By Greg Seltzer
GENOA, Italy — The aftermath of the US men's national team's first-ever win over Italy on Wednesday is proving almost as fun as the event, and most of the report cards reflect that.
It looked as though Azzurri ace Andrea Pirlo was getting around to giving the home side's "B+" side the lead, but the visitors made sure that never happened. The Yanks played confidently enough in their own right to allow red, white and blue-hot Clint Dempsey to fire up the victory celebration.
As a periodic reminder, "6" is the average mark. All ratings are relative to match time played, with a 90-minute "7" standing higher than one given for 15 minutes.
Tim Howard (7) - It was very unlike the Everton star to have a couple of early calamities dealing with both the bouncing ball and an Azzurri onrusher, but fortunately he got away with them. After those nervous opening moments, it was Howard business as usual.
Steve Cherundolo (7) - Back in his corner, 'Dolo kept things rather tidy. Offensively, the Hannover 96 skipper was hampered by having a defensive midfielder up his flank. Cherundolo managed to rush forward into great crossing position once, but over-hit it.
Clarence Goodson (6.5) - There were times when he needed help or good fortune (and got it) dealing with Pirlo's paintbrush. However, Goodson more often than not was clearing attacks (even when he looked in trouble).
Carlos Bocanegra (8.5) - The captain was in total command, so he deserves a salute. Nearly flawless on the night, Bocanegra even managed to make a couple of big plays when he'd initially been beaten.
Fabian Johnson (6.5) - I'll admit to grumbling and shaking my head when the line-up sheet was handed to me. But fair is fair, and Johnson was largely fair. He found plenty of time to press into attack, contributed to the winner and eventually settled in at the back as a disruptor. It's those repeated issues in his corner over the opening half hour and the fact that he'd rather wiggle into the area on the dribble than cross that keeps my mind made up he should be properly played on the wing. Not budging on that, would rather he not have to travel so far to get to the area.
Maurice Edu (7) - Mo has gotten smoother as a guided missile defensive midfielder almost every time out for months now, both with club and country. His ability to periodically dip into attack is less convincing, though.
Michael Bradley (8.5) - I'll guess that I've been in the stands to watch Mikey "clock in" about 30-35 times. He may have two or three better overall performances than he had on Wednesday. The fully apparent fun he was having bossing midfield in the second half, however, stands numero uno.
Daniel Williams (5.5) - It seems so unfair to grade him for playing out wide, but of course we'll go right ahead with it. Williams actually performed a couple of genuine offensive intent actions this time, but the best we can say is still that he's sure one fine track-back wing man.
Clint Dempsey (8) - Deuce was filled with intent if not terribly effective before the break. He was just softening them up. Gianluigi Buffon, who hardly stood a chance on Dempsey's shot from 18 yards out, might want to start checking underneath his bed for the American; he was a monster post halftime.
Brek Shea (5.5) - To be fair, he was probably up against the second-best Italy player on the night, Christian Maggio. Shea's still a work in progress, but this match will help his art form.
Jozy Altidore (7) - I keep telling everyone how his passing is so underrated. This striker feeds an easy pass to hit. Altidore also did the hold-up work, showing again that AZ was the right move.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann (8) - As noted here, there are are still questions about his field placement for players. That unpleasantness out of the way, this team now plays out of the back until holding a 1-0 lead in the waning moments. This team now goes out on the Luigi Ferraris pitch and "plays football" like it expects to grab the game against an Italy, no matter who may be missing.
Yeah. You saw it. And you also saw why Klinsmann makes the big bucks.
Sacha Kljestan (6) - I'm not exactly sure what he's supposed to do on left wing, other than help at the back. And there ya go.
Jonathan Spector (8) - There aren't many 13-minute shifts that practically seal victory, some don't even get a grade. Spector may need an exorcism because he was possessed in the final minutes. He blocked, poked away or shoulder-bumped silly anything that came near him as the hosts scrambled for an equalizer that never came.
Terrence Boyd (-) - After the match, he still looked in a daze walking to the team bus. That about sums up his cameo, but I have a new research project to find the last international player in the world to get his debut cap before appearing for a club first team - which likely explains the cameo.
Edson Buddle (-) The guy with the shortest shift did manage to kill a bit of time.