Player Ratings: US-Algeria
Before we get into the nasty task of grading the
U.S. national team for their heart-stopping 1-0 victory over Algeria that
granted passage into the World Cup 2010 knockouts as Group C winners, I have
just one question: How's the old ticker, 'Nats fans?
Leave it to our very own live performance art
drama troupe to leave it late, but in the end it was the U.S. leading men that
combined to finish the vital goal.
Before the match, I watched the Americans lined
up and singing the national anthem—well, all but two of them. Clint Dempsey and
Landon Donovan were tight-lipped and looking oh so serious.
For 90 minutes, the two kept plugging away, even
when bloodied by backhand punches (as was Dempsey). The Fulham man saw a good
goal waved off early and troubled Algeria all day. Donovan was rather quiet for
long stretches, but would speak up in time.
Finally, with the deadline scarily looming for
the U.S. to punch their second round ticket, Dempsey jammed an uncollectable
shot into the Algeria keeper and Donovan swooped in after to usher the ball
For a short spell, I pondered all the reasoning
to come if the U.S. couldn't find their goal. We'd talk about being too
conservative, bad luck and perhaps some unintelligible cursing rants.
With help from their friends, Dempsey and Donovan
spared us that bit of nastiness—which in turn makes my nasty job a lot easier.
USA Player Ratings
Tim Howard (6.5) - He had so little to do, but he did it all well.
Most notably, he was laser-targeted to the ball all the way from cross to save
just before his side got the goal.
Steve Cherundolo (8) - It was another monster outing from the veteran,
who was wrong-footed defensively exactly once. Conversely, Nadir Belhadj barely
got forward. He also got forward with abandon and sent several dangerous balls
into the area.
Jay DeMerit (6.5) - The center back got away with three early misplays, including
the horror show that allowed Rafik Djebbour to ping the bar. From there,
everything was extra-tidy from DeMerit.
Carlos Bocanegra (6.5) - The captain was generally solid, but had a couple of first
half hiccups. After the break, he was mentally sharp and made a huge play on a
dangerous Algeria cross just past the hour.
Jonathan Bornstein (5.5) - It wasn't a great show from the left back, but he had a
couple of nice moments on the flank. To his credit, Karim Ziani didn't make
much noise after switching to get away from Cherundolo's muffler.
Michael Bradley (8) - He was more troublesome going forward before the break, then
allowed Benny Feilhaber to take the attack lead after. He perhaps could have
done better on a second half restart header and was bested in the middle a
couple of times, but overall Bradley continued to raise his rep with this
Maurice Edu (5) - Making his first World Cup start, Edu began brightly,
applying ball pressure and altering Algerian flight paths. However, his impact
waned as the half wore on and there were a few poor turnovers.
Landon Donovan (7) - The poster boy went missing for about 30 middle-of-the-match
minutes and probably should have backed off to let Jozy Altidore apply the
finish when they clanged shooting feet, but he made the difference in the end.
His restart services caused great stress for Algeria and he served two vitally
important functions on the winner: he hurried the ball forward and made no
mistake on the sitter.
Clint Dempsey (8) - One could gripe about his post-and-miss on the first half
golden chance, but MC Deuce rarely hit the wrong note. He was threatening all
game long, got back for help defense and literally took one for the team in the
nose. Then, dog tired, he hustled into position to force the rebound that
Donovan scooped up.
Herculez Gomez (5) - It wasn't necessarily a bad 45-minute shift, but I can't help
but think placement would have been better than power when he was presented
with a glorious scoring chance.
Jozy Altidore (7) - Can we just call him "the Tractor" now? Altidore
again plowed the road fiercely and won a couple of very shrewd dangerous free
kicks as the U.S. became desperate for chances. On the winner, he provided
Dempsey's service from the right.
Coach Bob Bradley (6) - I will admit this grade would have been somewhat lower had
the U.S. not advanced. I was all ready to write about neglecting to lay it all
on the line tactically, but his boys followed orders to come through in the
end. The orders came from here, thus he's off the hook. Fair warning, though:
the same old hammer over and over and over again might not be enough for the
round of 16 nail.
Benny Feilhaber (7) - Aside from failing to setting up a goal (and he nearly did
that), the halftime alteration made just about every play one could ask him to
make. He even made two very strong defensive hustle plays to squash danger.
Edson Buddle (5.5) - His running again loosened up the opposing defense, but he got
more than a little tight when presented with opportunities near goal.
DaMarcus Beasley (-) - His World Cup 2010 debut was a mere cameo.
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