The US men’s national team committed a carnival of mistakes at the back during the first half, and it was more than enough encouragement for friendly visitors Venezuela to waltz away with a 3-0 victory on Sunday afternoon.
Netminder Zack Steffen and each of his three main defenders took turns piling up errors as La Vinotinto cruised to that large lead within 36 minutes. The hosts looked better after the break, but were unable to close the gap and suffered their second straight shutout defeat.
Zack Steffen (3.5) — I won't even hazard a guess at what Steffen thought he was doing on the dirt cheap, straight-up-the-gut giveaway that gifted Venezuela the opener, but that simply cannot happen in a competitive match. Ever.
Nick Lima (6.5) — The San Jose right back was rather vanilla in the opening frame, but spiced things up a good bit after the break. Lima was responsible enough defensively and served a couple of extremely dangerous crosses, including one midway through the second half that truly deserved a finish.
Matt Miazga (4) — It was a strange outing from Miazga, who repeatedly wandered out of position. This hurt most when his ill-advised diagonal charge off the back line left a gaping chasm for Jefferson Savarino to exploit on the second goal.
Aaron Long (3.5) — Though there's no sympathy relief in the grade given here, it's well worth noting that Long is just back from a month on the shelf with a hamstring ailment. However, that doesn't really explain how he over-ran Salomon Rondon's weakly-shot first, or how he was slow to slide over to the space vacated by Miazga on Savarino's goal, or his being bamboozled in the area by Rondon on his second of the day. Hopefully, the 45 minutes of action at least allowed him to get those legs stretched out.
Tim Ream (2) — After getting away early with blown coverage on a run-of-the-mill long ball, Ream committed the cardinal sin of spectating on not one, but two goal leaks. He was among the stationary ball watchers as Savarino potted his own rebound and made no effort to get back in the play on Venezuela's third. That simply won't fly, folks. And if he's not going to offer his usual incisive passing out of the back, his value to the side becomes highly limited.
Wil Trapp (4) — The coach's insistence on leaving Trapp to guard the gate solo is a problem. That's just not Trapp's game, and he accordingly did little to slow Venezuela through the middle on this day. The Columbus skipper did start opening up the game with his patented outlet passing over the final 55 minutes or so, but it still wasn't enough.
Cristian Roldan (5) — Like many of his teammates, the Seattle midfielder was poor in the first half. Roldan definitely lifted his game after intermission, providing some nice link play and a couple of good set-ups. As with Trapp, though, his lack of defensive presence in central park remains a problem, especially against teams that like to break in transition.
Weston McKennie (6.5) — There were times in the first half where it seemed like McKennie was the only US player behind the front line that was operating with a pulse. He was the author of most of the team's physical challenges over his 62 minutes and threatened to score with a couple solid tries on frame. It would be nice, however, if he was more insistent in the build game.
Tyler Boyd (6) — The debutant earns his average mark largely for the handful of tempting crosses and restart serves he provided. They were extra important because Boyd was the sole source of US chances in the first half. The disappointing part of this showing was that he neglected to run at defenders on the few occasions he had one-v-one space to operate.
Paul Arriola (4) — The last 20 minutes of the game were far and away Arriola's best of the day, as he came reasonably close on a couple of area chances. Before that, his performance was quite frustrating. Early on, he bailed out on a particularly good Miazga long ball to the edge of Venezuela's box when it looked like there was a good shot at scoring. Later on, he spurned a golden doorstep chance by skying over when it should have been difficult to miss. In between those letdowns, the D.C. United winger offered precious little.
Gyasi Zardes (6) — It's a bit difficult to judge the starting striker because he had so few touches and the team simply missed a couple of really good runs he made. Even so, Zardes contributed what he could. He didn't flub any of his hold-up touches and even raced all the way back to make a strong early defensive intervention near the US area.
Coach Gregg Berhalter (2) — Okay... I don't enjoy doing this, but with the new boss' first tournament in charge up next, it's tough talk time. It seems very likely that Berhalter is putting system over sense. We've heard a lot of talk about how detail-oriented he is and how he's giving the players a ton of information to process. That's great stuff when you're a club manager and get to work with the same group every day for months on end.
In the international game, one has to seriously weigh the risks in over-strategizing (especially when they haven't nailed down the simple stuff). It sure seems like it is making this team slow of thought and action, and really, we're not even sure this particular game plan actually works. When you add the considerable matter of sticking with certain players that have shown they're not up for the jobs assigned to them, it's time for at least a partial re-think here. The chosen wrinkle is clever in some situations. To automatically force it as the default setting? Maybe not so clever.
Jozy Altidore (7) — The US attack found new life after the Toronto FC star came on at halftime. One might normally bemoan the fact that Altidore dropped out of the box so often, but how can we be too mad when his quarterbacking spawned more good looks at goal than the team had seen in its previous 135 minutes of play this week?
Walker Zimmerman (6.5) — After seeing the mistake circus of the first half, Zimmerman entered to play some no-nonsense soccer at the back. It was very welcome.
Jordan Morris (5.5) — The 62nd-minute sub carved out a nice chance for himself shortly after coming on, only to curl it a little wide. After that, Morris was rather quiet.
Duane Holmes (6) — The Derby County attack handyman wasn't as crisp in attack as he was against Jamaica, but he certainly comes to play on both sides of the ball.