Wow. Just wow. Tuesday night was utter chaos. Absolute CONCACAF pandemonium. Of course we saved Mexico’s skin; on a night like that it really couldn’t happen any other way.
Now is our time for reflection. Time to bask in the afterglow of two stoppage time goals to win a CONCACAF road game. Time to spare a few thoughts for a gutty Panama team that you’d have to be some elitist Barca fan possession purist not to like. Time to raise the New Zealand flag, learn the moves to the Haka, and get acquainted with 2012/13 Hammer of the Year and NZ national team captain Winston Reid. Because before any of us know it, World Cup season will be upon us.
As for myself, I realized very shortly after the insane spate of CONCACAF qualifiers ended on Tuesday night that any sort of player evaluation had gone right out the window once things got crazy, which happened pretty early on in the evening. So I bit the bullet, cracked a beer or four, and re-watched USA/Panama, all the while using a complex notation system (little chicken scratch pluses and minuses) to formulate player ratings for this group of mostly fringe players and reserves. Enjoy! By which I mean, feel free to argue with me on Twitter @TYAC_Jon or down in the comments section.
Brad Guzan – 6 – He wasn’t busy all night, but made a couple big saves when called upon. Had no shot on that first goal, and would have been hard pressed to do more with the point blank cross that created the second. As I noted in the preview, no one’s changing sides in the budding Howard vs. Guzan debate over this performance.
Brad Evans – 5.5 – Don’t be fooled by the announcers pronouncing the death of Brad Evans at right back, he was alright. Alberto Quintero ran Evans ragged in the Seattle leg of this matchup, and Evans used that information, generally keeping himself behind the ball since he knew Quintero was too slippery for him to mark closely one-on-one. Furthermore, Evans showed why he’s better as a midfielder playing right back than actual left back Edgar Castillo is at playing left back. Evans let the ball do the work, creating some good spells of possession up the field without continually getting himself woefully out of position.
Michael Orozco Fiscal – 6 – His nicely taken set piece goal definitely helped his rating. It was a middle of the road defensive performance from the reserve defender, with a few big positioning mistakes and instances of being late tracking back exemplifying why he’s a backup.
Goodson – 4.5 – Not the sterling rock-steady performance that fans who watched Goodson in the Gold Cup might have been expecting. Goodson also had a few bad moments in this match. Still, he’s on my World Cup bench ahead of Orozco Fiscal.
Edgar Castillo – 5.5 – A tale of two halves for Castillo, who was lost in no-man’s land up field for about twenty minutes in the first half. Was the difference just that his teammates were informed at halftime that he’d be bombing forward irresponsibly and that they’d have to cover for him? It seems Castillo is the destitute man’s Jordi Alba, and while that means he’s habitually good in the attacking third, it also means he’s a defender that doesn’t place any kind of priority on defending. Frustrating. Now Clarence Goodson knows how Gerard Piqué feels? Never thought I’d write that sentence.
Kyle Beckerman – 7 – The Dred Pirate Beckerman hardly put a foot wrong when he was on the ball, and he had a number of great defensive interventions, but he needed to shield the back four (er, three) even more on Tuesday night with Edgar Castillo spending most of his time in Panama’s half. That’s right, I put that responsibility on Beckerman, and don’t award him and extra point because of Castillo’s positioning. Cleaning up messes like that is Beckerman’s lot in life, and he’s got to be penalized at least a little for not getting it done on a few big occasions.
Sacha Kljestan – 7 – It’s no secret that Sacha is a favorite of this blog, and he was playing the Michael Bradley center midfield role, as predicted, on Tuesday night. Sacha’s play in the middle third of the field was wonderful, he battled to win the ball back all night, and his turnovers were generally in acceptable spots, meaning over that halfway line at the very least. And while he was never going to keep the ball as well as MB 90, the team’s best midfielder, he made up for that with a number of really pretty offensively minded plays around the Panama box. Made a solid case for his inclusion in the World Cup squad, especially on the brilliant ball to Castillo that led to Zusi’s equalizer.
Mix Diskerud – 6.5 – This is the trequartista performance that we all wanted out of Mix in the Bosnia match. In that friendly Mix tried to play a little further up the field, in the spot where Clint Dempsey is accustomed to bulldogging for ninety minutes. That’s not Diskerud’s floppy haired identity. In this match, he dropped just a little deeper into the midfield, and linked up well with Kljestan and Zusi. Looking ahead of him, he was even more in sync with Jozy Altidore. Just a shame none of his great creative plays led to a goal.
Alejandro Bedoya – 3.5 – Bedoya wasn’t a disaster when he was playing winger as he’s accustomed to, but he was a disaster when Klinsmann initiated what will be a very short lived “Bedoya right back” experiment. Still, Ale-Alejandro was rather anonymous prior to shifting back into the defense. Not his best night in the shirt.
Graham Zusi – 7 – Zusi should be a starter on the full national team. He should start in the World Cup. No player internalizes Klinsmann’s teachings like the classy winger. This number might just be an eight if he hadn’t started the match on the left wing, where he was not comfortable or effective. Also, free Tecate and Corona for Graham Zusi for life! Man does Mexico ever owe him.
Jozy Altidore – 8 – It’s almost unthinkable to give a striker this high a rating when he doesn’t score or create any goals, but that’s how good Altidore was. He was easily the best player on the field before being subbed out, and he seems to have put it all together. Next level athleticism, a newly silky first touch, and impeccable timing and instincts. Jozy looked like an accomplished striker that plays in Europe having his way with perhaps the best central defensive pairing in CONCACAF. Remember when Felipe Baloy ate the Yanks in 2011 Gold Cup group play? Altidore damn near ate him on Tuesday night.
Brad Davis – 8 – Talk about a super-sub performance. He changed the game. He got every cross right. He notched two assists. I think Brad Davis just played himself onto the plane to Brazil. Go ahead and feel validated ye legion of loud and obnoxious Houston Dynamo fans.
Aron Jóhannsson – 6.5 – The Iceman cometh! Had to go there, sorry. He gets his first US goal, and it’s a great strike for a stoppage time match-winner. He was good in link-up play with the midfield and striker, and he went really close with what would have been a spectacular curling strike from outside the box. A spectacular curling strike with velocity. We don’t have a ton of guys that can hit that ball.
Terrence Boyd – 5 – He was okay, but was definitely not the force of nature that Altidore was while in this match. That said, he didn’t disappear as we’ve seen him do in the past. Rather, Boyd used his large frame at times, got into some useful positions, and generally moved the ball well. He almost got a goal late in the match, and notched a well deserved (if not spectacular) assist on the Iceman goal. Good job Terrence Boyd, you’ve kept yourself in the discussion… but if it’s between the kid and Herculez Gomez, Herc makes my World Cup squad.
Jon Levy is Co-founder and Co-Editor of The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at email@example.com and you can follow him on Twitter at the above-referenced @TYAC_Jon.