BRIAN SCIARETTA - Monday, March 5, 2012
The United States defeated Italy on Wednesday night for their first ever victory over the four-time World Cup Champions and a lot of players made strong statements.
While the game is just a friendly, the players will now have the confidence to know they have the ability to beat a top team in a hostile environment away from home. The game meant nothing in one way, but it meant a lot in others.
The backline of the US team shows it can be tough to break down and Fabian Johnson is a very good left back. Clarence Goodson also remains a very good centerback option if there is an injury. Whenever Chandler gets back, he may get pushed up to the midfield as right wing seems to be his natural position.
The most impressive statement was made by the central midfield combination of Maurice Edu and Michael Bradley who forced turnovers and did a lot of the dirty work it takes to win games like these. Bradley, in particular, showed that he is an elite player.
And on the goal itself, the US was lethal as a unit in their best scoring opportunity. Bradley and Johnson combined well to get Altidore the ball and he set up Dempsey to do what he does best.
The team has yet to have a lot of the best players together under Klinsmann. It will be interesting to see what the team looks like then.
REPORT CARD FROM GENOA
Tim Howard - 7 - Howard was forced to make some spectacular saves throughout the game. He had a few shaky moments early but was rock solid afterward.
Steve Cherundolo - 6.5 - It helped that the normally defensive minded Danny Williams was playing ahead of Cherundolo and between the two they completely shut down all Italian attack coming down the right side.
Clarence Goodson - 6.5 - Filling in for the injured Oguchi Onyewu at central defense, Goodson put in a strong performance. He probably is not in the starting lineup when everyone is healthy but he is clearly in the top 23 for all important games.
Carlos Bocanegra - 7.5 - Bocanegra had an outstanding game throughout the entire 90 minutes. It is unlikely there is a clean sheet without him. He forced a lot of turnovers when the Italians were attacking and his diving block late in the game was the defensive play of the game.
Fabian Johnson - 7 - Johnson's first game at left back for the US national team was a revelation. Whenever Steve Cherundolo retires, the American fullback situation with Chandler on the right and Johnson on the left is in good hands. Johnson is technically very gifted and will be a huge part of the team for many years.
Michael Bradley - 8 - MAN OF THE MATCH - Bradley's performance in central midfield against the Italian team was both outstanding and eye opening. On both sides of the ball, Bradley was making things happen. He is one of the team's cornerstones. He is at Chievo right now, but he has the ability to be on a very big team soon.
Maurice Edu - 6.5 - Edu was brilliant defensively for the US team and it was his best game for the Americans since Klinsmann was hired. He wasn't as solid advancing into the attack but against Italy, defense was a priority and Edu shined there.
Danny Williams - 5.5 - It is tough to grade Williams because he is playing out of position at right midfield. He doesn't play that position for his club and never has beyond the youth level. He is best as a defensive midfielder in the middle of the field. His defense on Wednesday night was very good. He did struggle to get the ball forward, however. I would be interesting to see how he could do with the US team at his natural position.
Clint Dempsey - 6.5 - Dempsey's goal buried the Italians and gave the US team a memorable win. Aside from the goal, it was a good performance from Dempsey but he didn't have that much to do. He was effective stretching the Italian defense and the defense respected him. When he had his one opportunity, he made the most of it and changed the game.
Brek Shea - 5.5 - Shea again seemed to struggle against an elite team. He is a player that thrives when he has space and Italy is a team that does not give much space. Shea had a few moments in the game where he showed potential but he still does have a lot to learn.
Jozy Altidore - 6.0 - Altidore does not have a game which is suited for being a lone striker. In this game, Dempsey moved forward to help out but Altidore was required to do most of the work up top. His hold up play was good and his assist on the goal was a very important play.
Sacha Kljestan - 5 - Kljestan came into the game in the second half and had to play out of position on the left side of the midfield. Playing behind him at left back was Jonathan Spector who was also a substitute who does not naturally play on the left side. Kljestan struggled and turned the ball over too many times. Normally a deep-lying central midfielder who is having a very good season at Anderlecht, it is tough to judge Kljestan but he did not have a good game.
Jonathan Spector - 6.5 - Spector came into the game at left back with the American team already on its heels. There was little opportunity for Spector to advance the ball into the attack since the game took a more defensive approach late. Spector, however, had many great defensive plays and diving blocks that preserved the American victory. It was a very gutsy performance for the Birmingham City fullback.
Terrence Boyd -5- In his first ever cap, Boyd looked a little lost and in awe of the situation. He didn't have many chances because the US was mostly playing on defense when he entered. He lost the ball on his best chances but had some nice 50-50 wins. He has a very bright future and is close to breaking into the first team at Borussia Dortmund who are one of the best teams in the world. The Olympic qualifying tournament will be his next big step.
Edson Buddle -NR - Buddle did not play enough to earn a rating.
Jurgen Klinsmann - 7.5 - Klinsmann is now the coach of the first ever American team to defeat Italy. This was such a good game for him because it was only a few days before that the US had to remove four likely starters from the team due to injury or illness. With so many key players missing, he was able to put together a team capable of a winning in Italy. Some decisions remain curious. It is puzzling that Danny Williams is still viewed as a right midfielder and Altidore is a good lone striker. The bottom line is that it worked.
The real interesting part of the equation will be what does Klinsmann do when he has all of his best players. Where does Donovan, Holden, Ream, Onyewu, Torres, Beckerman, and Jones fit in? Not only those key players, other young players like Agudelo, Gyau, Diskerud, and Morales are also close. Tough decisions await Klinsmann in the near future.