It was a damn fun World Cup for the USA.While it’s still pretty clear that we are, in terms of pure skill, behind the world’s best teams, I don’t think anyone can deny the grit and determination of our squad. It so happened that I was able to watch the entirety of all four of our games. I don’t claim to be an expert, but here’s my ranking of every guy that played.
1. Tim Howard
Obviously. The only real choice for #1. He saved our asses many a time, like he always does, and really deserved a better outcome against Belgium. What an individual performance that was.
2. Jermaine Jones
Everywhere in the midfield. Jones played a more of an attacking role than I thought he would, but he truly did it all. I think it was pretty clear that he had lost his legs near the end of the Belgium game, although he still had a great chance he sent flying over the cross bar in extra time. And who could forget that screamer against Ghana?
3. Clint Dempsey
Our captain. The guy who scored in the first minute against Ghana, who scored (with his stomach) what should have been the game winner vs Portugal, and whose toughness after breaking his nose signified what the USA was all about in this tournament. He’d likely be my #1 if he could have converted that brilliant free kick in extra time against Belgium. And he did most of it playing out of position as the lone striker instead of his preferred attacking midfield role. Dempsey solidified himself as the best player in US soccer history.
4. Matt Besler
Despite giving up that critical goal to Lukaku against Belgium, Belser was absolutely “the Beastler” during this tournament. Our smartest defender, Besler ruined plenty of chances by not only being in the right place at the right time, but also by using his toughness and never being intimidated by the likes of Ronaldo, Ayew, et al. A rock of a center back.
5. DeAndre Yedlin
What the USMNT needs is more of the athleticism, skill, and fearlessness embodied by DeAndre Yedlin. This guy is one our brightest young stars, and I can’t wait to see how he progresses. He was dangerous nearly every time he touched the ball, and also showed some savvy defending.
6. Fabian Johnson
When we begin to combining Yedlin on the right with Johnson on the left, I think we will see some offense that the USMNT has been severely lacking. Both of these guys love to fly up the wing, and Johnson was certainly responsible for several big scoring opportunities.
7. Kyle Beckerman
Steady. Reliable. The perfect guy to protect our back four. Beckerman proved his doubters wrong, and made Klinsmann look good. He’s not the most athletic guy, which did bite us a time or two, but his toughness and his outlet passing bailed us out quite a bit.
8. DaMarcus Beasley
In what will certainly be the last of his four World Cup appearances, Beasley turned in his best performances. What I’ll remember about him is unflinching, heady passes along the left flank, solid, underrated defending, and a calm and collected demeanor that seemed to relax the team’s mindset. It was like having your dad out there telling you, “don’t worry, I got this.”
9. Omar Gonzalez
Countless clearances. Timely headers. Just what we needed from him. Yeah, Gonzalez will always be good for a defensive lapse or two, but he played still defense against tough competition and proved he deserved to be there.
10. Michael Bradley
Some of his criticism is justified, but not all. Yes, he gave away the ball that lead to Portugal’s equalizer. Yes, his passes and first touches were not always crisp. But Bradley will remain one of our top players going forward. Remember, Klinsmann had him playing out of position – as he prefers to play a deeper, more defensive role. Bradley didn’t complain. He did his job, for the most part, and contributed some excellent defense and a workhorse mentality typical of the USMNT. Don’t forget the brilliant lob to Julian Green against Belgium.
11. John Brooks
The only time we saw Brooks was the second half vs Ghana, where he shined. That game winning header was quite a moment, but overshadowed the tough defense he played as well. Another up-and-comer to be very excited about.
12. Geoff Cameron
The awful mistakes against Portugal offset what would have otherwise been an excellent tournament for Cameron. I like him better in the midfield role he played against Belgium, and I hope Klinsmann keeps him there in the future.
13. Alejandro Bedoya
Disappeared for too much of the tournament. I can’t remember a chance created by Bedoya in any of the games. I do remember that he helped back on defense quite a bit, which was sometimes helpful and sometimes not. We would have been much better off if Bedoya could have given us some offense.
14. Graham Zusi
Had much higher hopes for Zusi. Awful defense. Too many giveaways. He did provide the corner for Brooks’ winner, and he did give Dempsey the nice little chip for the Portugal winner, so that counts for a lot. But those special crosses he puts in from the wing were otherwise rather nonexistent.
15. Julian Green
We only got a speck of a preview from Green, but boy did he look dangerous. An excellent run led to a super athletic goal, and I recall there was one or two more chances he either created or nearly finished. He’s only this low because we didn’t see him for very long at all. Maybe an earlier insertion into the line up would have given us more offense, who knows. What is awesome, though, is that he is going to be with us for a long time.
16. Brad Davis
17. Jozy Altidore
He look involved and ready to strike before the injury took him down. We’ll never know if he would have made a difference. Though I like to think he would have.
18. Aron Johansson
He played? Just kidding. Johansson came in after Jozy went down, and was virtually invisible. I still have hopes for his future, though, cause he is tearing up the Dutch league.
19. Chris Wondolowski
Was brought in to finish. Had chances to finish. Did not finish. Honestly, I feel bad for the guy because the media and fans are using him as a scapegoat. Just wasn’t his tournament.
As for Klinsmann, I thought he made some decent changes, and I like the passion he brings to his job, but I’m still doubtful at his coaching ability. I think we could have used Donovan on the wing instead of Bedoya/Zusi. I thought Diskerud should have played more in the center of the attack. I thought using Dempsey as a lone guy up top didn’t cater to his skills. But I do like his willingness to use guys like Yedlin, Brooks, and (albeit limited) Green. It just still felt like he was building for the future instead of trying to win now. Yeah, we need to build for the future, but it sure would have been nice to advance to the quarterfinals.
Looking back at the rankings, it’s easy to see where we are lacking – in the attacking midfield and at striker. I think Jozy will be okay, but we could certainly use other options up there. Johansson may still be the guy. Or maybe Terrence Boyd or Juan Agudelo will be. I’d like to see more of Diskerud and Joe Corona in the attack. And hopefully Green is the Freddy Adu that never was.