Sunday, March 25, 2007

US 3-1 Ecuador: Player grades

There is no doubt about it, Landon Donovan had his best performance in years today in Tampa Bay. Sparked on by a desire to move past his World Cup woes, he showed why so many people swear by his talent. However, he was not the only American to walk the pitch, so lets take a look at how each one performed.

Tim Howard (GK) - He made a few good saves and one major one early on, however, he didn't organize his backline as much as he could have. His ability to stop balls is strong, however, he needs to work on leadership. Grade: B

Carlos Bocanegra (D) - Okay, I was not impressed with any of the starting four defenders as they all suffered from a lack of organization (the Ecuador goal was due to a complete failure by all of them). With more playing time this will improve. As far as Carlos, he did settle, but he never seemed calm. Grade: C+

Steve Cherundolo (D) - Steve seemed to center himself before the rest of the backline, but still was lacking. He did deliver some good balls during the second half, but all and all, not that great. Grade: B-

Jimmy Conrad (D) - After the gifted performance against Mexico, I was hoping for better. He wasn't forcing turnovers, nor was he making smart runs into the other half. He still has good talent, but the twinkle was missing today. Grade: C+

Oguchi Onyewu (D) - He wasn't using his size to intimidate Ecuador. I've never seen him beat so many times by his mark. The good news is he focused in the second half and did add a threat on dead balls, but it never fully gelled. Grade: C+

Clint Dempsey (M) - Where was he? The only time he seemed to be on the ball was when he was running it into the corner. Also, his passes were just a mess. He seems to be more focus on club then country, which is fine for now, but let's hope he will reemerge come Gold Cup time. Grade: D

Benny Feilhaber (M) - A very good debut for Benny. He missed some passes early on, but he made some corrections and worked out some good feeds to Donovan and others. He was a little slow to track back at points, but still a solid first show. Grade: B+

DaMarcus Beasley (M) - He is getting better, but it has not all returned. He gave away a few too many balls and misses a number of passes, but he was able to put together a strong 15-minute run in the second half. Grade: B-

Landon Donovan (M/F) - Anytime you get a hat trick you've had a good game, but what added to this was his ability to complete passes. For the majority of the first 45-minutes, he was the only American out there that did such a thing consistently. He was a leader all over the place and best of all, was not afraid to take the shot. Now the question becomes can he do this in games that matter? Grade: A+

Eddie Johnson (F) - His abilities are returning, but his confidence on the shot is still nowhere to be found. He was able to pressure Ecuador's backline and was so close to breaking free a number of times, but he just could not realize it. Still, this is far better then where he was. Now he needs to lean to take the shot. Grade: B-

Brian Ching (F) - Ching is willing to do anything to get his team ahead, even if it means breaking a piece of his head. Obviously he is trying to take over the 'bloody during every match' roll the Brian McBride once held. Still, he was missing for a large chunk of the first half. Grade: B+

Michael Bradley (M - 46') - Bradley came in and turned he dynamic of the match. He was feeding balls perfectly and forcing holes all over Ecuador's half and he even made some quick moves to save the defense. A great outing, but he still has a little maturing to do. Who knows if his dad will continue to be with the national team, but Michael sure will be. Grade: A

Taylor Twellman (F - 73') - By the time Twellman got on, the US was not in much of an offensive mood, still he could have worked harder are forcing some chances. He did track back to help steal the ball in mid-field a few times, but without much to work with, he didn't have much to do. Grade: B-

Jonathan Spector (D - 80') - He was only in for 10-minutes and by then Ecuador was slowing, but he was a great example of what can be done on defense. Grade: B

Brian Mullan (M - 80') - Just like Spector, not in for long, and didn't really have much to do with the game. Grade: B-

Justin Mapp (M - 83') - He saw little playing time, but just about ever touch he had resulted in Ecuador stealing the ball. I'm sure if he had more time, he would have settled, but a late sub needs to come in and work fast. Grade: C+

Brian Carroll (M - 91') - He was on just a minute, but what a minute. Okay, I think he touched the ball once and all went okay. Grade: Not enough to judge

Subs not used
Kasey Keller (GK) - The big man will probably get a turn on Wednesday night in Dallas. It will be interesting to see what he can do with the backline.

Other grades
ESPN - There was some good coverage at times, but how often is Dave O'Brien going to talk about sports other then soccer? Okay, we get it, the Gooch is built like an American football player, time to move on. I don't care if you've got a graphic, let's talk about the game happening in front of us. Or, if not that, how he is doing with his new club. Also, I know you are not broadcasting the Gold Cup, but why not take a few minutes to explain what it is. I know, it's more fun to talk about the Yankees playing next door, but you are a soccer announcer today. Thankfully Bruce Arena smacked him down a number of times and refocused the conversation on the game.

Eric Wynalda's halftime segment could develop into something really interesting. Make it a bit more rapid fire (like the Euro 2008 update) and a casual fan could catch up with everything they've missed. A great idea would be to continue issuing a red card to Oswaldo Sánchez for his discussing play. That said, what was up with the yellow to Lalas? He gave Cobi Jones a press conference and put him all over the Galaxy website last week, does Wynalda really think Lalas is not giving Cobi his due?

One last thing, did anyone else think that a number of the camera angles were 'blown out' (especially during the first half). It seemed like the close ups on Ecuador's side of the pitch were overly bright. Grade: B-

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