USMNT Player Ratings: High marks all around with Pulisic & Zardes tops


 

The US national team busted open a close game in the second half to run away with a cathartic 6-0 victory over Concacaf Gold Cup Group D foes Trinidad & Tobago in Cleveland on Saturday night. 

Aaron Long and Gyasi Zardes each scored twice to lead the rout, while Christian Pulisic and sub Jordan Morris logged a pair of assists apiece. The home side required about 40 minutes to get the party truly started, but eventually looked better in attack than they have since the Soca Warriors rudely spoiled their World Cup 2018 qualification drive 20 months ago. Gregg Berhalter's boys owned two-thirds of possession, passed at a sterling 88% clip and fired 14 shots either on frame or off the woodwork in posting their biggest win since March of 2017.

Zack Steffen (7) Sporting the captain's armband for the first time, Steffen had little to do for an hour. He obviously wasn't bothered by the inactivity, making a solid stop on Kevin Molino look easy to protect what was still a one-goal lead in the 63rd minute. Moments later, he fought off a swerving Alvin Jones free kick drive to preserve the shutout.

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Nick Lima (6.5) — There were a couple of worrisome episodes in defense for the US right back, most notably when he bit too hard to the middle on a counter and left acres of space for a charging Trinidad & Tobago player. Still, Lima was largely tidy on the ball and got forward often to support the attack. A pinpoint headed centering feed on the team's first insurance tally lifted his grade slightly above passing.

Walker Zimmerman (6.5) — The LAFC center back was his side's top defensive performer in the first half and kept things simple playing out of the back.

Aaron Long (7.5) — The reigning MLS Defender of the Year was a bit shaky over the opening 40 minutes, including when he recovered from an overzealous step toward midfield by racing back to block a shot in the area. Everything changed after Long rammed home the first goal of the game. He turned into a foreboding presence at the back, and then capped the win by hearkening back to his midfield days to help build and eventually finish the team's final goal.

Tim Ream (6) — The Fulham veteran had a couple of early hiccups at the back, but cleaned things up from there and added in some solid passes up the flank. 

Michael Bradley (7.5) — The Toronto FC skipper was another player who overcame a couple early mistakes (his were bad turnovers in the US end) to rally for a positive overall showing. Bradley continually fed diagonal passed to the flanks, with the best of the lot picking out Lima for the assist mentioned above. He also dropped back into the box to make a couple of important interventions while the game was still close.

Weston McKennie (7.5) — After the Guyana game, a lot of observers (including yours truly) expressed wishes that McKennie would impose himself to drive play much more often. Tonight was his "ask and ye shall receive" display. The Schalke man repeatedly found midfield seams from which to facilitate attack with a variety of splitting passes and it was a very welcome sight. 

Christian Pulisic (8.5) — For nearly the first three halves of Gold Cup play, Pulisic offered plenty of sound and fury rushing forward that signified nothing on the scoreboard. That dam finally broke with his fine 41st minute cross to set up Long's opener and the Soca Warriors ended up washed away in the flood that resulted. The US star was everywhere in attack over the final 45 minutes, adding in a smart second assist on Zardes' first and then a simple finish of his own. 

Tyler Boyd (7) — The new US right winger was unable to come up with any end product in this one, but it certainly wasn't for a lack of trying. Boyd's ability to gain a yard to fire was again threatening, but on this night, it was his movement around the final third that really unsettled the visitors' back line. 

Paul Arriola (7.5) — Stop me if you've heard this before. After a first half that was nothing to write home about, Arriola shifted into high gear after the break. The D.C. United winger was rather wasteful from good wide positions in the opening frame, with his decision to shoot meekly from a sharp angle as Zardes ran unmarked at the back post most irritating. He was robbed on the doorstep shortly after intermission and that seemed to light a fire. From then on, Arriola was constant trouble, ended up converting his second close-range chance and nearly scored what would have been a spectacular second with a late drive off the bar.

Gyasi Zardes (8) — It took a while for the Columbus striker to find the game, but he warmed up with some helpful high press and hold-up play. Zardes started and finished the play on the US second and coolly picked his shot scant moments later to complete his first USMNT brace in over three years. He could have made it a hat trick shortly before departing were it not for the post and a solid save from T&T 'keeper Marvin Phillip.

Coach Gregg Berhalter (8) — I think it's fair to say that this was the performance rhythm Berhalter has been looking for since taking the USMNT reins just over six months ago. It would seem that the boss' detailed prep work is finally paying off. The team finally found a flow through midfield, continued to threaten from wide positions and created their biggest bushel of chances in recent memory.

Subs

Jordan Morris (7.5) — Who says the Seattle ace can't run at defenders wide and provide effective centering service? Morris smoothly chalked up a quick pair of assists doing exactly that. The first one came after he shrewdly jumped a T&T pass to key the rush forward.

Jozy Altidore (6.5) — There were a couple of stray touches by the recently recovered Toronto FC strike star during his 16 minutes of action, but the fancy flick out of the corner to free Morris for his second set-up was just plain dandy.

Reggie Cannon (6.5) — Six-minute garbage time shifts don't usually get a grade, but Cannon earned a positive one for a smart cutback to McKennie that nearly ended in a goal.

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