It will be a hot-and-cold stack of report cards handed out after the US national team were forced to rally from yet another slow start for a 1-1 Gold Cup group stage closing draw with Panama on Monday.
While the Nats had already clinched first place in Group A and the visitors were desperate for a result, a more sound effort should be expected from the defending champs. This time, the USMNT trailed by a 52-48 margin in the possession game at halftime; of course, it's never a good sign when the trio of Ventura Alvarado, John Anthony Brooks and Timothy Chandler ship over 50 percent of your team's passes in an opening half. Even so, Brad Guzan held the fort until "now he's here, now he's there" attacker Alejandro Bedoya's persistence paid off for a share.
Brad Guzan (7.5) - It can be quite difficult to tend goal in a game with long periods of inactivity followed by sudden flurries of action, so Guzan scrapes an extra half-point here. A first half double-save was big, as was a diving stop with 15 minutes to go. There was also a couple of strong punches and the Aston Villa 'keeper distributed smoothly.
Timothy Chandler (4.5) - Aside from a wretched turnover near midfield, Chandler was considerably better after the break and his entry passes to the final third are very helpful. Still, it was not a good night overall for the right back. Another terrible giveaway led to a yellow card, and that may have been the least of his problem incidents in the first half.
Ventura Alvarado (5.5) - Let's talk about night and day, shall we? Alvarado's opening frame was a disaster. He was turned by the crosser on Panama's goal, put a clumsy scare into Guzan to initiate a shooting range in the US area, was pulled out of position and so on. On the other hand, despite being lured into a booking by Blas Pérez, the Club América center back was downright fantastic after intermission. Did something click? Because he made every back line play in the book over the final 45 minutes.
John Anthony Brooks (5.5) - The Hertha Berlin defender was burned twice on the Panama goal, with falling asleep on Pérez in the box his larger crime. It was not at all a good opening period for Brooks, but like his partner, he turned terrific in the second half. The kid can sure pull off some athletic clearances.
Fabian Johnson (7) - The left back was as solid as could be all night long. It's a shame the team hardly seemed to notice he was present for the first 50 minutes of the contest. Nevertheless, Johnson defended well and got forward more often as the game progressed. If there is any mild complaint, he was bailed out by strong teammate tackles while caught up on two occasions.
Kyle Beckerman (5) - It was a second straight un-Beckerman-like start from the midfielder, who was again guilty of a few turnovers in bad spots. He was also pulled far out of his station on the Panama goal play. However, the Real Salt Lake veteran did pull his act together nicely over the final 20 minutes.
Alejandro Bedoya (7.5) - Plain and simple, the Nantes workhorse was responsible for nearly all of the US industry on the night, capped by a cool as a cucumber assist for the equalizer. The home attack basically went through whichever channel he happened to inhabit at a given moment. A pair of poor turnovers dings his grade a little, which might be harsh considering he also added a couple of good tackles in the US end.
Alfredo Morales (5.5) - It certainly wasn't a bad first half from the Ingolstadt ace. He just wasn't central to the action, which was busy going up and down Bedoya's wing.
Michael Bradley (7) - While his first half was a bit bland and there were a couple of uncharacteristic giveaways, Bradley got better as the game continued. He was rewarded for his hard work and traffic-direction by finishing off the leveler.
Gyasi Zardes (6.5) - After being nearly invisible for the first 45 minutes, Zardes routinely got involved in the build after the break. The Galaxy forward also played a minor linking role on the goal play.
Chris Wondolowski (6.5) - Even though he fumbled away his clever throw-in attempt to break in alone, Wondo had a decent first half for barely seeing the ball. Twice, the precision on his release touch sent Bedoya running off on a raid.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann (5) - It's hard to ignore that the 4-4-2 diamond variations he's run lately have led to a string of poor opening frames. The spacing regularly leaves gaps in the US half and longer passes to get forward. Yes, Klinsmann eventually pushed the right buttons and most everything got tighter after the pause, but the team can't keep taking 35-60 minutes to find its favored rhythm.
DeAndre Yedlin (5.5) - The right-sider needs no more than his speed and aggressiveness change game situations, to be sure. On this night, though, Yedlin could have harnessed it a little better to finish plays.
Clint Dempsey (7) - Whatever the game climate (both literal and figurative), Dempsey keeps the engine chugging somehow. Tonight, he improvised a spinning fall-away pass for the secondary assist on the US equalizer.
Aron Jóhannsson (6.5) - The AZ Alkmaar forward looked hungry to produce off the bench. His link play repeatedly helped move the team into dangerous positions.