Monday, June 09, 2008

US 0-0 Argentina - Player grades

US 0-0 Argentina

Let's see, amazing showing by a goalkeeper, horrible calls from the ref, an engaged, pro-USA crowd and Mastroeni walks off with a red, if only Brian McBride showed up bleeding from his face, it would have been World Cup 2006 against Italy all over again.

Sunday night was a great night for the US men as they played their best match since 2006 in front of almost 80,000 passionate fans. Argentina pressed and pressed, but the US was able to hold thanks in huge part to goalkeeper Tim Howard. The fact that he went 1 on 1 with Julio Cruz on four occasions and won every one of them is proof to his talent.

But the Americans did not just sit back and bunker down, instead they actually put together some good combinations that saw them open up the field and push towards goal. The bad news, when it came to the final third, the red, white and blue were still lacking.

As great as the play on the pitch was, the two biggest moments of the game were due to referee Joel Aguilar Chicas channeling his inner Jorge Larrionda and blowing calls. One, the missed penalty kick call against Tim Howard when he took down the on rushing Sergio Aguero in the 52'. Howard didn't get a single finger on the ball and took our Aguero's legs, it should have been a pk. Two, the phantom second yellow card to Pablo Mastroeni in the 71'. For once Pablo was completely innocent of anything as he wasn't even involved in the play that resulted in the foul. The reason given was unsporting behavior, but to earn a second yellow, in a friendly no less, Mastroeni must have said something really awful.

Both of these missed calls changed the flow of the game. The US was just starting to gain momentum when the Aguero mistake was made. Had the proper call be given, the game would have opened up for both teams. The Mastroeni red changed the entire mindset of the squad as they went from trying for a win to hoping for a tie.

In the end, this was a good way to end their three games of death. It showed us the weaknesses that still exist (forwards) and the strengths that we have (goalkeeping, defending).

Now the team moves on to the real matches as World Cup Qualifying starts next Sunday.

Here are the player grades:

Starting XI
Tim Howard (GK) - If anyone had any questions as to our number one in the nets, he shut them down last night. He was lucky with the pk call, but that still doesn't take away from his first half heroics. A+
Steve Cherundolo (D) - Beat a lot by Messi, but could hold his own with others. B-
Oguchi Onyewu (D) - He covered the mistakes of others and provided us with the best scoring opportunity of the night (which is also kind of sad). Still, he missed his marks a couple times. A-
Danny Califf (D) - Slow start but picked up as the game moved along. Held his spots and blocked a bunch of centering passes. He deserves more looks. B+
Heath Pearce (D) - This was his breakout night. He kept the left flank tamed and pushed the ball forward. I think we have our left back. A
Michael Bradley (M) - Bad night for the little Bradley. Wasn't controlling the ball or supply. Maybe a couple weeks off will do him good. C+
Pablo Mastroeni (M) - Up to the red, he was looking good. Provides coverage for defenders and placed some good balls forward. B
Clint Dempsey (M) - The most consistent attacking presence, but passed instead of shot a few too many times. Has good ball control and helped in defense, but needs to take the shot. B+
DaMarcus Beasley (M) - Nice speed along the side that surprised Argentina more then a few times. His crossing is still in need of some help. B
Landon Donovan (F) - Not a bad 100th cap, but nothing spectacular. He wasn't given many balls to run onto, but still caused some trouble. Getting better with corners and passing. B+
Eddie Johnson (F) - Time to move EJ to the sub list. Three starts and nothing from them. Last night saw more of the same. He's good at getting in but he doesn't know how to take a shot. C-

Maurice Edu (M) - On for Bradley in the 46'. Held his own and started a number of the second half attacks. B+
Jay DeMerit (D) - On for Onyewu in the 61'. Looked good and make some smart plays while his team was down a man. B
Freddy Adu (M) - On for Dempsey in the 61'. Did not take over the game like he did in Spain but gave the US some sort of push, especially late. Wasn't the best technical decision to go 1 on 4 while trying to kill the clock but I like his effort. A-
Sacha Kljestan (F) - On for Johnson in the 74'. The fact that this change only seemed to happen because Johnson get an injury is frustrating. Kljestan gave the side energy and make some good passes. Would have liked to see more then 20 minutes form him. B+
Eddie Lewis (D) - On for Pearce in the 78'. He still has something, which is good to know if the injury bug comes along. B
Frankie Hejduk (M) - On for Beasley in the 91'. Ran down the balls in his few minutes on the grass. Much like Lewis, he can bring some experience and calm to the side. No grade.
Sub not used: Brad Guzan

Bob Bradley (Coach) - Other then starting Eddie Johnson and then not subbing him out earlier and not giving Adu a bit more time, it was a good night. When Mastroeni was sent off, his changes to the team's setup proved capable of holding off the number one team in the world. Still needs to figure out the offensive problems. B+

So the US comes out on a high note, even without a goal in any of the three games. Hopefully this drought will end next weekend.

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