March 2010

USMNT Player Power Rankings

This is The Yanks Are Coming’s second USMNT player power rankings list – our definitive compilation of who we think should be joining Bob Bradley in South Africa come June. And this time around we’re turning the focus of the list to the best tool for each player (yes, we’re baseball fans too). We’ll highlight that tool, as well as giving it a grade on the 20-80 scouting scale – where 20 is the worst, 80 the best and 50 average for the entire international field of World Cup players.

In preparation for the power rankings list, our staffers and contributors spent time watching countless hours of tape, talking to fellow soccer experts and breaking down the numbers. Nine members of TYAC family (Jamie Clary was a presenter at the Academy Awards) contributed to the voting this time around: Senior writers Neil W. Blackmon, Raf Crowley, Guy Bailey and Jon Levy, Editor-in-chief Daniel Seco as well as contributing writers Keith Hickey, Tim Patterson, Puck, and Doug Beard. Each compiled their own respective list, and then we reviewed the composite numbers and made changes before agreeing on the final roster.

1. Tim Howard, GK

Age: 31
Club: Everton
Best Tool: Instinct
TYAC Grade: 82

His other-worldly instincts far too often taken for granted, The Yanks’ chances for any semblance of success during the World Cup are predicated on a peerless performance from Howard in South Africa.

2. Landon Donovan, MF

Age: 28
Club: Los Angeles Galaxy/Everton
Best Tool: Speed
TYAC Grade: 77

While his ability to demonstrate quickness with the ball against defenders made him a star in the MLS, it wasn’t until his loan to Everton this season where Donovan was able to enjoy similar success at the sport’s highest level.

3. Clint Dempsey, F/MF

Age: 27
Club: Fulham
Best Tool: Shot from Distance/Penchant for brilliance
TYAC Grade: 76

He’s the Yanks “moment of brilliance” guy. At times he disappears in his national shirt, but he’s a true goal scorer and his Bronze Ball performance at the Confederations Cup suggests that when in top form he’s possibly the finest American field player.

4. Jozy Altidore, F

Age: 20
Club: Hull City
Best Tool: Physicality
TYAC Grade: 69

Jozy uses an NFL-level blend of strength and speed to get into good positions and to fend off defenders once he has the ball at his feet.

5. Carlos Bocanegra, D

Age: 30
Club: Stade Rennais
Best Tool: Positioning
TYAC Grade: 71

He isn’t the most imposing looking full back in the World Cup, but The Captain is always in the right spot to stifle attacks and even to threaten on set pieces in the opposing box.

6. Michael Bradley, MF

Age: 22
Club: Borussia Moenchengladbach
Best Tool: Marking/Ball hawk
TYAC Grade: 74

His ball-hawking skils and understanding of the game make it possible he could anchor the Yanks midfield for the next three World Cups. Needs to mature a bit and avoid the pointless red cards that have plagued him at times in his club and country careers.

7. Oguchi Onyewu, D

Age: 27
Club: AC Milan
Best Tool: Aerial presence
TYAC Grade: 74

Gooch doesn’t lose 50-50 balls to anyone in the world and his ability to lock down a box on set pieces, as well as an underrated marking presence, were what compelled AC Milan to sign him after his tremendous Confederations Cup performance.

8. Jonathan Spector, D

Age: 24
Club: West Ham United
Best Tool: Service
TYAC Grade: 66

He’s a professional but not world class side back, and it’s his long-ball service on the attack that sets him apart from most defenders that join the rush. See 2009 Confederations Cup.

9. Brad Guzan, GK

Age: 25
Club: Aston Villa
Best Tool: Athleticism
TYAC Grade: 72

There’s an argument that Guzan is more athletic than Tim Howard. The Cup will be a tremendous experience for a guy who may start for both club and country in the next two or three years.

10. Jay DeMerit, D

Age: 30
Club: Watford
Best Tool: Grit
TYAC Grade: 64

The Watford man is the consummate grinder. His grit and determination and willingness to sacrifice his body have been fundamental to his long tenure in England and may have earned him a starting position for the Yanks June 12.

Terrapin Nation will be proudly represented by Mo.

11. Maurice Edu, MF

Age: 23
Club: Glasgow Rangers
Best Tool: Athleticism
TYAC Grade: 69

If Bradley decides to deploy the double-destroyer in the midfield, Edu can provide an excellent complimentary presence to Michael Bradley. He’s impressed Walter Smith with his head for the game, athleticism and box-to-box talents at Rangers and his athleticism and poise on the ball are indicators of his immense upside.

12. Steve Cherundolo, D

Age: 31
Club: Hannover 96
Best Tool: Intelligence, passing
TYAC Grade: 70

The Hannover vice-captain is one of two Americans captaining sides in Europe. He’s a steady defender and smart passer who can help spark the American counterattack. He’s a bit shaky at times on set pieces, but this is more due to his diminutive physical presence than it is to being out of position.

13. Jon Bornstein, D

Age: 25
Club: Chivas USA
Best Tool: Speed
TYAC Grade: 68

Jon’s never going to be referred to as a defensive technician, so it’s primarily his speed that earned him a shot on the national team, and it’s been his speed (and one superbly timed goal) that will book Mr. Bornstein a trip to South Africa.

14. Benny Feilhaber, MF

Age: 25
Club: AGF Aarhus
Best Tool: Moments of Brilliance
TYAC Grade: 63

While Benny offers a nice offensively creative influence to the Yanks midfield, it’s his knack for engineering perfection without a moment’s notice that intrigues fans, journalists, coaches alike.

15. Ricardo Clark, MF

Age: 26
Club: Eintracht Frankfurt
Best Tool: Defensive ball-hawking
TYAC Grade: 65

The Frankfurt man is a heady player with a penchant for reading opposing passes. On his best day, he can lock down the center of a midfield. On his worst days, he makes rash challenges that he gets away with in MLS but won’t internationally. His battle with Edu for a starting position should be the most compelling American story leading up to June 12.

16. Brian Ching, F

Age: 31
Club: Houston Dynamo
Best Tool: Work-rate
TYAC Grade: 70

Only a select few players in the world like Brian Ching and Switzerland’s Valon Behrami can actually be said to work harder on the pitch than anyone else, bar none.

17. Stuart Holden, MF

Age: 24
Club: Bolton
Best Tool: Set piece ability and passing
TYAC Grade: 66

Holden’s broken leg is a big cause for concern and FIFA should punish Nigel de Jong since the referee did not. That said, Holden has impressed at Bolton thus far with his technical ability on set pieces and he is an excellent passer. He’s still learning defensively and at times doesn’t understand the value of possession, a deficiency the injury will make difficult to improve before June 12.

18. Jose Francisco Torres, F

Age: 22
Club: Pachuca
Best Tool: Technical skill on the ball
TYAC Grade: 68

A player unlike any other American in the U.S. player pool—Torres is exceptionally skilled with the ball at his feet and is an excellent shooter for a central midfielder. He needs touches to get involved in the game and there are questions about how his attacking mindset impacts his game defensively, but he’s an appealing substitute for Bradley this summer, and an anchor in 2014.

19. Sacha Kljestan, MF

Age: 24
Club: Chivas USA
Best Tool: Passing/Attacking
TYAC Grade: 67

Bradley lost confidence in him after his tough 2009, but he showed flashes of his attacking brilliance again in the El Salvador match. At his best, he’s a marvelous passer with a knack for being in the right position around the box. A capable finisher, Sacha is a bit emotionally fragile, but his game feeds off confidence and he appears to be getting his feet under him again.

20. DaMarcus Beasley, MF

Age: 27
Club: Glasgow Rangers
Best Tool: Speed
TYAC Grade: 70

When this winger is feeling it he flies all over the field, using his blazing speed to maximum advantage on defense, and blowing by defenders “Theo Walcott style” (formerly “DaMarcus Beasley style”) with the ball.

21. Clarence Goodson, D

Age: 27
Club: IK Start
Best Tool: Physical Presence in the Center
TYAC Grade: 67

Goodson nearly golazo’d his way onto the roster at the end of the Netherlands match but he missed the goal high. He’s a presence on set-pieces on both sides of the ball and has played much better at the international level than CB challengers Chad Marshall and Jimmy Conrad. It’s time to feel safe about his spot on the Yanks’ bench.

22. Heath Pearce, D

Age: 25
Club: FC Dallas
Best Tool: Passing/Deceptive Pace
TYAC Grade: 66

It has never been a question of skill when one discusses Pearce—but he’s another Yank who needs confidence to play well. This inconsistency threatens to keep him off the roster—but his ability with the ball and fine positioning of late may earn him a spot again. We’re also weary of people labeling Bornstein our “only side back with pace”—as Pearce is deceptively quick with the ball at his feet.

23. Marcus Hahnemann, GK

Age: 37
Club: Wolverhampton
Best Tool: Experience
TYAC Grade: 70

There’s a reason Hahnemann has played so long at the highest level—and his work with Wolves this year has been solid. He’s probably the best third-string goalie in South Africa.

Daniel Seco

  • I may take some heat but I do feel strongly enough to state publicly that Gooch is a big, lumbering, out-of-his-depth, accident waiting to happen on the biggest stage in the world.

    Hopefully against England…

  • Dan

    Great feature. I assume you’re assessing players as if they were healthy? I agree with you on all counts. (I do wonder, though, if Bornstein is really more of an asset to the team than Clark or Feilhaber–or even Goodson–but you know, it’s all just, like, my opinion, man.)

    I know you capped the power rankings at 23, but I’d be curious to know how you rank the following players, who might be on the outside looking in (although I think Bedoya has really made a case for himself):

    – Johnson
    – Adu
    – Bedoya
    – Herculez Gomez

  • Dan


    No player is exempt from having a howler now and again. What kind of accident are you talking about? If I were to lose my esteem of Gooch’s defending, it would be from a series of lackluster performances (a la Eddie Johnson), not from any one particular play.

  • Just watching him in the EPL and Serie A and how uncomfortable he looks against real top-level talent IE Rooney.

    He’s a good stopper, I’ll give him that, but nothing more. He wouldn’t be within sight of the England sqaud whereas Donovan and Howard especially might be expecting to start.

  • I agree Guy: Gooch makes me nervous around top shelf talent. His stint Tyne-side was gawd-awful. His first step is nowhere near quality; I think he is likely to be exposed on more than one occasion.
    He is a physical presence, but smart players (and silly refs) will nullify that in a hurry with fouls in dangerous spots. If teams with talent would learn to go directly at our backline (see second half Confed Cup Final) and not try to work the flank looking for a cross (really?… into Timmy Howard, Gooch, and DeMerit?), we would be in real trouble.
    And Dan: I think that of the guys you mentioned, only Bedoya has a real shot.
    Instead of taking a pure front man who’d just be dead weight, we are likely to bring an extra MF and push Dempsey, Benny, Lando, or even Torres forward. EJ, Adu, and Gomez have either not shown enough or shown they are not ready.

  • Dan


    I really feel the need to stick up for Gooch here. There is more recent and more valid data about Gooch’s average caliber of defense against top-tier competiton than his stint with Newcastle two eyars ago–namely the Confed Cup. In the semifinal against Spain, Onyewu was absolutely instrumental in stifling Torres and Villa, who are the kind of players that will punish the smallest defensive mistake, especially from a nervous player with slow pace and a gross first touch. I’d say that we could not have won that game if Onyewu were that player, but I guess it’s down to personal opinion about which performance is more emblematic of Gooch’s average caliber of defense, the semi-final vs. Spain or the final vs. Brazil.

    I think the negative aspects of his physicality that you point out are things that he’s actively working on with Milan–and no better mentor for classy, non-fouling defense than Nesta.

    @ Guy:

    I’m not sure that’s a fair comparison. England are stacked for intelligent, gritty centerbacks and not so stacked for athletic, instinctual goalkeepers. Would Onyewu start for England? Probably not. Would he register on their depth chart? Absolutely.

    I don’t even think we could say that Donovan would start on England’s squad. Lennon, Walcott, A. Young–what does Donovan offer that these players don’t? Leadership, maybe, but what’s leadership next to Lampard, Gerrard, or Beckham? Hell, the field gets even deeper and Donovan gets even further from the starting XI if you want to talk about playing Lampard or Rooney or Milner or Barry out wide.

  • Dan:
    heh, yeah no need to stick up for Gooch… I’ll take him in our starting XI anyday. The Confed Cup was such a strange happening and it was hard to take anything away from it other than the Spanish should have learned something by watching Italy and Brazil dismantle us. Then Brazil spotted us 2 and did it all over again.
    Newcastle was indeed too long ago to gauge him by and he was more recently good enough for no less than AC Milan.
    But for some reason dude makes me nervous and I can totally see Guy’s point… only I hope it happens after we’re up 3-0 in the 90th minute 😉

  • Dan

    Oh, I see your point there. Holding onto a precious lead down the home stretch only to watch the defense lapse and give away some soft goals… Happened with Brazil. I understand.

  • Justin Churchill

    Im not feeling a couple people….Like bornstein should be riding the pine for sure. Kljestan I feel should not make the team (bedoya could take that spot). I guess it depends on how holden recovers but im not a fan of Kljestan. On another note I was watching fox football phone in last night and they were just saying how horrible our back four is. Honestly they get no credit they say gooch is already going to be horrible when he gets back. How are they suppose to know that? I feel like the people who give the USMNT the most shit are former players (harkes, wyanalda, lalas,etc) and this is easily the best national team we have ever had.

  • Tim

    Haha Justin you make an interesting connection there. A little jealous perhaps?
    And if Bornstein and Kljestan were left off the final roster, I would have no problem with that. None at all.

  • Raf Crowley

    mark it down right now. Sacha Kljestan will have in the next 4 years a better career than MB90, Ricardo Clark, and maybe even Mo Edu. the only reason that he’s not a “lock” yet is that Bobbo hasn’t given him the opportunities that MB90 has had. MB90 never has to worry about being subbed out, he never has to worry about getting benched, and he knows that he will always be in the game. Imagine what that could do with someone who has a skillset like Sacha? he wouldn’t be afraid of messing up every 30 seconds, and he could just go for it. he’s a great player and he needs to be included on this roster b/c he will be a FIXTURE on the 2014 squad.

  • Raf Crowley

    it’s not like MB90 really did much to warrant a “lock” spot. after the olympics, he was just kind of put in and he was never taken out. what’s up with that? he didn’t do anything spectacular. for sacha to break in, not only can he not mess up, but he has to perform SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER than everyone else, not just on-par or somewhat better – the guy has to be a donk to get a look. meanwhile, MB90 can be serivcable and average; and what is this fascination that everyone has with Bedoya. He’s OK like Robbie Rogers is ok. Is it just cuz he has a cool name and that he’s kind of new, everyone is stoked?

  • Amy

    Yes, I think the Bedoya fascination is similar to the 3 year old with the shiny new toy—- once Daddy brings the next toy home– we won’t care too much anymore. Note how Bedoya is all the buzz now, especially after Torres performed so-so against the Dutch. Who will be next on the shiny toy list — the young guy from the Philly Union ?

  • Jim

    Should have put an asterisk at then end with a bit about davies. Interested to see how you guys think he ranks.

  • I don’t think there’s much doubt: Davies pairs with Jozy in the starting XI if he’s ready.
    Sacha needs to head to Europe (Eredivisie works for me) to prove he’s ready to see the game at pace. He was horrible at the Confed Cup because he’s not used to playing at that speed. He does have a silky touch but I would love to see his situational/tactical awareness developed to allow his creativity to really show. He won’t get that unless he leaves the MLS. Huge potential, it’s time for him to go after it.
    Torres was misused against the Dutch and I still maintain that the change of shape of the mid when Edu entered allowed Edu/Beas/Bedoya to shine.