REPORT CARD FROM AFRICA
Bob Bradley rolled the dice by throwing out a bunch of youngsters against an experienced South Africa team. The results were better than anyone could have hoped.
Let's give a report card of the team's performance.
Brad Guzan: 6.5
The Aston Villa keeper didn't have to make many saves but he came up big when it mattered. He organized the defense well. His best moment was in the 20th minute when he made a solid save on a Bernard Parker shot after reading the play.
Jonathan Bornstein 6.0
Bornstein entered into the game as the most experienced player on the roster and one of only two players on the team that played in the 2010 World Cup. Bornstein made some errors moving forward but he was frequently in good position on defense.
Tim Ream 6.5
The New York Red Bulls defender earned a start in his first ever US national team call-up. His game will give hope to fans who are looking for improvement to an aging and struggling American defense. Ream was not perfect and was beaten by Parker in the 20th minute only to be bailed out by Guzan. But still, he was calm on the ball and his distribution out of the back was solid. His positioning was okay but it will only get better.
Clarence Goodson 7.0
The new Brondby signing was one of the best players on the field for the Americans. His calm presence in the back disrupted the South African attack. He played like the solid veteran Bradley expected him to be when surrounded by a sea of inexperience.
Eric Lichaj 7.5 – MAN OF THE MATCH
The Aston Villa right back celebrated his 22nd birthday in style with a fantastic performance on both sides of the ball. His constantly moved forward into the attack and created chances. He was also always able to get back on defense to be where he needed to be. The US now has a player it can begin to look to in replacing Steve Cherundolo as this cycle moves forward.
Brian Carroll 5.0
The 29 year old central midfielder struggled today to help the US maintain possession. Most of the attack had to come from the wings and Carroll was not able to get forward effectively. At this point, it is difficult to see that he has a real future with this team.
Logan Pause 6.0
Pause was Carroll's partner in central midfield and was the better of the two. Pause was asked to play a more defensive role for the American team and he did so effectively. Pause made sure that South Africa had little attack up the middle. Also at 29, it's hard to see him with a future on the US national team but he can be proud of his effort against South Africa.
Robbie Rogers 5.5
The former Maryland Terrapin and US U20 international continues to show signs of promise but still disappoint at the same time. He had too many turnovers in the game but also looked dangerous at times. His nice shot in the 22nd minute was one of the best chances for the US in the first half. He can play with the ball at his feet but his crosses are seldom dangerous.
Alejandro Bedoya 6.5
It was the best international performance from the Orebro midfielder who was constantly moving forward and was the best offensive hope until young stars arrived in the second half. After struggling against Poland and Brazil to start this cycle, Bedoya showed that he can be in Bradley's plans moving forward.
Eddie Gaven 5.5
The New Jersey native's performance against South Africa was a mixed bag but he was effective in doing a lot of dirty work. He struggled in possession but was able to connect well with his teammates. His defense was surprisingly good and he worked hard all night long.
Robbie Findley 4.0
Findley struggled mightily before he was mercifully replaced at the half. He was never able to beat anyone on the dribble or connect with passes. The worst part was that he wasn't even able to use his speed to his advantage.
Teal Bunbury 6.0
The former Canadian youth international immediately looked more impressive than Findley, who he replaced at the half. His style seem to show that it will fit what this team needs moving forward. He is strong and looks to get himself into good positions as opposed to relying on his speed. It was a good international debut for the 20 year old.
Jonathan Spector 4.5
Ever since he played well at the 2009 Confederations Cup for the US, it's been downhill for the Illinois native who has struggled for both club and country. Today's game was a continuation of his poor play. As a second half sub, he was a downgrade from Bornstein who he replaced. He constantly gave the ball away in bad places leading to dangerous South African chances. Also, he was ineffective moving forward with his passing way off from where it was just a year and a half ago.
Nat Borchers 6.0
The Real Salt Lake defender is coming off a strong season in MLS and his good run of play continued into today's friendly. It was more than five years since his last cap but his performance should lead to another one this January. He didn't make many mistakes when he came on for Ream. He hit a bad clearance or two, but his positioning was good.
Juan Agudelo 7.0
It was a dream first cap for the for the US U20 national team forward who became the youngest ever American to score for the national team a week before his 18th birthday. The New York Red Bull was calm and deadly – a combination sorely lacked by other American forwards this past year. He looks good on the ball and off the ball. He may have played his way off the U20 national team and straight into the senior team moving forward. He was that impressive despite scoring his first international goal before his first club goal. Here's a memo to New York Red Bull fans, enjoy him while you can.
Mikkel Diskerud 7.5
Diskerud has made no secret of his American ambitions since making the difficult decision to represent the US over his native Norway. While it took two strong seasons at Stabaek to finally give Bradley the confidence to call him up, Diskerud did not disappoint. His assist to Agudelo was the single best play of the entire game. He collected the ball calmly and while surrounded by defenders only to make a perfect pass.
Gale Agbossoumonde - NR
The US U20 national team captain was not at full strength with a knee injury but came on to make a debut. He had a nice clearance at the end but he didn't play enough to earn a rating. His biggest challenge will be finding a club moving forward. He needs to worry about that before he can worry about the national team.
Bob Bradley 6.5
The head coach's hands were tied with the quality of roster he could select for a midweek friendly in a far-away place at the southern tip of Africa. That said, Bradley selected a defensive unit that was organized and limited the South Africans to few offensive opportunities. He also seems to be addressing key areas of concern for the US team moving forward.
It was too bad that Bradley decided to once again rely on the ineffective Findley but hopefully the additions of Bunbury and Agudelo will give the coach more options.
What was most positive from the coach is that he was willing to give the young players a chance to show what they could do in a hostile environment away from home. It took guts to go with Ream, Agudelo, Bunbury, and Diskerud but Bradley should get credit for doing so. He trusted them and it was the right move.
Yes it was just a friendly, but it's hard to underestimate the importance of tonight moving forward for the US national team. The young players were fearless despite limited experience both professional and with each other.
South Africa wanted to win this game badly. They filled the stadium to rally behind their team in the name of Nelson Mandela. Despite this, and despite bringing an experienced roster, they were stopped by a bunch of American kids. It not your typical friendly for those involved.
Bradley now moves forward with some more tools in his arsenal in the forward and defensive positions where they are sorely needed.
Some questioned why the US was playing this game in the first place and further pointed out that it wouldn't be a useful game. As it now stands, it may turn out to be an extremely important game as the team now has more important bricks upon which to lay its foundation for the 2014 cycle.