Wild American Gooner

When Sports Are More Than Just Sports

USA Player Grades

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Good morning, everyone. I’ve had a night to reflect on the World Cup campaign and my views haven’t really changed. This team did well. But the more I see of Chris Wondolowski’s chance, the more I feel an opportunity was really missed. But oh well. So I figure on a day with no action, a player-by-player grading will be the best way to examine the success of the United States in Brazil. To be clear, these are grades on the whole tournament, not just yesterday.

Grades (A-F)

Jozy Altidore – Incomplete It would be unfair to assign Altidore a grade. His hamstring injury in the opening minutes of the Ghana game proved fatal to his campaign, and his presence was sorely missed. Had he been fit for the Belgian game, things might have been different. For everyone’s sake, let’s hope Jozy gets another chance in 2018.

DeMarcus Beasley – B- For a player who had no experience playing defense as recently as eighteen months ago, the fact that the wily veteran started four games at left back is incredible. And for much of the tournament, he didn’t look out of place. He had some nervous moments against Ghana, and his crosses left a little to be desired, but overall, he was solid in defense.

Kyle Beckerman – B+ Beckerman had to be wondering what he did wrong to get left out for the Belgium game, because he was one of the U.S.’s most reliable players in the group stage. The veteran was particularly impressive in stopping the famed Portuguese counter attacks. His positioning was excellent, and he allowed Jermaine Jones the freedom to go forward. Klinsmann looks a genius for bringing him back into the fold.

Alejandro Bedoya – C+ Bedoya started three of the four games in Brazil, yet I can hardly recall a moment when he had a hand in an attack. The winger did his job covering the fullbacks, and was always committed to the cause. But the U.S. really could have used a little more from him going forward.

Matt Besler – B+ Besler has to be the surprise star of this World Cup cycle. His unexpected rise to being the first name on the team sheet in defense was earned through steady play at the back. He defended crosses well, was always positioned correctly and communicated impressively with the rotating cast of players beside him. Besler should have been stronger against Romelu Lukaku on Belgium’s opener in extra-time, and for that, he falls out of the A range. I believe a move to Europe could do wonders for Besler’s continued development.

Michael Bradley – C Bradley was not cut out for the number 10 role handed to him this year when playing against the world’s best. He was poor in possession and at times looked like he was completely lost on the field. He needed to step up in Altidore’s absence and he simply didn’t. A perfect ball to Julian Green in extra-time against Belgium and an impressive work rate will save him from complete embarrassment.

John Brooks – A- In his limited role, Brooks made quite an impact. His winning header off the bench against Ghana will go down as one of the great moments in U.S. soccer history. He’ll need to improve his consistency in the coming years, but he looks a talent in defense for the future.

Geoff Cameron – C+ Cameron got the start in central defense for the first two games, and struggled at times to clear the ball, giving up Portugal’s opener with a horrific error. A surprise start in central midfield against Belgium demonstrated his versatility, but it also showed Klinsmann needs to hand him a permanent position so that he can settle into the national team. Cameron’s European pedigree should have been an asset, but instead, he disappointed for much of his time in Brazil.

Timmy Chandler – N/A One of two field players not to see action, Chandler must improve to see time in the next cycle.

Brad Davis – C- Davis was a bit of a surprise inclusion in the squad, but as a spot kick specialist, he could have been valuable. In his one big opportunity, a start against Germany, he failed to make much of an impact. This could be his last time wearing the red, white and blue.

Clint Dempsey – A- Asked to play the role of a lone striker, Dempsey did his best and created a number of chances. His early goal against Ghana set the tone for the tournament, and his goal against Portugal was equally important. He will rue not converting the chance he had at the end of the Belgium game, but the U.S. couldn’t have asked for much more from their captain.

Mix Diskerud – N/A The other player to fail to see action, Diskerud will be disappointed. It seemed strange he wasn’t given a chance, because he was someone who could have provided some spark in the midfield. He will hope to remain a part of Klinsmann’s plans for the future.

Omar Gonzalez – B+ Gonzalez came into the tournament without a defined role, but by the end, he had rediscovered the form that made him seem like the U.S.’s best defender a year ago. He was particularly impressive against Belgium, always being in the right place. He and Besler look to be the pair in central defense for the considerable future.

Julian Green – A Green arrived with no expectations. He was expected to sit on the bench and soak everything in. But instead, he nearly saved the Americans’ life. His volley past Courtois right after coming on in extra-time against Belgium will spell big things for the teenager. His goal made Klinsmann look pretty smart for his selection. I think we’re all glad Green is committed to be an American soccer player.

Brad Guzan – N/A Guzan could have started for most teams in Brazil, but remains permanently behind Tim Howard, watching from the sidelines once again. He doesn’t complain, and he should be admired for that. It’s nice having assurance that if Howard goes down, Guzan will be ready. It looks doubtful that he’ll take over the number one shirt any time soon though.

Tim Howard – A+ Howard was simply incredible for the U.S. His performances between the posts were among the very best in Brazil. He kept the Americans in matches with unbelievable save after unbelievable save. At age 35, Howard still looks to be getting better. Let’s hope for everybody’s sake that Howard sticks around for a few more years.

Aron Johannsson – C- Much was expected form Johannsson in Brazil as a sort of super sub. But in his big chance, he failed to seize the opportunity to fill Altidore’s shoes. It was a big ask, but Johannsson was not ready to lead the line in Brazil. After that, it was notable that Wondolowski was preferred to Johannsson off the bench. In a few years, he might be our top striker, but in this World Cup, he could not do what we needed him to do.

Fabian Johnson – B+ Johnson was one of the United States’s best players in Brazil, constantly making dangerous runs down the right and sending in quality balls from the byline. In defense, he did well against the top talent he had to face. His injury against Belgium was unlucky, and the Americans really missed his dual-threat in his absence. He should be a regular for years to come.

Jermaine Jones – A Few would have pegged Jones as the U.S.’s best player going in, but the veteran midfielder was just that in Brazil. He was great defensively and was tremendous going forward throughout. He was constantly making dangerous runs and playing accurate balls in the final third. His beautiful equalizer against Portugal typified his tournament. Without Jones, the U.S. wouldn’t have had much of anything going in attack.

Nick Rimando – N/A The number three keeper will be happy to have been in Brazil.

Chris Wondolowski – C+ Wondolowski did almost everything right in his substitute appearances. He held up the ball nicely against Portugal, and his pass to Dempsey on the late set piece against Belgium was spot-on. However, he made one crucial mistake that will forever cloud his World Cup experience. When he should have scored the winning goal against Belgium, he shanked his kick. That could haunt him forever.

DeAndre Yedlin – B+ A surprise inclusion in the side, Yedlin proved his worth with a series of impressive substitute appearances. Especially against Portugal, his pace down the right changed the game. His suspect positioning against Belgium showed he still has a lot to learn, but he performed beyond anyone’s wildest expectations in Brazil. He is one to watch for the future.

Graham Zusi – C The U.S. counted on Zusi to help fill the boots of Landon Donovan, and he did not deliver. Apart from his corner against Ghana that produced John Brooks’s goal, his set pieces and crosses were horribly inaccurate. And in possession, he rarely made any decisive passes. His work rate and cover down the right were vital to the defense, but the U.S. needed a lot more from Zusi going forward.

Have a great day, everyone. I’ll share some thoughts on Jürgen Klinsmann later.

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