All set to come home with sub-par report cards, the US national team were bailed out late by Sean Johnson, Landon Donovan and a pair of subs to claim Group A with a 1-0 win against Costa Rica on Tuesday night.
Despite making several lineup changes, the home side showed first half flashes of excellence; no small feat against a Ticos side that came to play aggressively. Though it probably took too long by the schedule of US fans' nerves, their boys eventually maintained a perfect 2013 Gold Cup record thanks to the first international goal of Brek Shea's career in the waning moments.
GK Sean Johnson (7.5) – The Fire man's huge save with 10 minutes to go set the stage for the US winner at the other end. After that, Johnson comfortably gobbled up a deflected restart to preserve the win.
RB Michael Parkhurst (5.5) – He got forward to good effect a couple of times in the first half, but a bit more is expected in this area. Parkhurst was largely solid at at the back, though a late card offense offered up a dangerous free kick.
CB Michael Orozco Fiscal (6) – Forgive me if you're not up on recent Colombia/Inter Milan history, but the kid is starting to give off an Ivan Cordoba vibe as a central defender. He's a tiny pest and then moves the ball safely along to those better equipped to use it.
CB Clarence Goodson (6.5) – He made showier plays in the first half, but remained steady after the break. Balls in the air against the Ticos attack? Fuhgeddaboutit.
LB DaMarcus Beasley (6) – Like Goodson, the vet stood out more before intermission. That being said, he's starting to get the defensive hang of left back – even if he still puts himself into positions needing hustling recovery plays.
CM Stuart Holden (5) – Perhaps due to the lack of a true defensive midfielder on the field, the Bolton ace was even more polite in the passing game than against Cuba. Holden also found missing on a few Costa Rica fast breaks.
CM Mikkel Diskerud (5.5) – Mix got off to a bright start, but gradually faded a good bit. Even more than Holden, he requires the security of a destroyer at his back to put his buckle on swash.
RW Alejandro Bedoya (5.5) – He played a couple of very dangerous balls that went lacking for a finish in the box, but was in and out of the game during his 80 minutes. Bedoya's possession work was quite good in the first half, though.
LW Jose Francisco Torres (6.5) – Another player who was clearly better in the first half, Torres did have one highlight after the break, a free kick that was bravely clawed out of the corner by Ticos netminder Patrick Pemberton. He did eventually have a coupe shoddy turnovers before leaving with 13 minutes left.
FWD Landon Donovan (7) – While the LA star was quiet for long stretches, he calmly and expertly led Shea to the winner. Donovan also served some tempting restarts that deserved better.
FWD Chris Wondolowski (4.5) – Not only was the San Jose sniper unable to get on the end of several fine first half serves, a few of his touches killed promising rushes. For having less than 20 touches, that's a lot of oops.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann (5) – Sections of the first half were passable and the last 10 minutes won the day, but basic structural defects in the lineup had bad effect. Klinsi gave two central midfielders the work of three and, predictably, they could not always keep up. Because of that, the US constantly tried to advance straight up the flank, a tendency that often forced the forwards to act as spectators.
On the positive side of the ledger, playing Johnson paid off in more than one way and, once again, his subs made a difference when it counted. Of course, that habit also makes one wonder what it could be like if the starting group clicked as well more often.
LW Brek Shea (7.5) – Cool touch? Check. Cool finish? Plenty good enough. Shea also gave his wingback fits to kill time after the goal.
FWD Herculez Gomez (-) – It was an incredibly quiet 13-minute shift.
RW Joe Corona (6.5) – On the other hand, Tijuana teammate Corona cleared restart pressure by unleashing Donovan on the winning play. On the down side, he would later get away with a wretched turnover near midfield.