Here are my grades for the U.S. vs. Ghana World Cup opener on Monday night.
For those unaware, the grading system on a 1-to-10 typically starts in the 3-4 range (for poor performances) and extends to the 7-8 range (for outstanding performances). Rarely will a player earn a “2″ or a “9″. Those are reserved for outings of EPIC proportions, on either end of the spectrum.
Tim Howard (6) — Was caught leaning on the Ghana goal, but most goalkeepers in the tournament get beat from 10 yards out when an international player has the ball on his foot and a clear path to the goal. Wasn’t asked to do much, but when called upon was up to the task.
Matt Besler (5) — More steady than I thought he might be, but looked vulnerable when forced to use his speed to keep up with the Ghana attackers. His injury might have turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as John Brooks (his replacement) held up well and scored the game-winning goal.
Geoff Cameron (6) — Held his own throughout much of the night and made a key block of a decent scoring chance in the 70th minute of play. Was partly responsible for the Ghana goal, though, as his failure to close more quickly led to an easy scoring opportunity. Overall, though, this was a surprisingly effective performance for him.
Fabian Johnson (4) — Looked out of place in the second half when Ghana turned up the offensive pressure. Was one-two’d on the Ghana goal, an unforgivable mistake in the 83rd minute with a 1-0 lead. First touch was decent in the opening 45 minutes and had a couple of decent runs with the ball on his foot, but overall his performance was lacking in quality.
John Brooks (7) — Took advantage of the Besler injury and acquitted himself well in the back and connected on the game-winning goal with three minutes left. Badly misplayed a clearing attempt early in the 2nd half that nearly led to a quality scoring chance for Ghana but Cameron came to his rescue. Still, his goal was a clinical finish and worthy of the grade he receives by itself.
DeMarcus Beasley (6) — Had a very good first half and Ghana showed him proper respect by playing away from him throughout most of the final 45 minutes. Didn’t drop off much in the 2nd half, either, unlike most of his American counterparts. First touch going forward still isn’t great, which is why he’s a back player these days.
Jermaine Jones (6) — Did nice work in the second half when Ghana applied the pressure in an effort to score the equalizer. Was always around his man and clogged up the middle effectively when Ghana tried to use their pace.
Alejandro Bedoya (4) — Dug in and fought hard in the opening half, but was woefully outplayed in the 2nd half and completely ran out of gas before being subbed for Zusi in the 75th minute. His pace looked fine early on but couldn’t hold up with the bigger, faster Ghana players as the game wore on. Didn’t do enough to warrant a repeat start against Portugal in my opinion.
Graham Zusi (7) — Delivered a superb ball to Brooks for the game-winning goal. Lacks the pace to go a full 90 minutes in my opinion, but his skill level and vision warrant a start against Portugal.
Kyle Beckerman (6) — Was one of the few American players whose performance didn’t wane in the 2nd half. First touch is still somewhat suspect, but he plays his man tight and doesn’t get beat in space very often, which did him well on Monday night vs. Ghana. One of the only bright spots from an individual standpoint on Monday.
Clint Dempsey (6) — Scored a terrific goal to start the game and was largely unnoticed for the rest of the night, although he was clearly hampered by the loss of Altidore, who typically holds the ball for Dempsey and his legendary runs.
Michael Bradley (4) — Not much to say about his performance because there wasn’t one. He was woeful. His first touch was amateur-like and his passing wouldn’t have earned a passing grade a high school soccer camp. It was, painful to say, the worst effort of his World Cup career. Only saving grace was he did work hard defensively in the final 20 minutes when the U.S. packed it in to try and secure a 1-0 win.
Jozy Altidore (5) — Didn’t do much in limited time, so grading him is difficult, but his one decent chance was a misplayed ball in the box just minutes before his hamstring injury.
Aron Johannsson (3) — Was the worst player on the field and it wasn’t close. Looked so far out of his element that I can’t imagine he sees the field again in this World Cup. No touch, no fight, no power. Nothing. Harsh, yes, but he was a boy amongst men on Monday night.
Team grade (5) — One of the most fortunate wins in U.S. World Cup history. Oddly enough, it’s also fair to say Ghana didn’t do enough to deserve a win as well. From the 30th minute until the 85th minute, Ghana had possession of the ball a whopping 77% of the time, an almost unheard of figure in international soccer. Three real scoring chances turned into two goals, though, and neither goal was “lucky”.