Grading the USA Players on Their 2014 World Cup Performances
During the terrific run in Brazil for the United States men's national team, plenty of players put in stellar performances on the pitch.
Other players did the opposite and failed to live up to expectations, including Graham Zusi and Michael Bradley.
Here we will grade every one of the 19 players who stepped on to pitches in Natal, Manaus, Recife and Salvador for the United States.
Tim Howard turned in the best goalkeeping performance for the United States since Kasey Keller's game against Brazil in 1998 on Tuesday against Belgium.
Howard made 16 saves to keep the Americans in the game, a number that was the most by a keeper in a World Cup game since 1966.
The 35-year-old also made 12 saves in three group games.
Fabian Johnson was supposed to be the X-factor in the game against Belgium, and he was, until he was forced to leave the match in the 32nd minute with a hamstring injury.
Johnson's biggest offensive influence on the Yanks came in the first half in Manaus, where he was able to exploit the positioning of Andre Almeida, who started at left-back for Portugal in place of the injured Fabio Coentrao.
He was also solid on defense, but he was one of two defenders who failed to track Silvestre Varela's run on the stoppage-time goal by Portugal.
Fear is an attribute that is not instilled in DeAndre Yedlin, who, to the surprise of many, delivered when called upon in three substitute appearances.
The Seattle Sounders player made an immediate impact against Portugal on the right wing, and he delivered the cross that eventually led to Clint Dempsey's 81st-minute goal.
Matt Besler was the best defender in an American shirt during the four games in Brazil.
The Sporting Kansas City center-back was a dominant force against four powerful attacks that could have torn the United States back line to shreds.
Besler was in the right position for most of his time on the pitch, and his instincts to step up and deny a few counter-attacks also proved to be huge for the Yanks.
Geoff Cameron had the most highs and lows of any defensive player, as he was cast in the spotlight for being strong against Ghana and Belgium, and for mistakes against Portugal.
Cameron began his World Cup by shutting down Asamoah Gyan, and he ended it with a terrific performance in a defensive midfield role.
However, his World Cup will forever be scarred by the blunder in the fifth minute against Portugal, and the fact that he failed to keep an eye on Silvestre Varela on the equalizing goal of the 2-2 draw in Manaus.
The inclusion of Omar Gonzalez in the starting 11 for the Germany match was met with loads of criticism, but after he shone in Recife, he earned a second start, which also garnered praise.
Gonzalez showed against Germany and Belgium that whatever confidence issues he was having earlier in the year were washed away.
The LA Galaxy center-back, who also appeared as a late substitute against Portugal, made a total of 29 effective clearances and blocked three shots in his two starts.
John Brooks only made a 45-minute cameo in Brazil for the Yanks, but he turned in one impressive shift against Ghana.
The German-American defender contributed the second goal of the game in Natal to hand the Americans their lone victory of the World Cup.
Brooks' goal turned out to be the deciding factor in the team's advancement to the round of 16, which is why he earned such a high mark.
If the four games in Brazil marked the final times we saw DaMarcus Beasley in an American jersey, it was a span worth remembering.
The converted midfielder looked shaky at the beginning of the Ghana game, but once he began to settle in to his fourth World Cup, he turned into one of the most reliable players in the red, white and blue.
The aspect of Beasley's game that no one expected to see was his runs down the left wing, which came at a higher frequency as the tournament progressed.
If someone told you a year ago that Kyle Beckerman would be the defensive lynchpin that kept attacking threats from challenging the American back four, you would've laughed at the thought.
Leaving Brazil, Beckerman not only gained a ton of respect on the international stage, but he also solidified his reputation as a rough, effective midfielder.
In what is going to end up being his first and only World Cup, Beckerman delivered three terrific performances that put him down in American World Cup lore forever.
Before you read this slide, stand up and give Jermaine Jones a standing ovation.
Jones, who entered the World Cup as one of the most scrutinized players on the roster, proved in Brazil that he is far from a yellow-card collection machine, and that he can also turn into an offensive threat.
Jones' goal against Portugal will be the highlight of his offensive prowess, but he did much more than that, with surging runs through the midfield, and on the left, in times of need.
On the defensive side of the ball, Jones combined with Beckerman to form one of the best midfield duos of the tournament, and by doing that, he finally got the American public to back off of his case.
Michael Bradley played out of position for most of the World Cup, which turned him into a totally different player than he was throughout the qualification process.
Because of that, Bradley will be criticized by fans and the media for months to come, but in all reality, he didn't have that bad of a World Cup.
Bradley did cover a ton of ground, and his ability to recover on defense helped the Yanks stop plenty of counters in four games.
When he was able to play closer to his natural spot in the midfield, Bradley provided a terrific assist on the final American goal in Brazil that was scored by Julian Green.
Alejandro Bedoya could not parlay a strong season at the club level with Nantes into a steady World Cup for the Yanks.
Bedoya provided little impact on the right wing during his four appearances, which left everyone far from satisfied with the showing the 27-year-old had in Brazil.
Although his defensive attributes were respected by manager Jurgen Klinsmann, Bedoya's job on the offensive end was to create chances, which is something he just did not do.
One of the most disappointing players in Brazil was Graham Zusi, who was supposed to follow in the footsteps of Landon Donovan on the wing.
Zusi did have two assists in the first two games, but other than those two brief moments of skill, he was ineffective in a spot on the pitch that carried more responsibility once Jozy Altidore went out injured.
As the main set-piece taker, Zusi delivered just one corner that threatened the defense in a major way. That corner in the 86th minute against Ghana set up John Brooks' game-winning header.
In his first World Cup, Major League Soccer veteran Brad Davis only spent 59 minutes on the pitch.
During that time, Davis was unable to make any impact on a match that was dominated by the Germans.
In the 15 minutes Green spent on the field in Brazil, he gave everyone in America hope for the future of the national team.
The 19-year-old, who just committed to play for the United States earlier this year, scored on his first touch of the tournament off of a pass from Bradley.
Just like DeAndre Yedlin, the inexperienced Green showed no fear in moving forward, which is a quality many did not see coming from the Bayern Munich youth prospect.
Just like Bradley, Dempsey was lined up out of position for most of the tournament due to Altidore's injury.
By playing up front in a lone forward position, instead of his midfield playmaking role, Dempsey's influence in the attack dropped with each game.
Dempsey was able to score two goals for the Yanks, but those are seen as afterthoughts now given how little he contributed against Belgium and Germany.
The only time in the final two games that Dempsey was able to drop back into his usual role was when Chris Wondolowski was brought on as a second-half substitute.
Everyone who cheered on the American side at the World Cup was disappointed to see Altidore play for just 23 minutes against Ghana.
Altidore was rounding back into form in the buildup to the tournament, and he could've been a real difference-maker in the Group of Death, and further into the knockout stage.
Instead, we are left with the image of Altidore pulling up lame on the left side of the pitch in Natal.
The only thing anyone will remember about Chris Wondolowski's World Cup is his miss right in front of goal in the waning moments of regulation against Belgium.
Wondolowski had a golden opportunity to continue his reputation as a poacher in front of goal, but instead, his shot will go down as one of the biggest misses in the brief World Cup history of the United States.
Even when he was on the pitch, we did not see much of Aron Johannsson.
The 23-year-old AZ Alkmaar forward replaced Altidore in the Ghana match, but he did nothing of note in a match that saw Ghana dominate possession for most of the match.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.
All statistics obtained from WhoScored.com.
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