Nagbe and Pulisic Stand Out as Yanks Beat Ecuador
May 25, 2016
THE U.S. MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM fought through a dreary first half to play an inspired final 45 minutes and defeat Ecuador with a last-minute goal. It was a revealing game as the substitutes made all the difference and no one played better than Darlington Nagbe, who delivered the game-winner.
Here's a look at how individual players performed.
Brad Guzan: After earning the starting job for Copa America Centenario, Guzan showed no signs of his poor season at Aston Villa, making all necessary stops. None of his saves were very difficult but he was confident. Rating: 5.5
Fabian Johnson: In the first half, Johnson was steady defensively but was unable to push forward into the attack. In the second half, he was far more at ease pushing forward and helped to contribute well into the attacking third. Rating: 6
John Brooks: The Hertha Berlin mainstay had a very good game and showcased his growth as a player the past year. He broke up plays, read the game well, and did his part to limit Ecuador’s chances. Rating: 7.5
Steve Birnbaum: The D.C. United defender struggled early but gradually found his way into the game. Didn’t dominate set pieces the way he is capable. Rating: 5.5
DeAndre Yedlin: After a strong season at Sunderland in a successful relegation battle, Yedlin showed improvement defensively. He was beaten a few times in the first half but also won some 1v1 battles in impressive fashion. He did not have the best game from the attacking standpoint until the very end where he played a role in the winner. Rating: 6
Kyle Beckerman: The Real Salt Lake defensive midfielder found himself chasing the game and was unable to hold the central midfield together. The U.S. team was out-possessed on his watch. Rating: 4
Michael Bradley: The captain made some good defensive plays in the first half but did offer much else. In the second half he came to life on both sides of the ball and imposed himself well. He combined extremely well with Nagbe as the U.S. team took control of the game. Rating: 6.5
Jermaine Jones: The Colorado Rapids midfielder had a rough game and came off in the 63rd minute. His chemistry with Bradley was weak (as it typically has been) and while he hustled defensively, in the attacking side he was off. Rating: 4.5
Gyasi Zardes: The Los Angeles Galaxy winger had a tough game as his first tough let him down on multiple occasions. He seemed out of synch with the rest of the team. Rating: 4
Graham Zusi: The Sporting Kansas City midfielder was a surprise starter but after a lackluster first half he responded well in the second interval. On one very good sequence he broke through the Ecuadorian defense and nearly provided a very nice assist to Alejandro Bedoya. Rating: 6
Clint Dempsey: Subpar game from the surly veteran who had a very difficult time getting involved and did not get a lot of touches. Forgettable game before coming out in the 63rd minute. Rating: 4.5
Darlington Nagbe: Even before his game-winning goal, Nagbe was the best player on the field. His crisp passing and possession-style game completely changed the dynamics of the midfield. He completed all 33 of his passes and scored a goal. Fitting in with this team, his chemistry with Christian Pulisic and Bradley was outstanding. This was his coming out party and the lesson is that Nagbe should start for this team. Rating: 9
Bobby Wood: The newly minted Hamburg SV forward provided a spark in the second half. His mobility helped to open the game and he repeatedly looked dangerous. He made a very nice play to assist on Nagbe’s goal. Rating: 7
Christian Pulisic: The 17-year-old turned heads with his performance. He was always involved and always dangerous. Despite his youth, he was not lost in the moment and made very few mistakes. His fearlessness to take on defenders was eye-opening. Rating: 8
Alejandro Bedoya: The Nantes midfielder replaced Jones in the 63rd minute and was an improvement. He worked hard and helped in the possession game. Rating: 6
Matt Besler: Despite struggling for his club, Besler looked pretty good in limited minutes. He connected well with the midfield on a few occasions to spring an attack. Rating: 5.5
Michael Orozco: The Tijuana defender came on in the 87th minute but did not do enough to earn a grade. Rating: NR
Jurgen Klinsmann: The coach started off a very old and boring lineup whose limitations have already been exposed the past two years. The substitutes were the difference as Nagbe, Pulisic, and Wood won the game. Klinsmann gets good marks for his second-half adjustments but the real test will be what he takes from this game moving forward. That's a bit uncertain right now even if the lessons seem pretty clear. Rating: 6
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