The US national team did enough in a 1-0 Group G loss to Germany on Thursday to capture both a place in the sweet 16 at the 2014 World Cup and several positive grades on the report card.
The highly calculated gambles of Jurgen Klinsmann continued to pay off, but in the end his game plan proved the team was very comfortable backing into the knockout phase. Pretty or not, the coach led the US to consecutive group-stage passages for the first time in team history by setting defensive shape as the top priority. And whether anyone else believes in all his chess moves, the squad clearly does.
Tim Howard (6.5) - The US netminder was given no chance on Thomas Müller's goal, which unfortunately came directly on the heels of his best save of five. Howard did have a couple shaky boots in the swamp conditions, but he did well in smothering some low crosses in the early going.
Fabian Johnson (6.5) - The right back had a couple of early defensive hiccups, but then turned solid as can be. Johnson made a handful of big plays at the back in the second half. He was decent but not deadly when able to get forward, which was not often.
Omar Gonzalez (8) - Other than one bad pass near midfield, the Galaxy star was top-shelf. Gonzalez had a pair of ace sliding plays in the opening quarter-hour, a smart foul closer to halftime and a game-best 10 clearances. His hustle header just past halftime likely prevented a doorstep shot on goal.
Matt Besler (6.5) - For the first hour of the game, the Sporting KC defender was barely put to direct use and had a couple of lost marks when he was. Even though, he did ship a couple of sloppy passes up the middle in the final half-hour, the Besler we all saw in the first two group games re-appeared at the back to shine with a variety of strong disruptions of the German attack.
DaMarcus Beasley (7) - After allowing a bit much space as the weak-side defender in the early moments, Run DMB was in full effect. He tightened up on invaders to his corner, leading the team with three important tackles. Beasley also found more occasions to stretch his legs down the wing and completed 33 of 34 passes.
Kyle Beckerman (7.5) - The Real Salt Lake man was excellent defensively in the first half and even better after intermission. Beckerman stepped up to halt Germany moves all over the field (most of the time in legal ways). His slick 79th-minute theft on Mario Götze possibly saved bacon. With the exception of one bad giveaway in the waning moments, the midfielder moved the ball along safely.
Jermaine Jones (6) - The midfield dominator enjoyed a very involved, if imperfect, opening 25 minutes, then seemed to blend into the lawnwork for a long while. Jones was disciplined in the US shape all game long and rallied late for a couple of nice defensive efforts, but his influence on the ball was minimal in the second half.
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Michael Bradley (7) - The General was the only US player consistently able to release pressure and the only one repeatedly trying to ask questions of the Germany backline with his passes. He did flub one chance to wheel-and-deal with a bad touch that led to a bad tackle. Bradley also sprinkled in an important early box clearance and a tempting stoppage-time cross – the only one completed by the team in this game.
Graham Zusi (5) - The Sporting KC attacker was among the team's best performers over the opening 25 minutes, offering both strong defensive work and some nice counter touches. Then, apart from keeping shape in the US end, he faded fast and far until being removed late. Both of his corner-kick serves were poor and one of his three turnovers was particularly stressful.
Brad Davis (5) - The World Cup debutant had just 17 non-defensive touches in an hour's work and never got the chance to unleash any crosses or set pieces to trouble Germany. However, he took good care of the ball and proved a fairly capable defensive pest when the team dropped into fortress shape.
Clint Dempsey (6) - Unfortunately, Captain Deuce did not see the ball in any capacity for a full half-hour that spanned intermission. Dempsey did what he could when he could and went close to a scrappy equalizer even after taking a painful knock or two to his busted beak.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann (7) - As with the first two games, the boss is open to several levels of grading. He accomplished the task and the team smoothly operated in shape as one for the most part, but it was a low degree-of-difficulty plan. The biggest plus on his ledger went down for selecting Gonzalez, who pitched in with a heroic showing.
On the down side, it was quite frustrating to watch the US neglect to run at Benedickt Höwedes after he went into the book early. After another pair of toothless wide performances with the ball (and Julian Green still unused), one also cannot help but think the team is doing this all the harder way without Landon Donovan. Grimace or gripe if you will, but his strange absence is still a valid issue.
Alejandro Bedoya (5.5) - The wing sub's first touch was a bad turnover, quickly followed by a cover foul. After that, Bedoya cleaned up his overall act for a half hour, even if he might have picked a different trajectory for his late shot opportunity.
DeAndre Yedlin (6) - It was a brief appearance, but finally someone went back to forcing Howedes into turns. This factor helped the team manufacture a dangerous late rush.