RJ DEMELLO - Monday, June 2, 2014
The United States walked out on the field in South Korea with only two days rest after their loss to Poland to end the group stage.
Waiting for the Red, White, and Blue was a better rested and confident Mexican side led by Cuauhtémoc Blanco.
Landon Donovan and the Americans put on a counter-attacking clinic, as the team saw little of the ball but managed two beautiful goals against the run of play to end up with the 2-0 victory. It is a game known far and wide as a great team performance on a hot South Korean day, but let's take a look at how the players did individually in Jeonju.
Brad Friedel - 8 - Aside from a shaky moment or two, notably punching the ball out to Blanco only for him to shoot over the bar, Friedel was brilliant. The 31 year-old was not afraid to come off his line and command his area, which the under pressure USA team needed. His yellow card late does not factor against him as 1 it was not a yellow and 2 even if it was, time wasting at that moment to kill off the game isn't a bad thing.
Tony Sanneh - 9 - Man of the Match - Sanneh's match was nearly flawless and truly drove the US to victory. He was part of the backline that kept a clean sheet, was there for numerous clutch clearances, and even got forward to relieve pressure on his own defense. Aside from a few loose passes in the attacking third his game was an astounding example of positional acumen and endless drive for 90 minutes.
Eddie Pope - 7.5 - The vital center-piece of the defense had a very solid match clogging up the middle and smothering the Mexican strike force. He did pick up a yellow card in the 26th minute and had a bad giveaway in the first half that lead to a great chance from Blanco. Pope did have a last ditch clearance at the end of the first half that saved a clear chance on goal from Mexico.
Greg Berhalter - 7 - Forced into the lineup for the suspended Frankie Hejduk, Berhalter did well, but was definitely the weakest link in the American defense. He had a handful of poor giveaways leading to Mexican chances, as well as bad passes that killed possible US attacks or possession. The Crystal Palace man did have a great clearance in the 55th minute to thwart yet another Mexican attack.
Claudio Reyna - 6 - Somewhat surprising coming from the leader of the team but Reyna had an extremely poor first half aside from the run up the right that lead to the McBride goal. He got beat by Ramon Morales, leading to a great chance for Mexico in the 15th minute. Reyna gave away possession numerous times in the first half but cleaned it up in the second, playing more like his normal self. To be fair he was deployed on the right and often found himself in the right back slot in a five man backline.
Pablo Mastroeni - 7.5 - Mastroeni did exactly what he was asked to do, cover in front of the backline and pester the Mexican's for 90 minutes. He pushed the limits, getting a yellow card in the 47th minute, but did well not to lash out at Blanco who attempted to bait him into a red card not long after. A late header away capped off his stellar performance before he was replaced by Carlos Llamosa in the 90th minute.
Landon Donovan - 8.5 - If it wasn't for the incredible game by Sanneh, Donovan would be the USA's man of the match. In the first half especially, Donovan was tireless in running all over the field to annoy the Mexican midfielders. He provided a calm presence on the ball, helping to relieve the pressure on the defense, and of course scored the second goal to give the American team some breathing room. His clear desire to win helped drive the team to victory.
John O'Brien - 5.5 - Much is made of the world cup performance of O'Brien, but his game against Mexico was lacking. Aside from the great ball over the top to Lewis that led to the Donovan goal, O'Brien had a mediocre game in the center of midfield. He had a poor studs up tackle early on and a very bad giveaway in the 48th minute. His rating would have been much worse if the referee saw the handball by O'Brien in the American box that should have been a Penalty for Mexico.
Eddie Lewis - 6.5 - Lewis kept it simple and did his job throughout the game. Being on the left of midfield, like Reyna he was often found retreated to the left back spot needing to defend. He did well with his duties and of course delivered the beautiful ball to Donovan for the second goal.
Josh Wolff - 5.5 - The young forward had one of the most important plays of the game, laying the ball off for McBride to score in the 8th minute. Other than that Wolff was left to wander up front as the US defended mightily. He perhaps should have done better on a first half chance that Oscar Perez did well to save. In an attempt to close out the game, Arena replaced Wolff with Earnie Stewart in the 59th minute.
Brian McBride - 7.5 - A powerful effort from McBride who left it all out on the field in Juanju. He scored the incredibly important opening goal but followed it up with immense hold up play that was vital in helping the American players clear their lines. His only misstep was giving the Mexican's a free kick from just outside the 18 that Blanco luckily sent right into the wall. McBride's game should be a model for any target forward out there. He was subbed off for Cobi Jones in the 79th minute.
Earnie Stewart - 5.5 - The veteran put in a solid 30 minutes, and even almost snuck a goal to really put the match to bed. Stewart volleyed a corner kick off the post, but otherwise did what he needed to do to help close out the victory.
Cobi Jones - 7 - Jones shined in the final stages of the game and really took over for his tired teammates. He took an extreme beating from the Mexican players but was not afraid time and time again to take the ball into the corner and get the job done. His substitution seemed to really put El Tri to bed. He also gets an extra half point for having to deal with the assault from Rafa Marquez.
Carlos Llamosa - 5.5 - Provided the energy for the last five minutes of the match, clipping at the heels of Mexico to continue to frustrate them. Llamosa's pressure and pestering of Blanco at the halfway line in the 93rd minute epitomized the American performance on the day.
Sanneh, Donovan, and Friedel lead the way while Josh Wolff and John O'Brien had some troubles on the big stage. Overall the team banded together and pulled off one of the greatest results in US Soccer history.