Michael Bradley Stars for U.S.; Zardes & Ibarra Shine
The U.S. men's national team handled Panama with relative ease, and contributing editor Brooke Tunstall followed suit with his first run at Player Ratings for American Soccer Now.
BY Brooke Tunstall PostedWIN OR LOSE, it’s important to keep friendlies, even several in a row, in proper perspective, especially those at the beginning of a new World Cup cycle. Sunday afternoon’s 2-0 win over Panama will leave the U.S. feeling good as the players return to their club teams after four weeks together. The team broke its three-game losing and five-game winless streaks. But the reality is that the results in all of these games since the World Cup are far less important than how the U.S. has played and who has been doing the playing. Once again the U.S. used recent friendlies to give some new blood some international experience and provide some old hands a chance to play new positions and continue their development. And in the case of Michael Bradley, the friendlies gave him a chance to show that regardless of what league his club team plays in, he’s returned to some great form. Bradley turned in a Man of the Match performance against Panama but was likely overshadowed by some moments of brilliance by Gyasi Zardes and a solid two-way effort by NASL star Miguel Ibarra, both of whom were making their first starts in their second caps and looked every bit the part. The defense looked solid but it needs to be said that even on its best day, Panama, which has never made the World Cup, isn’t the stiffest of tests and on this day the team wasn’t close to its best. Still, a win is a win and a clean sheet is a nice bonus and gives the U.S. a chance to build some momentum as it heads into a busy and challenging series of friendlies this spring. Here are the individual player ratings. Nick Rimando—A fairly quiet 45 minutes, Rimando wasn’t tested much and the only time he was he came off his line alertly in the 14th minute to smother a Panamanian chance. Gets dinged a bit for his poor outlet pass in the 39th that led to a Panamanian chance that on a different day could have been costly. Rating: 5.5 DeAndre Yedlin—An up-and-down 72 minutes but Yedlin did not look like a player who can earn minutes for a UEFA Champions League contender. He was fortunate that several sloppy giveaways and heavy touches early in the game did not lead to more danger. Got forward better as the game wore on and hit a nice cross in the 54th that led to a scoring chance. Rating: 4 Jermaine Jones—This is what Jurgen Klinsmann had in mind when he shifted the aging Jones from his familiar defensive midfield to the backline. Jones made several nice tackles and rarely let Panamanian defenders get behind him. Meanwhile he hit several brilliant balls out of the back and made a great run and pass that led to a scoring chance. Should have done better finishing a set-piece in the second half when he was left wide open but nodded his shot right at Jaime Penedo. Rating: 6.5 Matt Besler—A quiet game for the Sporting Kansas City veteran, who looks far more comfortable in his familiar four-man back line than he did against Chile in a three-back formation. He read the game well and did not get beaten while hitting a few nice passes forward. His slip and turnover in the 39th was his only misstep but that was in part because of a risky ball by Rimando; still, he needed to handle it better. Rating: 5.5 Brek Shea—Wasn’t tested much defensively but acquitted himself well when he was. Made his best play of the game in the 25th minute when he pinched in centrally and broke up a dangerous Panamanian chance with a timely tackle. Still, Shea is in the game because of his ability to go forward and he didn’t do much on that end, though he had a nice cross in the 68th that deserved a better finish from Chris Wondolowski. Rating: 5.5 Miguel Ibarra—With the exception of hardcore NASL fans, most of us had no idea what the U.S. had in Ibarra since he was first called up last fall. What we saw today was a player willing and able to run at defenders and still do the defensive work the wide position requires. His final pass was lacking but he looked like a player who could help the U.S. at this level. Rating: 5.5 Mix Diskerud—At first glance, this was a quiet game for Diskerud, as he did little in the way of creating chances that many have come to expect from him. But he played a deeper role well, holding the fort in front of the backline and allowed Michael Bradley to push forward and wreak havoc. Rating: 5.5 Michael Bradley—The best U.S. player and a second strong game. He spent most of the first part of the game pushed forward and created several chances and almost scored on one corner kick before finishing a brilliantly hit Olimpico minutes later to get the game-winning goal. Could have had an assist with a better finish on a set-piece by Jones and then dropped back into a deeper role late in the game as the U.S. ran out the clock with little difficulty. Rating: 8 Gyasi Zardes—A statement game for Zardes in his second cap and first international start. The Galaxy attacker showed he can be a difference-maker for his country, giving Panama fits with his pace and strength on the flank. He then showed all sorts of soccer smarts and skill in the 40th minute when he settled a ball just inside the center stripe then went on a great run up the middle before springing Clint Dempsey with a perfect pass to set-up the second score. Should have finished a second half chance better after a nice cross but that’s the only misstep he took all game. Rating: 7.5 Clint Dempsey—For most of the first half Dempsey was quiet—so much so that it was easy to forget he was out there. But such is the life for goal-scorers—especially if they answer the bell when the call comes, and Dempsey did that. His brilliantly timed run in the 40th kept him onside and allowed him to receive Zardes’ pass then elude Penedo and finish easily. More active in the second half helping the U.S. maintain possession and drew several fouls. Rating: 7 Jozy Altitore—A solid 45 minutes for the new Toronto man and his second straight strong outing which, when combined with Bradley’s performance, is great news in the Great White North. Altidore didn’t score but he played the target forward position well, holding up and combining and helping set up chances and draw fouls. Had Bradley’s corner kick not curled in he was in the perfect spot to nod it home himself. Rating: 6.5
February 08, 2015
February 08, 2015