GRADING BY MICHAEL HALEY WITH ADDITIONAL COMMENTS BY KARTIK KRISHNAIYER
1 Howard – DNP
Kartik’s Thoughts: Could he have made the critical save that sparked this team? Keller surely didn’t.
2 Albright – DNP
Kartik’s Thoughts: This team sorely missed Frankie Hedjuk’s hustle and his German experience from his Bundesligia days. His torn ACL was the first bad sign for the team’s prospects in Germany.
3 Bocanegra (2 starts, 180min) Review – Average. After not being used in the Czech debacle, did well in defending against a tough Italy attack with only one foul committed. Was a good option on set pieces and corners. Played fairly well v. Ghana again contributing in the attack but his misplay of the ball into the middle of the field approaching halftime was costly.
Kartik’s Thoughts: A solid cup with the exception of the misplay at the back that cost us the Ghana game.
4 Mastroeni (2 starts, 89min) Review – Poor. Was completely outclassed and looked lost in Czech game. Was substituted out for the mighty O’Brien. Truth is Mia Hamm would have been a better option. Held his own and even had a shot in first half v. Italy, that is until he flew into one of the most boneheaded tackles in the history of US Soccer. (Note to ref – boneheaded is not the same as bone crunching). Seconds from the half and miles away from the goal, Pablo’s cup was over.
Kartik’s Thoughts: Pablo couldn’t be truly effective because Reyna occupies much of the same space as he does on the pitch. This goes back to coaching and tactics. Played very well against Italy until the bonehead play that got him sent off. I’ll say he was average, but Pablo should bounce back after his suspension and contribute again during qualifying for South Africa 2010.
5 O’Brien (1 sub, 45min) Review – Poor. The review could be much worse but he did play 45 mostly vanilla minutes v. Czech and I’m saving the venom for someone special.
Kartik’s Thought: What a total waste of immense talent this guy has turned out to be. Perhaps the Czech game was his last in a USA uniform. In 1998, I predicted this guy would be first great American player in Europe. Shows how much or little I know!
6 Cherundolo (3 starts, 195min) Review – Average. After a disastrous debut v. Czech Republic being exposed trying to move up field, rebounded and was decent in later games. Played well v. Italy although never able to contribute to attack with service from right flank with any regularity. Substituted twice for Johnson without much drop-off in defense suggests USA may have been better off with an extra forward from the start.
Kartik’s Thought: Well said. Cherundolo at the very least proved he’s gritty enough to bounce back from a bad performance and play with some fire.
7 Lewis (2 starts, 163min) Review – Average. Another player with a sub-par opening performance who rebounded somewhat after being returned to his natural position of left midfield. Basically exposed at left back in the first game, he returned v. Ghana at left mid to show good energy and contribute some good runs. Exhibited that while capable of being an aggressive back against teams like T&T or Panama, miles away from the level it takes to succeed against teams like Czech Republic.
Kartik’s thought: Eddie Lewis is one of the better attacking midfielders in the recent history of storied club Leeds United. It’s a shame Arena felt the need to make him learn a new position which he was ill suited to play.
8 Dempsey (2 starts, 151min) Review – Good. After not playing in the Czech game, was effective v. Italy with a shot and some good moves that led to fouls and free kicks for USA. Hard work paid off v. Ghana with a great strike on the full run on a nice ball from Beasley. One of the few USA players to show a willingness to “take-on” players one-on-one. This resulted in fouls suffered and USA free kicks. Clearly USA’s best attacking option. Did a good job of tracking back and defending. Committed some tough fouls without getting booked. Overall solid effort.
Kartik’s Thoughts: If you recall before the World Cup, I felt that Dempsey could be our best player. He was, but it’s a shame he started the cup on the bench in favor of a left footed player playing wide on the right side. Another classic Arena blunder to leave someone as attacking minded and vocal as Dempsey on the bench to start the World Cup.
9 Johnson (2 sub, 75min) Review – Average. Showed spark with two shots coming off bench v. Czech. Strangely absent as sub v. Ghana. Stood around and had less impact than the referee. Never in the flow of game.
Kartik’s Thoughts: A striker with pace like Johnson is critical to have up top if you are going to have success against slow but physical teams like the Czech Republic. Johnson played well but in 75 minutes of cup action where the USA was behind and desperate he never really got a chance to show his stuff. Perhaps he is still not fully fit.
10 Reyna (3 starts, 219min) Review – Good. Along with Dempsey, the only player that contributed. One of the only bright spots v. Czech, he worked hard in the midfield without much support and almost scored with good shot from distance. Continued to be the engine v. Italy again creating chances and defending well. Terrible misplay led to goal which was beginning of end – for USA and the Captain. Good but not good enough.
Kartik’s Thoughts: Reyna exhibited little vocal leadership as the captain. That being said he once again showed his skill level is high and he never quit unlike some other “stars” on this team.
11 Ching – DNP
Kartik’s thoughts: Did Ching’s selection really get Hawaii behind team USA?
12 Berhalter – DNP
Kartik’s Thoughts: Corey Gibbs injury took a potentialy valuable reserve away from this team and replaced him with someone nobody wanted to see on the World Cup roster.
13 Conrad (1 start, 1 sub, 129min) Review – Good. Like Olsen, played solid emergency minutes. Was able to maintain position and mark men effectively. A physical defender in MLS, was able to keep pace and position v. speedy Ghana forwards. Displayed more sense than experienced defenders like Pope.
Kartik’s Thoughts: A pleasant surpise and a feather in the cap for MLS who has developed Conrad.
14 Olsen (1 sub, 51 min) Review – Good. Played well in emergency minutes v. Ghana after the injury to Reyna. Well enough to wonder why he wasn’t an option earlier. Displayed veteran savvy breaking up counters with fouls, without getting booked. Held ball enough to get fouled himself. Gritty effort.
Kartik’s Thoughts: Ditto. Olsen played very well. His experience with DC United, MLS’s only showcase club showed as Olsen was fantastic. Good to see he is finally healthy as well.
15 Convey (2 starts, 1 sub, 158min) Review – Average. Failed to really get involved v. Czech but created a few chance v. Italy. Not able to attack defenders on the dribble reflective of the entire defensive posture of USA throughout the tournament.
Kartik’s Thoughts: While Convey showed some flashes, he’s still somewhat raw, but since he is a starter on a club heading to the EPL, the future is bright for him.
16 Wolff (1 sub, 14min) Review – Average. Managed to get off shot and suffer a few fouls in limited action. Hard to understand why, with USA needing goals, he wasn’t used more.
Kartik’s Thoughts: Why didn’t Arena just bring one forward to Germany if that is all he was going to use? Wolff’s pace and good finishing ability was wasted as he played a total 14 minutes.
17 Beasley (2 starts, 1 sub, 209min) Review – Poor. Overall, a hugely disappointing effort from one of the teams top players. Lack of effort suggests fatigue from a demanding club season including Champions League play. Reluctance to attack defenders limited his play from out-of-position right wing. Returned to left wing he produced exactly 0 shots but did center the sweet cross to Dempsey for the only goal in the run of play. Ironically, it was probably the only time in the whole tournament that he tried to push the ball passed defenders.
Kartik’s Thoughts: While I am unhappy with Beasley’s attitude and his general performance he was still capable of the spectacular moment, like the goal called back versus Italy and the brilliant ball into space for Dempsey. Beasley had a subpar cup, but he wasn’t the worst American player either.
18 Keller (3 starts, 270min) Review – Average. Great shot-stopper was only able to get big save v. Italy which earned team only point. Not to blame considering overexposure due to lacking defense and giveaways in defensive third. Nevertheless, a big save on any of the goals may have turned the tide for USA. Distribution was weak, rarely led to counters and was responsible for first goal v. Czech.
Kartik’s Take: The USA needs to move past Kasey Keller once and for all. Keller is an average keeper which isn’t good enough for a team with so many defensive problems. It’s hard to understand why Steve Sampson and Bruce Arena had Keller playing ahead Brad Friedel all those years. (thankfully Friedel played in the last World Cup though) Keller’s not vocal enough to organize his back line and his distribution was awful.
19 Hahneman – DNP
Kartik’s Thoughts: Hahneman is aging but if Tim Howard slips and Brad Guzan does not develop, he could be our keeper at the next World Cup.
20 McBride (3 starts, 256min) Review – Good. Can’t fault effort from a player who had little support. Unable to convert chance v. Ghana (one of few in the three games). Forced to track back and play defense too much.
Kartik’s thoughts: an overmatched warrior. Tracked back to play defense too often but played hard and placed a perfect ball at Landon Donovan’s feet for what should have been a fairly routine finish against Ghana but Donovan managed to make a mess of it.
21 Donovan (3 starts, 270min) Review – Outclassed. Passing up the shot (to Olsen!) toward the end of the Ghana game was symbolic of entire loss of mojo which characterized this performance. Along with Onweyu, the key to this team’s success. Lack of effort and overall ineffectiveness make him directly responsible for this team’s failure. Donovan is clearly the guinea pig for MLS – he has shown that while the league is okay for developing young talent, the level of play has caused this star to regress. He looked slow, out of shape and weak. Worst of all – he looked like he didn’t care. Interesting to see how he rebounds from this. My guess is his career will closely resemble Paul Gasgoine’s – spending more time thinking he’s good enough than actually showing it.
Kartik’s Take: Landon Donovan is immature and not ready for prime time. He should not be automatically given the captain’s armband now that Reyna has retired from the national team. Donovan mouthed off in the press prior to the World Cup how he wanted to prove to the German fans how he was truly a World Class player, not the weak young american portrayed in the German media. Donovan seemed uncomfortable with the ball at his feet and didn’t want to shoot on goal either. If he is unwilling to do the things he is suppossed to, why is he even on the pitch? Donovan’s game against Ghana was among the worst efforts of his career, and this was with everything possible on the line? As a leader of the team with several opportunities to even the match he flat out choked. The Ghanian midfield made Donovan look like an outclassed little kid. Landon Donovan is a great dissapointment for all fans of US Soccer, and he needs to test his game overseas and grow up quickly before being taken seriously as leader of our national team. MLS has produced lots of attacking players who play well in the league like Roy Lassiter, and Jason Kreis who haven’t produced on the national team level. Let’s hope Donovan’s regression doesn’t lead him into Jason Kreis territory.
22 Onweyu (3 starts, 270min) Review – Poor. Along with Donovan, the key to this team’s success. Repeated mistakes make him directly responsible for the team’s failure. From the first yellow card in the 5th minute, followed shortly after by Koller’s goal, in which he was in no-mans-land, this was a trial by fire for Gooch. Sounds like Goose, which reminds me of Agoos – a solid player who scored an own goal in 2002 – one of the few blemishes of that WC. Hopefully better things to come from this raw player
.Kartik’s Thoughts: “Gooch” wasn’t ready to compete against this skill level but still did a good job at times and seemed to learn as the cup progressed. While the PK against Ghana was a bad call, a more seasoned international player would learn how to not get trapped in that situation and sell the play better to the referee. Will get better, much like Bobby Convey.
23 Pope (2 starts, 136min) Review – Poor. Step slow throughout his limited play suggests he’s past his prime. Inability to help the inexperienced Onweyu and not adjusting to the referee, was an uncharacteristic display for a player with over 80 caps.
Kartik’s Thoughts: The once outstanding Pope showed signs of age and immaturity in this cup. Pope has been one of the great players in US Soccer History both in MLS and for the National Team, and it’s a shame his run will end this way. Perhaps Jonathan Spector plays this position in the upcoming years?