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Grading the US Squad at Copa America and the Gold Cup

EJ Copa 756402 Grading the US Squad at Copa America and the Gold Cup Eddie Johnson’s Goal versus Argentina gave the US three minutes of false hope

The inexperienced side Coach Bob Bradley took to Copa America contrasted directly with the experienced “A” side that Bradley took to the Gold Cup. Despite lifting the Champions Trophy at the Gold Cup, the campaign was far from flawless, and in spite of an embarrassing last place finish at the Copa, the event did shed some positive light on certain us players. My player by player review follows.

Goalkeepers

Tim Howard (Everton, ENG)

Howard was solid between the posts and made some key saves in the final versus Mexico. He is clearly the new US #1

Grade: B +

Kasey Keller (No current club)

Keller is a legend of American football, but his instincts and skills have clearly diminished. In the Gold Cup semifinal he had trouble organizing the back four and was clearly on a different page than Oguchi Onyewu. During the Copa America, Keller made repeated mistakes either coming off his line too quickly, or misreading the flow of play. Thank you for a job well done, including four world cups and it’s now time to retire from international football.

Grade: D

Brad Guzan (Chivas USA )

Guzan is a very average keeper by any standard and it is a bit perplexing that for all these years US Soccer has been so high on him. Beaten out by thirty something journeyman Preston Burpo with Chivas USA last season, he regained his first team spot this year with some solid early season play. In his one Copa appearance he made some nice saves but also committed a shocking foul in the box conceding a penalty when he came storming off his line. Of course he saved the PK. Guzan is an average keeper who turned an average performance versus Columbia .

Grade: C

Defenders

Oguchi Onyewu (Standard Liege , Belgium )

Onyewu’s poor positioning and propensity to commit silly fouls was shocking in the Gold Cup. However, as usual he turned in a good performance marking Jared Borgetti and the rest of Mexico ’s physical attacking players in the final.

Grade: C-

Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham, ENG)

Simply because Bocanegra scores goals for both Fulham and US off set pieces does not mean he is an adequate center back. The new US captain seemed to be chronically mis-positioned and still has not learned not to play back passes into the area when under pressure. Bocanegra’s shocking pass to Onyewu cost the US’ the match against Ghana last summer in Germany and despite a solid year at Fulham, Bocanegra still seems a bit slow reading the game at this level. Nonetheless, he is a fiery player and if he is on the pitch he is a decent choice as captain.

Grade: C-

Jay Demerit ( Watford , ENG)

Demerit has proven himself through this summer, in spite of a few errors to be the best US center back. During an otherwise forgettable Copa campaign he was probably the most consistent American defender despite a bad stomach virus. He also gave a much needed lift in the first group match of Gold Cup when he shut down Carlos Ruiz when the rest of the US defense had lost its composure. DeMerit also seemed to be the only sure tackler in the entire US squad during Copa.

Grade: B+

Jimmy Conrad ( Kansas City Wizards, USA )

A very indifferent Copa for Conrad. He made some nice reads of the game but also mis-communicated with Kasey Keller a few times and failed to react to Jonathan Bornstein’s now infamous back pass versus Paraguay . Conrad is a sold squad rotation player for national team but cannot be counted on as a regular player.

Grade: C

Danny Califf (AoB, DEN)

It was nice to see Califf return to the international scene after he had been forgotten by former Coach Bruce Arena because he had the audacity to try and improve himself by moving to Europe to play football . Califf played well and should remain in the national team picture.

Grade: B

Frankie Hejduk ( Columbus Crew, USA )

It’s hard to believe in 2007 that Frankie Hejduk is quite possibly still the best US defender. I believed by this time Hejduk famous pace would no longer be as much of a factor nor would his physical play. Sure his skills have diminished since his excellent run at Bayer Leverkusen in the late 1990s, but he’s still a keeper. Can he make the 2010 World Cup squad at 36? Well, at this rate we may have no choice but to find a role for him because he seems to be a valuable ingredient to every success the US has achieved over the past ten years.

Grade: A

Frank Simek ( Sheffield Wednesday, ENG)

Simek is developing nicely for the US National team and he showed some great flashes in the Gold Cup. He must work on his ball skills down the right side however if he is to be a viable long term option at right back

Grade: B-

Michael Parkhurst (New England Revolution, USA )

I was under the impression Parkhurst was called up just to avoid Ireland from capping him in the near future. However Parkhurst played twice in the Gold Cup and positioned himself well and also picked the proper times to push forward.

Grade: B

Jonathan Specter (West Ham United, ENG)

Specter has loads of talent but Bradley is still trying to figure out where to play him. Nonetheless, he seems to be an important factor going forward towards WC 2010 qualifying.

Grade: C

Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA, USA)

Bornstein is really a mixed bag. First off I do not believe he posses the man marking skills to be a defender at this level. Sure he did a nice job on Lionel Messi, but he all too often pushes forward and gets caught napping when in the attack. Nonetheless, his ball skills and well timed runs compliment the US attack. If not for the glut of talent at the left wide midfield position, Bornstein could play there.

Grade: C

Heath Pearce (FC Nordsjælland, DEN)

The self proclaimed best American left back showed zilch in the match versus Columbia at Copa America and got caught too far up the pitch in several situations.

Grade: D

Bobby Boswell (DC United, USA)

Did well in his one match of the summer, the meaningless final game of Copa America against Columbia.

Grade: B-

Drew Moor (FC Dallas, USA)

Moor will be forever remembered for his missed header that could have leveled the match versus Paraguay late in the 2nd half. However, that is hardly fair considering Moor looked more seasoned than defenders with far more international experience for the US. He picked the right spots to push up and generally was solid as a man marker.

Grade: B

Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC, CAN)

Did alright versus Argentina until the entire squad collapsed late in the match. Should get another call up soon.

Grade C+

MIDFIELDERS

Michael Bradley (Heerenveen, HOL)

Calm composure beyond his years, Bradley was one of the standout players of the Gold Cup. He doesn’t get an A grade however due to his clumsy challenge late in the semifinal versus Canada and his subsequent sending off.

Grade: B+

Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo, USA)

Clark was the ironman of the summer for the US, playing in eight matches, and providing both an offensive spark and regular ball winning at the back. He looked spent against Argentina after being a difference maker in the Gold Cup Final victory, but bounced back for a Man of the Match caliber performance versus Paraguay. Was quite possibly the only US player who appeared to care for the first 45 minutes versus Columbia.

Grade: A

Benny Feilhaber (HSV, GER)

Feilhaber provided the winning strike versus Mexico and some class versus Argentina. He’s the logical replacement for John O’Brien with the national team, but my bone to pick with Feilhaber is that he often times gave the possession away far too cheaply.

Grade B-

Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy, USA)

Looked more comfortable than would be expected out wide on the right flank. As usual he drifted in and out of games, but was tremendous as always against Mexico. Donovan inspite of constant criticism is perhaps the best footballer this nation has ever produced so I am guilty of holding him to a higher standard than everyone else in the current player pool.

Grade: B

DeMarcus Beasley (Rangers, SCO)

Beasley’s shocking miss against Mexico could have cost the US the Gold Cup title. Otherwise Beasley seemed to regain his mojo so to speak on the left side of midfield and he once again showed a great understanding of the system Bob Bradley is playing and of his role in the system.

Grade: B

Clint Dempsey (Fulham, ENG)

Dempsey’s work rate is always high and he was played for much of the Gold Cup out of position. However, his finishing touch is as poor as the strikers he played behind in the formation and that didn’t help matters/

Grade: B-

Lee Nguyen (PSV Eindhoven, HOL)

Nguyen played in two Copa America matches and made an impression in both. He played two excellent balls forward to create opportunities late in the Paraguay match, and he also made a great save off the goal line in the Columbia match. However, much of the time his positioning was poor.

Grade: C+

Justin Mapp (Chicago Fire, USA)

Mapp is a livewire with a certain flair, but lacks the polish or maturity to be an effective player on this level. Nonetheless, he provides necessary depth in the midfield.

Grade: C

Ben Olsen (DC United, USA)

Olsen’s chronic injuries have led many of us to forget how classy a player he is when healthy. For my money the best US player all summer. Olsen is such a top flight player that as a rookie in 1998 he scored the winning goal for DC United to win the CONCACAF Champions Cup, the first major international trophy for an MLS club. A year later he scored the winning goal for the US versus Germany at the FIFA Confederations Cup, to the national team in the semifinals, to date the furthest the senior national team has gotten in a FIFA event since 1930.

Grade: A

Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew, USA)

It was a sick joke when Gaven, considered a failure in MLS entered the Argentina game replacing the classy Olsen. Gaven did play decently against Columbia, but his play against Argentina was so disturbing it’s difficult to give him a passing grade.

Grade: D

Kyle Beckerman (Colorado Rapids, USA)

Made some decent runs and moves on the ball in both of his matches, but showed a lack of imagination or creativity.

Grade: C-

Herculez Gomez (Colorado Rapids, USA)

Gomez is a solid MLS player, and no doubt exists that the LA Galaxy sorely miss him. However, he has no future as a national team player since he lacks the energy or understanding to keep up at this level.

Grade: D+

Steve Ralston (New England Revolution, USA )

Ralston continues to be a committed and solid player when called up to the national team. He’s nothing more but nothing less either.

Grade: C

FORWARDS:

Taylor Twellman (New England Revolution, USA )

It is shocking how ineffective such a dominant player at the club is for his nation. Should not be considered for future national team duty, unless he moves to a major European league and finds success there. I’m not sure why Bradley keeps picking him, but it has me concerned about Bradley’s coaching ability at this level, even though just about everything else he has done as the coach has been successful. Has no business wearing the US shirt ever again.

Grade: F

Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo, USA)

Ching may be better suited as a hold up player although pace is clearly a problem. Does enough good work off the ball to compensate for his shocking finishing. Nonetheless, he cannot be the first choice striker for the national team ever again.

Grade: C-

Eddie Johnson (Kansas City Wizards, USA)

Johnson is running out of chances with the national team. For his blistering pace, a forward so tentative is absolutely mind boggling. Johnson adds almost nothing to the matches he plays in, and right now the US would be better served trying to work Charlie Davies, Kamani Hill, Kenny Cooper and Jozy Altidore into the rotation for 2010 then to waste more time on Johnson and Twellman.

Grade: D

Charlie Davies Hammarby IF (SWE)

Should really get an incomplete. Despite a nice effort against Columbia he lacked any kind of service from a totally outclassed midfield.

Grade: C

About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC.
View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →

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