Player Ratings: Attack finally clicks against Slovenia
While there were some mistakes to moan over, there was more to celebrate after the US national team fought their way to a 3-2 victory in Slovenia.
The Americans bagged three goals during a back-and-forth first half in which Jurgen Klinsmann’s side showed considerable life. Defensive issues cropped up after the break, but the Yanks tightened things up late to head back to their respective clubs as winners on a cold, foggy night in Ljubljana.
As a periodic reminder, the grading scale here uses an average mark of "6" and there is a match degree-of-difficulty factor in play.
Tim Howard (7) - While he must bear some responsibility for that one set-piece snooze as the defense conductor, Howard mostly shined with a couple of tough stops in the second half as heavy fog affected visibility.
Steve Cherundolo (5.5) - The first half was vintage Cherundolo from end to end. After the break, he had repeated issues on the defensive side of things.
Clarence Goodson (5) - He was near spotless until intermission, especially dealing with high balls speculatively hoofed his way through the fog. In the first half of the second period, however, Goodson caught the same sloppy bug that claimed Cherundolo and was beaten several times. Over the final portion of the game, he got back to keeping things tidy, making an important poke-away near the end.
Carlos Bocanegra (4) - While all congratulations are due for the skipper on hitting the century mark in caps, he may have been a bit too excited. Bocanegra oddly abandoned his post several times, opening spaces that led to both Slovenia goals. On the plus side, his distribution was quite good, with a few sinister, pressure-valve passes to set the US running.
Timothy Chandler (4.5) - If the right side of the US defense got sleepy at times, the left side was a bit hyper. Getting up the field and joining the attack is great, just not so much when you often turn the ball over to the inside. Though his lefty crossing had more snap on the night, Chandler again struggled at times to hold the line on his off wing.
Kyle Beckerman (6.5) - There were definitely times over the first hour when it was far too easy for Slovenia to work the gut. But when Beckerman was in position to halt the ball, he generally did so effectively. The Real Salt Lake ace also improved with his lead passing as the game progressed. All things considered, it was a clear step forward for him.
Michael Bradley (7) - While he was a bit timid all night when it came to playing the incisive ball, Bradley generally was his usual time-keeping self in midfield. There were a few hairy incidents, but most of his restart serves asked questions — one of which was answered by Clint Dempsey for the second goal.
Fabian Johnson (7.5) - Providing all the elements of a winger, the Hoffenheim trickster was an absolute headache for the Slovenia defense. Johnson forced a save, offered dangerous centering feeds (one of which should have been an assist), earned the winning spot kick and repeatedly had the guys in the white Charlie Brown shirts screaming "AAUGH!"
Clint Dempsey (7) - A high-motor, mean, yapping, insistent and physical play en route to goal with the persistence to finally bank one of those chances ... just cut to the chase and call it a "Deuce" from now on.
Jozy Altidore (6.5) - While Jozy's attack impact waned after the break, he remained largely clean and smart in the hold-up game, a clear effect of his AZ schooling. Of course, Altidore also buried a textbook penalty kick after deftly sending Samir Handanovic lunging the wrong way. Should have had an 11th-minute goal, though.
Edson Buddle (7) - Well, hello there! Buddle's razzle eventually un-dazzled some, but he did enough to thrill before halftime. His goal was pure sniper heaven, and his work keyed several early danger advances. On the down side, there were a few troublesome turnovers on hold-up occasions.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann (6.5) - This is a tricky grade. There were several things to enjoy, such as the overall quickness in regards to ball movement. Still, it would be unwise to get overly excited by some goals and a victory over Slovenia. The formation change paid off, but it also posed new problems. In the final analysis, the team managed the final half hour fairly well to claim the victory, which has to count for something. Results are not important right now, so long as you do get some from time to time. A win here was important, but there is plenty more work to be done.
Brek Shea (5.5) - He definitely needs a breather, but the FC Dallas youngster came out to battle for 30 minutes. Shea still needs to tune those final balls more finely.
Maurice Edu (6) - Mo made a few plays to help close out the win, likely his direct instruction upon entering.
Jermaine Jones (-) - Only a cup of coffee out there.
Robbie Rogers (-) - A mere sip for the Columbus Crew winger.