May 2010

Yanks Player Ratings And Observations

Before I move on to rating the performances from Saturday’s final “Send-Off Series” match, a 2-1 American comeback victory over an outstanding Turkish team, I thought I’d share my three observations from my seat at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. I’ll do my best to keep them short, as Raf Crowley’s insights covered most the things I would have noted.

  • Jose Torres has earned the right to start alongside Michael Bradley

Torres gave the Americans exactly what they lacked in the first half Saturday afternoon—a calming presence on the ball whose passes were sharp (as usual) but who more importantly found ways to get involved just enough defensively to allow his central midfield partner to play more aggressive soccer. Torres’ movements and patience were much improved and it was indicative that not only is he growing more comfortable in the US 4-4-2 system, which is foreign to the style and manner of football he plays at his club Pachuca, but also that Bradley Sr. has done a fine job teaching Torres the system and instilling confidence in the highly skilled young Texan. The U.S. was far more organized with Torres in the game and MB 90 was far more effective with Torres at his side. I thought MB 90’s first-half didn’t so much lack for effort (a dangerous tackle late in the first half showed his frustration and conjured up frightening images in the coming month) as it lacked for organization—meaning simply that MB 90 was too caught up in his defensive responsibilities to be an effective orchestrator of the American midfield. He’ll need to better in situations where it feels as if the Yanks midfield is being overrun, and that was certainly the feeling I got in the first half—despite the Yanks being relatively equal in possession.  The upside is that MB 90 was outstanding in the second half, playing far more aggressive football and concise in his passing, while still doing the things with his energy and effort on the defensive end that make him so valuable to the American team. Now if we can only get him to smile a bit and shoot when he makes a brilliant late run up a goal—we’d be perfectly content with the 22 year old American mainstay. Perhaps Torres, who brought back Claudio Reyna midfield dominance memories yesterday, can help him do just that.

  • Clint Dempsey’s Stanky Leg needs a bit of work

With all due respect to Deuce, who did extremely well finishing yesterday after a last-gasp challenge from the Turkish defense—after the brush the hair back portion, Deuce’s stanky leg was a C- at best. I’m not certain if that was a trial run for what will be his World Cup goal-scoring celebration or if Deuce has other celebrations in queue- but I’m certain he needs to work harder on his stanky leg. He looked about as confident as Lionsgate is in the upcoming Ashton Kutcher/Katherine Heigl blockbuster The Killers—and let me go ahead and tell you—that’s not a good thing. That said, it can’t be any worse than Sex and the City 2—but the bottom line is we knew the second installment of Carrie and her girlfriends was going to be poor, but Lionsgate and Deuce can do better.

  • That was the best crowd of the cycle, and the third best win

Turkey isn’t going to the World Cup, but in their defense they were drawn in a group with Spain and a plucky, defense-first Bosnia-Herzegovina side that simply gave them fits. With Guus Hiddink on board, I don’t think the 2008 EURO darlings will miss out on the Brazilian fun. Even having missed the Cup, Turkey is without question a class side and has two to three field players in Nihat, Hamit Altintop, and Arda Turan that are as good if not better than nearly any American field player. Outside of the Miracle on Grass and the 3-0 win over Egypt, this is the third best team the U.S. have beaten in this cycle. There was a draw with Argentina that was a quality result, and sound performances in a few home-soil wins over Mexico, but all in all this was an outstanding result. It is even better that it took place on the eve of the World Cup and that it happened in come from behind fashion. That’s compelling because the Americans have proven to be sound front runners in this cycle but outside of one qualifier, they have not played well from behind—which they may need to do at the World Cup. The crowd was splendid and the support was evident—a very pro-American group and to me suggestive that maybe the U.S. have finally turned a corner playing at home in large, immigrant-heavy cities—which will be a concern hosting in 2018 or 2022.

On a sadder note, I feel bad for The Yanks Are Coming reader and awesome third-grade teacher and USA coozie designer Erin Dutka, who was escorted out of the Linc before the anthem, falsely accused of setting off a smoke-bomb. To make such a long trip requires dedication, and here’s hoping the USMNT corrects this injustice with some token of appreciation and that the huge Brian Ching fan is rewarded for her dedication with a marvelous, safe and fun trip to South Africa. See you in Rustenburg, Erin.

You can buy Erin’s awesome coozies here.


Tim Howard, GK, 5.5 – Made a pair of nice stops in the first half that were vital because the Americans looked so out-of-sync. Was blameless on the goal. Showed moments in the second half, such as a charging header on a Turkish counterattack, that made you think he doesn’t trust his centerbacks. At Everton, he never goes and heads that particular ball—he just yells at Jagielka for making him think about doing it.

Jon Spector, RB, 3 – Looked awful, mostly. Actually made a nice run preceding the goal-allowing counterattack, but then lost the ball. He looked slow and his service, usually reliable, was too slow and indecisive.

Jay DeMerit, CB 4.5—Seemed a bit passive and didn’t look comfortable holding such a high line in the first half. Was better with Onyewu, which is promising, but needs to communicate better. His passing asks questions when it is forward and a lazy moment after the American equalizer nearly led to a Turkish goal. Not the steady-Eddie version we saw last summer. Must do better.

Clarence Goodson, CB, 5—A bit better than DeMerit. He was fine with his marking and better with his passing to the midfielders. Needs to communicate better, which is a universal criticism of our back four in the first half, at least.

Carlos Bocanegra, LB, 6.5—Not always comfortable coming forward, and a bit indecisive with the ball in that role. That said, he’s not out there for his offense and at least he tried to provide width at intelligent times. He’s certainly our best option at side back, and his defensive intensity was palpable. He was missed when taken off.

Landon Donovan, M, 8—One of his finest games in an American shirt. I love him in the Everton role on the right—it really provides an opportunity for him to gnash defenses. He wasn’t as involved in the first half, mostly because the center of the American midfield was being overrun. Once he got his touches, he did well with the ball and made good runs after distributing it. Cheeky move past Volkan on the first goal, and good decision to make the extra pass. Ball to Dempsey setting up the winner was quality, but not as quality as a later one which Deuce just missed for a third goal. He’s breathtaking when he gets defenders backpedalling, and that was the second half.

Ricardo Clark, M, 3—Might have fallen to third on the depth chart for the other starting Mid spot. Clark was aimless on offense and looked confused in his positioning. I understand that he runs eleventy billion meters a match, and the first half had him on that pace—the problem is he can’t do that because he’s lost and needs to gain the ground back to quell scoring chances. Too many turnovers too.

MB 90, M, 6.5—At 22, he’s the heart of the American center, and while he was dependable on defense in the first 45, he needs to be calmer and more decisive when things aren’t going well. Made a rash challenge but thankfully whiffed early. Leagues better when Torres came on. Made sharp passes throughout, and a patented, late-developing, and altogether brilliant run in the 87th would have been a goal if he had shot instead of making the extra pass.

Benny Feilhaver, M, 4—Bad Benny? Maybe just invisible Benny. Seemed a bit out of sorts on the left and was altogether too responsible for the Americans appalling organization in the first half. Short passes were okay, but he’s supposed to be a creative, initiating force and he never seemed to have any ideas or genuine nerve in the attack.

Clint Dempsey, F/M, 6.5—Look—this is basically the average of his grades at each position. He wasn’t sharp in the first half and a late effort on goal would have made Eagles Placekicker David Akers proud, as he buried a field goal from around 35. Unusually bad first touch in the first half. Switched to the left in the second, he was far more probing and he was simply stronger than Sabri Sarlogu on the winning goal. Stanky leg, as well as his chemistry with Altidore, need work.

Jozy Altidore, F, 6—Can play better and will need to, at least in terms of going after defenders and holding up the ball. Made a brilliant run in the first half that nearly created a goal, but then missed a high-school level pass to an onrushing Dempsey. The goal salvaged the afternoon, but you hardly need world class to finish that one-two work by Findley and Donovan.


Gooch, CB, 6.5—Raf’s piece correctly summed it up—Gooch seemed far more comfortable after he deflected a blistering shot in the 62nd minute. His rating is elevated because he elevated the play of DeMerit, who appeared to have communications issues with Howard and Goodson in the first half.

Jose Torres, M, 8—Changed the game and helped the Americans dominate the center after the break. His passing, as I said above, is always quality but what separated him Saturday was his defensive dirty-work and his fine decision making with his passes. Hit the post and just missed what would have been a deserved goal.

Robbie Findley, F, 7.5—Who the hell was that guy and what did they do to Robbie Findley? His pass to Donovan on the first goal was a flawless chip that might have been the nicest play of his career. Relentless effort and went directly at the Turkish center, which is what he’ll be asked to do as a sparkplug off the bench. Let’s see if it was an “I’ll prove you wrong” performance for those shocked he was on the roster, or if he can sustain it next week against the Socceroos, who offer more organization at the center.

Stu Holden, M, 7—Really impressed with his defensive effort in his limited time. He’s continuing to prove his class involves more than brilliant crosses and set pieces. His pass to MB 90 late should have resulted in a third American goal, and his presence on the field truly gives the Yanks a more organized sense of width in attack.

Steve Cherundolo, RB, 6—Probably won the starting job with a strong performance. Years of big matches make him seem comfortable, which is good given Spector’s nerve-wracking first 45. His crosses were fine but more importantly he made the right choices about when to probe forward. That caution will be critical in a month. Committed a bad foul late.

Jon Bornstein, LB, 2.5—Awful. It was almost amusing seeing him get torched late, and then I remembered the World Cup was in two weeks. Bornstein is simply not good enough at this level.

Proper Stanky Leg

Neil W. Blackmon is a senior writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at or @nwb_USMNT.

Neil W. Blackmon

  • I agree on Torres and Holden. Would like to see Edu play with Torres in the final warm-up…. Here’s what I’d like to see for a full line-up against Australia…

  • Well written Neil. Your comment on Holden is spot on.

    You and I agree to disagree on the central defenders–I thought both they–and the midfield were tasked with just way too much in the 1st half.

    On Landon, I’m not sure it’s one of his finer games, in my opinion, though he was the difference marker in the 2nd half.

    His set pieces were average and if anything he showed a little bit of one-dimensionality. He can work well with space, a running start, and a threat in front of him but the 1st half he was sloppy on defense as well.

    On MB90, I saw one good pass and a plethora of questionable ones in the first, but better from him in the 2nd.

    Good review.

  • Raf


    I thought DeMerit played better than you gave him credit for. As for the rest of the D, I think you’re spot on.

    Up top, I’m with you 100%. As far as Landon goes – I’m right there with you too. Excellent match by him.

    In the middle, I agree with you except for your MB90 stuff. Really, what does he do on his own that warrants any more playing time than any of our mediocre central midfielders (let alone the most minutes out of any USMNT player)? I’m with Matthew on this one, and I’m glad someone else sees it my way.

    That said, very well written. You’re much more eloquent than I am. You must have one of those useful MFA degrees or something…..

  • Raf


    You’re correct – Edu should play with Torres, but it’s never going to happen because MB90 never comes out of a game. I’ve written several articles on this and I encourage you to peruse them at your leisure. I’m glad some people see it my way though.

  • Jon

    I think it’s worthy of note than when the American attack is actually functioning, as it was in the second half, Michael Bradley does make some of the team’s best off-the-ball runs into the box. Opposing defenses are often unprepared for these creative bursts forwards since our very own Bald Bull is generally one of the team’s deepest lying mids.

    This isn’t a small sample size observation either, it’s science at this point. MB90’s been flashing into the box without the ball and getting into good positions that make you say “Is that Bradley?!,” all throughout qualifying. He even had a few nice runs in the Netherlands match. He’s not my favorite player, but I think this particular skill is something we often overlook when we’re bitching about how he’s generally uncreative with his passing and dribbling.

  • Neil W. Blackmon

    @ Jeremiah: Nice post on the other page. Other than starting Goodson wide– I think you’re lineup makes sense for the Africa friendly. I think Altidore will start, but maybe there is no harm in giving Buddle a run out. Holden in the midfield is a fine idea– like I said above, we are far more organized with him and he provides us needed width, especially given Deuce’s propensity to pinch inside.

    As far as Edu starting– I’m confident he’ll play. I think he’ll probably start– just remember that means two “destroyers” and not a possession-oriented presence. Edu scores garbage goals and is a good passer, but not a great passer, especially long, and no threat on a set piece.

  • Neil W. Blackmon

    @ Matthew

    Thanks for the kind words. Enjoyed your takes too– and to some extent I’m moving away from my original back line rankings (though not as far as your pieces). I thought Jay got smoked pretty badly by Tuncay early, and the turnover in the 65th was poor. But on re-watch I noticed some really nice box defending, on one occasion on the right he literally covered for Cherundolo and prevented a turn for about 15 seconds. Impressive plays mixed with bad.

    On Donovan– yeah his set pieces weren’t great but one about hit MB 90 in the face. He wasn’t that great on defense in the first half upon rewatch, either. That said, he was in and out of their defense throughout the second and his passing was sublime.

    MB90– biggest beef after the rewatch was the silly tackle that he whiffed on (might have been red if a volatile referee and he’d connected with the tackle) and his decision not to shoot on his late run– though Deuce nearly finished anyway.

  • Neil W. Blackmon

    @ Raf

    Yeah after reading your good review I realized we were basically going to agree on most everything. Just had the (usual, of late) disagreement over our bald center midfielder.

    Thought we needed player rankings after Doug Beard disappeared from the universe.

  • Churchill

    The traitor Giuseppe Rossi was left off the Italy squad. Serves him right.

  • Amy

    Honestly, I kind of feel bad for Giuseppe. I never felt it all that American to condemn someone for chasing a lifelong dream. His Dad passed this year and I’m sure that is tough– but I think it is great he got to see his kid play for the Azzurri. Would he have been cut from the US team ? Of course not– but sometimes choosing a more difficult road because it is a dream is worth it, even if you fail. I don’t understand the animosity, outside of maybe wondering why he celebrated his goal against the U.S….

    It’s Italy’s loss– who is going to provide the spark he would have ? Iaquinta… I doubt it kids.

    Off to teach !!! Good review.

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