The US Olympic team did the unthinkable on Monday night, grabbing an early qualifying exit from the jaws of victory against El Salvador.
After suffering, if not asking for, the worst hangover in Under-23 history, it would be easy to go into red-pen rage mode on the report card. But we are here to objectively rate cumulative performances, which means (gulp) choking back the crushing disappointment to be scientific.
Bill Hamid (4.5) – Though he wasn't helped much on either goal allowed before his substitution, both shots were stoppable. Frankly, Hamid looked a bit tentative attacking shooters the whole tourney.
Kofi Sarkodie (4.5) – The Houston Dynamo man generally battled true in his own end and attempted to raid the other. However, he was also among the complicit on both first-half goal breakdowns.
Ike Opara (4) – For most of the first 80 minutes and change, the center back was making the necessary plays. Of course, we're also still trying to figure out why he pulled his foot away from the set-up pass on the second goal and bemoaning his late sloppiness.
Perry Kitchen (5.5) – Not to sound like a broken record, but Kitchen finally looked a proper center back until the waning moments. Even then, his biggest crime was not showing command. It may get lost in the disappointment, but this was a positive step for the D.C. United handyman.
Jorge Villafaña (4.5) – On the other hand, it was a small step back for the left-side defender. While his flank work helped the US forge a rally, Villafaña also lost his man at inopportune moments – including the blindfolded back-post marking on El Salvador's second.
Amobi Okugo (4) – If we graphed this midfield outing for quality, it would look like a mountain range on the paper. Okugo took a reckless early card, then showed some fine build up skills, then flirted with being sent off, then erased several rushes ... you get the idea. Sadly, his night ended in a deep valley where he was far too eager to give the ball away in the last minute of stoppage time.
Mikkel Diskerud (5) – Until the end, his smooth passing and ability to ride challenges was key to implementing the game plan. As the game closed, Mix was being caught up too easily.
Joe Corona (5.5) – Mostly invisible in the first half – apart from ditching his corner-kick post unsuccessfully – Corona was key to the US rally. The reward for his hard work after the break came with what should have been the winning header.
Freddy Adu (7.5) – Though he may have gone solo too often in the first half, the lead playmaker practically willed his side back in front. Can you remember the last US international to deliver inch-perfect assists with both feet in one tournament match? Us neither.
Brek Shea (6.5) – With the mohawked one starting the game as if shot from an espresso cannon, El Salvador were lucky to only suffer one leaked goal from his industry. One down note: For a guy that routinely makes fine track-back plays, he was sorely absent in that regard toward the end.
Terrence Boyd (8) – Sure, we can talk about a couple turnovers and a silly card, but that would be ignoring the Borussia Dortmund forward's true impact. The first of Boyd's two outstanding finishes was almost modern dance, reaching behind his run's momentum to volley perfection with the weaker foot. The second was cool, but deadly, with the pressure mounted.
Coach Caleb Porter (3) – Taken as an entire 90-minute game, the boss' grade wouldn't actually be that bad. The devil here is in the details. From a match management standpoint, the coach can't make field flubs. Still, it's wrong to take foot off the pedal when your 4-3-3 is running rampant – that's Total Football 101, even if it goes against our natural (or is it national?) soccer instinct.
The biggest problem, however, happened before kickoff of the first game of this tournament. Of 20 players, just three were either a center back or true defensive midfielder. Meanwhile, one of four wingbacks and one of four forwards called never played in the tourney. As we pick up the pieces from this disappointment, it cannot be ignored that the roster was not properly staffed for the job from the go. That buck stops here.
Sean Johnson (2) – All us scribes were set to write how the Chicago Fire man came to the rescue. And then ... the record scratched so very loudly. The Bill Buckner Show is not the kind of program one expects from Johnson, which only makes it hurt worse for him and US fans.
Michael Stephens (-)
Joseph Gyau (-)