Photo by ISIphotos.com
It is a loss that will take U.S. fans some time to get over, if they ever do, but the U.S. national team's 3-1 loss to Italy on Monday had its bright spots and promising developments to go along with the mind-numbing and spirit-crushing moments.
Losing to Italy in a game the Americans were winning is one thing, losing to a questionable red card and to a brace scored by an American-born (and raised) player is something altogether different. We can talk about Giuseppe Rossi later in the day. Right now, it is time to focus on the American players who actually play for their country, as well as the developments in the match that led to the 3-1 result.
We can start with the U.S. team's player grades. Yes, it was a loss, but playing against a team like Italy a man down for nearly two-thirds of a match is a circumstance that cannot be ignored when looking at the performance by the Americans.
Here are the grades:
Tim Howard (7). Made a handful of clutch saves that kept U.S. team within striking distance even as Italy attacked in waves. Can't be blamed for second goal, with multiple defenders screening him on well-struck blast from DeRossi.
Oguchi Onyewu (7). Was a rock in the back, rendering Gilardino invisible and reducing Italy to short corners on all corner kicks. Could have done better on Italy's second goal, but overall this was one of Onyewu's most impressive performances.
Jay DeMerit (6). Looked tough, confident and sharp when the match was still 11v11, and held his own for a good while before playing parts in first and third Italy goals. Overall, he still looked like the third best centerback in the U.S. pool.
Jonathan Spector (7.5). Most impressive overall performance. He kept Fabio Grosso and Vinceno Iaquinta honest on the right flank, limiting the service and staying in good position throughout. The right back job is his for the foreseeable future.
Jonathan Bornstein (6). Not sure what all the criticism toward Bornstein is about. Yes, he had some nervy moments, but Bornstein stood toe-to-toe with Mauro Camoranesi, who had no impact on the match and was Italy's first sub. Zambrotta didn't do anything on that flank either. Perhaps the waived-off own goal is skewing some opinions of his performance, but I think he did well enough to keep his hold on the left back spot.
Michael Bradley (7). Was a real force in the first half, making countless key tackles, neutralizing the masterful Andrea Pirlo and picking up the load in midfield after Clark's red card. He needed to finish his golden chance in the first half, but still delivered a memorable performance.
Benny Feilhaber (5). Hit on a few long passes, including the one that led to the USA penalty, but his work in central midfield was lacking and he bore little resemblance to the player who impressed vs. Honduras. Looked awful in giving up possession on Rossi's first goal (though Dempsey put him in a tough spot).
Ricardo Clark (4). Looked good before the red card, which was very harsh, but ultimately he was still the one who went in late on a challenge. Consider it a lesson learned (hopefully).
Clint Dempsey (5). Will Dempsey ever step up and be a serious threat for the national team again? He had some brief glimpses on the ball, but was largely irrelevant. His lazy pass to Feilhaber helped cause Rossi's first goal.
Landon Donovan (7). For the second time in his career, Donovan stepped up his play against Italy with his team a man down. He tried to impose his will on the match, but never could crack Italy's tough defense (though on a different day he might have had two assists on his beautiful passes to Bradley and Altidore). Probably deserved to draw a penalty when he was fouled and did well to convert the penalty. Almost gave him a 7.5 but he continues to disappoint with his poor set-piece delivery.
Jozy Altidore (7). He never put a shot on goal, but was a handful for Italy all day long. Played with confidence and desire and caused fits for Giorgio Chiellini, one of the best young defenders in the world. He scuffed a great first-half chance (he should have taken a shot on goal rather than trying to pass from close range), but he has improved in each of the past two U.S. games and looks to be back on track in his development (assuming he winds up somewhere in the fall where he will actually get games).
DaMarcus Beasley (5). Held his own in a late sub role. After his past two shockers, Beasley helped restore some (though not all) of the confidence U.S. fans lost in him recently.
Charlie Davies (5). Provided his usual late-game energy, and found a great late chance, but mis-timed an open header. He's someone who needs to get more minutes at some point this summer.
Sacha Kljestan (5). Looked like he would hit one of his trademark top-corner goals, but missed by a few feet. Could be ready to re-gain a starting role during this tournament.
Bob Bradley (5). Fielded a strong starting lineup, but needed to bring in fresh legs sooner, especially when Italy brought in its own in Rossi and Montolivo.
Most disappointing develpments from the match? Dempsey continuing to fail to have the impact you would expect from an EPL standout is one, as was Feilhaber's overall performance. Yes, Feilhaber started out on the right flank, which doesn't really suit his strengths, but he spent most of his time in a central role after Clark's ejection and still struggled to maintain possession.
Clark's ejection exposed a weak spot in the U.S. roster, the lack of defensive midfield options. Maurice Edu's absence due to injury, and Pablo Mastroeni's exclusion from this roster, left Bob Bradley with no good options after Clark's red card. Benny Feilhaber, Sacha Kljestan, Jose Francisco Torres and Freddy Adu are all more offensive-minded, leaving Bradley in a bind when he could have used a defensive presence in the middle of the park.
What changes should we expect vs. Brazil? I have a feeling we will see Kljestan start in place of Clark, though I would like to see Jose Francisco Torres to get the nod. If Carlos Bocanegra is healthy he will slide back into the lineup, but you wonder whether Bob Bradley will take a look at Bocanegra at left back in this tournament. He isn't generally used there because he's always been needed in central defense (and because he offers little on the offensive end) but DeMerit's solid play coupled with Brazil's various attacking weapons might lead Bradley to consider a Bocanegra-Onyewu-DeMerit-Spector back-line.
What did you think of the U.S. team's performance, and the performances of its players?
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