The United States Mens’ National Team picked up a vital three points in World Cup qualifying, beating Costa Rica 1-0 Friday night.
The game took place in Commerce City, Colorado, just outside of Denver, in blizzard-like conditions.
After a rough week for the USMNT, including a damning article published by The Sporting News, the U.S. got the job done and put their World Cup qualifying hopes back on track.
Here are the player grades for the match.
Brad Guzan wasn’t challenged often by the Costa Rica attack, but when he was, he made several solid stops. More importantly, he didn’t give up any silly second chances. Considering the fact that the ball was nearly invisible in near white-out conditions, this was harder than it might seem.
Guzan made one mistake on a corner kick that he came flying out to get and completely missed. The ball went across the entire face of the U.S. net, but, thankfully, no one got on the end of it.
With the rash of injuries to the USMNT at the left-back position, U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann was forced to move long-time U.S. veteran midfielder DaMarcus Beasley into the back line.
Beasley had played the position on several occasions under former manager Bob Bradley, but had been a disaster as a defender.
However, on Friday night, Beasley was very strong, using his speed to help the U.S. snuff out multiple Costa Rican chances. He fell down, or was pushed, on multiple occasions, but it is hard to blame him for that, considering the conditions. The weather turned much of the game into a series of foot races, something Beasley is still very good at.
Omar Gonzalez didn’t have a lot to do on Friday night, as the U.S. midfield and fullbacks did most of the work. However, when he was called on, Gonzalez did what he needed to do. His best moment came just before the end of the first half when he blocked a Costa Rican shot inside the U.S. penalty area with a great sliding tackle.
Again, due to the work of the midfield and the fullbacks, Clarence Goodson, like Omar Gonzalez, was relatively untested most of the night.
However, Goodson was good when he needed to be, particularly in the air, providing several important clearances for the U.S. when the Costa Ricans found service from the flanks.
Geoff Cameron had a mixed night. Defensively, he was very strong and he even got forward on a number of occasions down the flank.
However, Cameron had at least two very dangerous lost possessions that turned into Costa Rican counterattacks.
Cameron also had a tendency to hoof the ball upfield when in possession, but considering the conditions, it is hard to blame him for that.
Michael Bradley did exactly what everyone expects out of Michael Bradley when he plays as the U.S.’ No. 6. He wasn’t flashy, but he did get U.S. possession started out of the back and did fall into, or even behind, the U.S. back line when they needed cover defensively.
A solid effort from the man who is always the engine of the U.S. midfield.
Not surprisingly, Friday night was a mixed bag for Jermaine Jones. While he was solid in possession, he also was lazy at times, especially in recovering defensively.
Jones also got away with whacking a Costa Rican defender in the face in the 68th minute in a move that an uptight referee might have sent him off for.
Graham Zusi struggled all night to make an impact on the game, losing possession and failing to provide the service from the flanks that most U.S. fans were expecting.
It’s tough to judge any player based on Friday night’s match conditions, but this was Zusi’s third sub-par effort in a row for the USMNT. It wouldn’t be surprising at all if Klinsmann takes him out of the starting XI for Tuesday’s match in Mexico.
Herculez Gomez didn’t provide any moments of real brilliance on Friday night, but his work rate was phenomenal. The U.S. simply doesn’t have an attacker that puts in a better effort over 90 minutes than Gomez does every time he steps on the field.
Gomez also combined very well throughout the match with fellow attackers Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey.
Clint Dempsey was the hub of the U.S. attack on Friday night, creating the U.S.’ most dangerous chances and scoring the game-winning goal (which he also created with his pass to Jozy Altidore).
Given the captain’s armband in the absence of many of the U.S.’ veterans, Dempsey played like a man determined to lead his team to victory.
Dempsey also should have drawn a penalty when he was fouled in the box just before the half by Costa Rican defender Roy Miller.
Jozy Altidore was once again given the role as the U.S.’ high striker and put in a solid performance. His work rate was high and he created the one goal for the U.S., as his shot was deflected and fell to Dempsey for the finish.
Altidore combined very well on the night with both Clint Dempsey and Herculez Gomez to create the U.S.’ most dangerous attacks.
Eddie Johnson was brought on by the U.S. in the 75th minute to replace Graham Zusi. He had one nice service to Herculez Gomez that could have resulted in a U.S. goal, but otherwise was not memorable.
Maurice Edu, who many projected as a starter for the U.S. at center-back, was brought into the game in the 82nd minute to replace Jermaine Jones.
Kyle Beckerman was subbed on for Herculez Gomez in the 95th minute to kill off the last few seconds of the game.
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