USMNT Player Ratings: Brooks, Beckerman, Zusi among those who made grade vs. Ghana
The US national team stunned Ghana early and late, with plenty of suffering in between, to exact World Cup revenge with a Group G-opening 2-1 win on Monday.
Clint Dempsey staked the US to a quick lead, which held until the late going. Unbowed, the team regrouped to cap an imperfect performance with a perfect ending.
As a periodic reminder: the ratings are given on a scale with "6" representing an average performance. All marks are also relative to time played, meaning a 90-minute "7" is more impressive than a "7" given for a 15-minute shift.
Tim Howard (7) - The US netminder mostly came up big, despite needing to make just two saves. Howard raced off his line to make a big play in the 13th minute, eagerly claimed five crosses and added a strong punch. He gets dinged a half-point for getting beaten by a blistering finish while leaning far-side.
Fabian Johnson (6) - It was a solid showing from the right back, despite the fact that he watched so much of the play from the quieter flank. His lone demerit came on the Ghana goal, when he was burned for falling asleep for a second on Andre Ayew. Johnson didn't get forward often, but caused trouble nearly every time he did, including a hard-fought corner kick win to help set up the Brooks decider.
Geoff Cameron (7) - The Stoke City ace, who led all players with 14 clearances, was monstrous over the final half hour and is probably the one player on that side who can't be faulted on the goal. Cameron also pitched in with one big block and a smoothly successful last-man challenge in the late going. On the negative side, the center back got away with badly losing his mark on both 17 and 56 minutes.
Matt Besler (6.5) - Before leaving at halftime with an injury, Besler was largely solid at the back. His positioning and help defense kept things tidier than they could have been. Aside from a bad giveaway near halftime, the Sporting KC defender moved the ball well.
DaMarcus Beasley (5) - The left back did not match his defensive intensity from the Nigeria friendly, leaving crossers on his side far too much space. He did improve in this area after the break, though. Beasley typically moved the ball along safely without great impact.
Kyle Beckerman (7) - The Real Salt Lake grinder came up with a strong physical outing that was a key to victory. Beckerman repeatedly made plays around the US box, from big interceptions to cool pressure valve passes. His importance was elevated with Bradley struggling in front of him and the team allergic to possession.
Alejandro Bedoya (7) - One of six World Cup debutants in the lineup, Bedoya was the ignition switch to nearly every first half rush after the opening goal. The Nantes man dribbled across seams, coolly shipped outlets to the wing on the pivot and put dangerous balls into the box. After intermission, he turned into a defensive workhorse.
Jermaine Jones (5.5) - It was not a great first half from Jones, who seemed positively timid by his standards. Though his touch to Dempsey rung up a cheap assist, he failed to provide Beasley ample help before halftime and also was found slow to close down distance shooters in his zone after it. The second frame was better and he did finish the game exerting more influence.
Michael Bradley (4.5) - His most uncharacteristic US showing in a long, long time. Bradley managed to nudge his grade up a little after the winner, but there was a lot worth scratching your head before that. The Toronto FC star was among the culpable on the Ghana equalizer, one of several occasions when shots were generated too freely through his zone. There were also bad giveaways and missed tackles, and ultimately here's hoping this was an aberration obscured by victory.
Clint Dempsey (7) - The skipper went missing for long stretches, but expertly displayed his value on both goal plays. First, Dempsey exploited a sleepy Ghana defense to artistically bag the opener. Then, after absorbing a kung fu kick to the nose, Deuce slyly dragged two defenders into no-man's land to free Brooks for the winner.
Jozy Altidore (6) - Though he barely had a chance to make an impact in 23 minutes, Altidore certainly looked willing before pulling up lame. Even with the three points, USMNT observers will be sweating the path out of group play if he's ruled out.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann (5) - There are many layers to this grade, let's start with the good. There's no doubt the team came to battle and fought to the end. His backline choices and the decision to start Beckerman almost entirely paid off.
On the other hand, the diamond midfield was again highly ineffective, ceding 62 percent of the ball to Ghana. When they had possession, there was little organization. In a bad omen for this group, the left side was particularly generous in the defensive end. The early goal and Altidore injury changed things unexpectedly, but the US is not likely to get out of this group playing rope-a-dope, if only because of the physical toll required.
Speaking of muscle aches, the coach's decision not to bring a backup target forward is already costing the team. All in all, it's not unfair to say the team won despite the overly tiring gameplan.
Aron Johannsson (5) - The AZ hitman didn't adequately spell old teammate Altidore as a hold-up player and that's what was sorely in need as dictated by the situation.
John Brooks (7) - The green center back's first action was a clearance whiff that could have turned fatal. After that, Brooks turned into a boss. In addition to forcefully nodding home the winning goal (and the priceless reaction that followed), the Hertha Berlin prodigy also pitched in with seven clearances and some key tackles.
Graham Zusi (7) - This space is not a big fan of out-swinging corner kicks. But hey, if you're going to hit them as textbook as Zusi did in the waning moments, we'll take it. The Sporting Kansas City midfielder also did some good build work, but considering the circumstances, his headlines will all be about the clutch assist.