US Player Ratings: Johnson, Gordon carry subpar Yanks
On a marvelous night for long-lost returnee Eddie Johnson, there are still many questions and as many low grades following a last-gasp 2-1 win against World Cup qualifying hosts Antigua & Barbuda.
Despite having 76 percent of the ball on the night, much of it was frustrating for the visitors in one way or another. There were far more problems at the back than one would expect for this match-up and an awkward alignment slowing the build.
And then, there was Johnson, who capped a fine outing with one powerful stress-reliever of a goal near time.
Tim Howard (6.5) - The netminder notched a couple of tidy saves and was proactive off his line on a potentially fatal backline breakdown in the first half.
Steve Cherundolo (6.5) - The right back didn't get himself to the opposing corner much, but made some important help plays at the back.
Clarence Goodson (4.5) - After slipping to set free the home side's scorer, the Brøndby skipper got into trouble on several Antigua rushes. Goodson did well to win some balls in the air, but cleared a few of them meekly.
Geoff Cameron (4.5) - The handyman was better in central defense after the break, but there were some serious breakdowns in the opening frame, including getting badly burned by the crosser on the goal.
Carlos Bocanegra (4.5) - The captain was pulled out and beaten for pace several times wide left. Like Cherundolo, Bocanegra wasn't a factor moving into attack.
Daniel Williams (4.5) - His brand of offensive play from defensive midfield was hampered by the odd spine set-up, so he played very safe with the ball. Conversely, Williams left the gate open too often on Antigua counters.
Michael Bradley (6.5) - While it was not a vintage performance from Il Generale, he was easily the most insistent US player at initiating attack from midfield. Bradley also shaved the post with a good shot from distance, but could have been more help when the hosts broke out.
Graham Zusi (6.5) - The right-sider enjoyed a strong first half, with one fine cross notching an assist and another that could have. After the break, Zusi faded a good bit.
Eddie Johnson (8) - It would have been enough on this night to bag two springboard headers, each by outhustling a defender to the ball. Johnson did far more, providing troublesome effort on both flanks.
Clint Dempsey (5.5) - Deuce's link play was fairly good in a difficult formation. On the other hand, his play in and around the area was mostly uninspired and uninspiring.
Herculez Gomez (5) - The striker barely saw the ball before intermission, and then played like it after. When sharper, you'd expect him to score on the Dempsey through ball.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann (4) - The late goal may have saved his bacon from a result standpoint, but the boss must take responsibility for a sizable amount of an often-brutal struggle.
The Bocanegra-to-left back decision backfired and the overall defensive organization was embarrassing. Part of the latter's cause was a counterproductive "vertical spine" configuration that opened holes while also stunting the ability to make quick moves into attack or down the wing.
All in all, it was a terribly ugly win. He kept ‘em guessing by playing Johnson at midfield, but even with that, the hitman’s brace came off of set-pieces, not possession. The build-up play that’s long been promised is still nowhere to be found.
Jermaine Jones (4.5) - On top of a silly yellow card that teed up a danger free kick, his forward passing game was ineffective.
Alan Gordon (7) - Flipping the supposed script, the strike sub served a perfect cross to set up the winner.
Sacha Kljestan (6.5) - Not content to be wasted wide, the Anderlecht man wandered inside to scare the 'keeper with a swerving shot on goal in the rain. Kljestan also found Gordon with a good touch from a throw-in on the winning play.