It certainly wasn't pretty, but the US national team were able to battle their way into the Concacaf Gold Cup final four with a measured 1-0 win over Curaçao in Philadelphia on Sunday night.
The home side started well before taking a 25th-minute lead on a well-worked Weston McKennie strike. There weren't many highlights to speak of after that, as the technically skilled underdogs took control of play.
As a periodic reminder, all marks are handed out on a scale with "6" as the average grade. The ratings are also relative to time spent on the field, meaning that a "7" earned over a full shift is more impressive than one earned for a 15-minute appearance.
Zack Steffen (6.5) — There were a couple of hairy first half moments for the US netminder, including hesitation to come out for a corner kick that gave the underdogs are free shot. Steffen pulled it all together from there, and earned his bacon with a lead-preserving save on a late Leandro Bacuna rocket.
Nick Lima (5.5) — It's not that there were any big mistakes. Lima was responsible defensively. But this team needs the right back in this set to have more impact on his forays forward.
Walker Zimmerman (6.5) — The LAFC defender was busiest and best at the back for the US, and in the first half he was even eating up positive space on the dribble. On the other hand, a couple of loose passes gifted Curaçao menacing fast breaks.
Aaron Long (5.5) — The New York Red Bulls center back was solid enough before the break, with a slick pick-pocket near the box the highlight. Long had some struggles in the second half, mostly in duels with Jafar Arias.
Tim Ream (6.5) — The Fulham man eliminated the defensive mistakes that have spoiled many of his caps to put in a sturdy positional showing. Though his passing game eventually faded, Ream was springing attacks down the left early, such as when his release feed to Pulisic started the play that led to the goal.
Michael Bradley (5) — The midfield general had his moments on the ball, but there were too many stray passes at the wrong time. Though Bradley excelled in defensive one-v-one situations, one would prefer the No. 6 isn't so easy to skate past in the center of the park so often.
Weston McKennie (7) — The Schalke youngster showed his wheels early and often, turning defense into counterattacks. McKennie also picked up on Pulisic's idea well to get in place for an easy headed winner. It wasn't all rosy, as he coughed up a couple bad turnovers and could be more consistent in transition defense.
Christian Pulisic (6.5) — While he didn't always find his cutting edge when time came for the final ball or shot, Pulisic still drove the team forward. The Chelsea attacker finally was able to cap a rush with a clever cross to pick out McKennie.
Tyler Boyd (4.5) — Once again, Boyd's movement around the final third caused headaches for the opponent's backline. Unfortunately, on this night he was simply unable to pick the right pass/cross or play with a threatening intent. The winger's grade gets a small lift from the fact that he works his tail off tracking back.
Paul Arriola (5) — Like so many of tonight's starters, Arriola's lively start turned snoozy. The DC United ace did play a couple of nice balls into the box, but even some of his completed passes made teammates work a little too hard in receiving.
Gyasi Zardes (4) — When the Columbus striker dropped very deep, his hold-up play was fine. It's when Zardes had to operate in the attacking zone that his indecisiveness and passing touch killed advances. He also squandered a pair of half-chances with misguided finishing.
Coach Gregg Berhalter (6) — Yes, it's possible that the boss' detailed structure played some part in the team's growing lack of intent as the game went on. However, I'm going to lay most of the team's sluggish post-goal forward thrust on the players' timidity and lack of precision. On the plus side, Berhalter definitely has the team shape organized when they drop into blocks.
Jordan Morris (5) — Given nearly a half hour to spark the US engine, Morris was largely invisible.
Omar Gonzalez (-) — A mere cameo.