and being too slow to join the offside trap allowing Pato to score the 4th goal for Brazil. It was a rough game, and one has to wonder if he is still a starter against the teams that will be faced in the later stages of World Cup Qualifying. That said, he did provide some strong tackles and his header in the second half came within inches of putting the U.S. back into the game, only to crash off the cross bar.
Carlos Bocanegra - 5 - Not necessarily a bad game from the captain, but not necessarily a good game either. Two Brazilian goals came from the center of the goal, one off of a corner kick and one during open play. While Bocanegra could not have personally stopped them, it was his job to be aware of player positions and to direct his defense to mark the attackers who scored the goals. This is a responsibility that goes with his position, and he wasn't up to the task last night. In the second half, he got lazy with the ball during one sequence and was muscled off of it at half field, allowing a great opportunity for another Brazilian goal. Fortunately, Cherundolo was able to break the play up in the box. Like Gooch though, he was a dangerous presence on set pieces, coming close to putting two headers on goal.
Jose Torres - 5 - Torres had a fantastic game against an underwhelming Scottish team on Saturday, and many were eagerly watching to see if he could repeat the performance against Brazil. Unfortunately, the stifling pressure that Brazil's midfield put on him more or less took him out of the game for long stretches, which negated the few good passing plays he did have. When he was subbed off in the 56th minute, there were likely several people who had forgotten he was still on the field at that point.
Landon Donovan - 5 - Donovan was a conundrum the entire game, being a constant threat on the right side of the box but also being constantly shut down by Marcelo. The Real Madrid defender had Donovan's number from the get go, and allowed him no opportunity to re-create the spectacle from the weekend. Donovan managed a couple of shots but neither of them threatened, though his services were consistently better than they have been in some previous games. He did not seem as energetic as he's known to be, and had his defensive tracking duties taken over by Gomez on a couple of occasions.
Jermaine Jones - 4.5 - Jones simply did not have that good of a game. It was not a distinctly bad game either, but his inability to involve himself in the play leaves him with a low rating. His failure to run with Thiago Silva on the corner kick directly resulted in the second Brazilian goal, and the head scratching moment of that play was that he was running with Silva to begin with, but inexplicably stopped short when the ball was on its way. With a sort of grim fascination, I was looking forward to Neymar trying out some of his fancy footwork against the humorless Jones, and their one meeting on the field had the result I was expecting, with Jones earning a yellow card.
Maurice Edu - 6 - Edu had a deceptively good game against the Brazilians, doing his part in the central midfield battery to break up passes and try to control Brazil's world class midfielders. Edu's improvement since last year has been remarkable, and it showed in the way he was able to keep involved last night. That said, he too fell victim to the intense pressure applied by the Brazilians, showing that he has more room to grow with his patience and ability to hold the ball.
Michael Bradley - 6.5 - Bradley had a game that was full of giveaways and great passes alike, making it difficult to put a grade on his performance. He didn't prove to be as effective at stopping the attack as he was against Italy and Scotland, and his turnovers in the midfield were far too many, though there is something to be said that none of those turnovers were in a dangerous position on the field. Moving into the offensive half of the field he was regularly dangerous, playing quality balls to test the Brazilian defense. It was his inch-perfect through ball to Fabian Johnson that resulted in Herculez Gomez's goal, and his header late in the second half required a superb reflex save from Rafael to keep him off the board. Like Jones and Silva, Bradley was initially tracking Marcelo in the box but was drawn away from the defender with a poor decision to protect against a back pass, leaving Marcelo wide open to score a goal.
Herculez Gomez - 8.5 - Gomez was easily the best player on the field for the U.S., scoring the lone goal, almost netting two others, and being a constant pain to the Brazilian back line with his tenacity and high pressure. Gomez would push high, he would push wide, and he would track back to the midfield doing whatever it took to get involved in the game. There were even a couple of instances where Gomez tracked all the way back on defense in open play to break up Brazil's rhythm. He made some successful tackles on both offensive and defensive ends, and was always able to get up and get back into the attack. This effort may have been enough to move him above Jozy Altidore for the time being.
Clint Dempsey - 7 - For the first time in almost a year, Dempsey and Donovan were on the field at the same time, but there was no magical result to show for it. Dempsey provided a calming influence in the midfield, being able to control the game better than Torres, who he replaced in the 56th minute. Still not quite at full fitness from his groin injury, Dempsey did look a little slow, but his touch was still there and his lofted pass to Gomez in the 77th minute was unbelievably perfect, almost resulting in a goal.
Edgar Castillo - 5 - Castillo coming on for Johnson does not bode well for the National Team, as it was because of a muscle strain. Castillo did not play poorly but he looked overwhelmed with Brazil's speed at times, and as long as Johnson is healthy, does not look to be able to get significant playing time against world class teams.
Terrence Boyd - 6 - Boyd was his usual active self, almost scoring a goal off of a Gomez rebound in the 77th minute, but being denied by another brilliant Rafael save.
Kyle Beckerman - 5.5 - Beckerman did not have much opportunity to put himself into the game, but he did seem to recognize that his weakness against Brazil would be his speed on the ball, and he compensated for it by playing balls early before pressure could be applied to him.
Michael Parkhurst - 5 - Parkhurst's only highlight in the game was an unfortunate one, falling victim to one of Neymar's tricks. Cherundolo had kept himself out of Neymar's highlight reel all game with his experience, but Parkhurst allowed himself to be pulled into Neymar's circus tent, and was beaten badly because of it. Despite that one instance, Parkhurst did not have a bad 10 minutes.