Steve Davis
Saturday June 5th, 2010

Player ratings from Saturday's 2-1 win over Australia (scale of 1-10):

GK, Tim Howard, 6: If the U.S. No. 1 desired more action, he probably should have stuck around for the more helter-skelter second half. Howard made one good save in a fairly uneventful first 45 minutes.

D, Steve Cherundolo, 6: The vet's far post cross was picture perfect, a classy arrangement for Edson Buddle's 31st-minute header. Two unsure moments just after intermission nicked his afternoon slightly, but he was steady otherwise. Cherundolo's leadership and his experience in recognizing when to get forward gives him a big edge over Jonathan Spector for starting duty at right back.

D, Jay DeMerit, 3: His awkward header provided Australia with the corner that led to its first goal -- and was a harbinger for a bad day to come. He was foul prone, especially early. Does he really want to hand England so many free kicks in dangerous spots in a week's time? And DeMerit would have been responsible for a 34th-minute goal but was rescued by Josh Kennedy's inaccuracy on a header from close range. DeMerit did look more settled upon Oguchi Onyewu's arrival.

D, Clarence Goodson, 5: His work on the ball was better than DeMerit's but the communication and linking with his central partner needs shoring up. Kennedy kept finding himself open inside the six. Unlike Kennedy, strikers of the caliber of Wayne Rooney won't miss inside the six. Goodson's distribution was simple and straightforward, as he quashed a tendency to attempt big balls into forwards.

D, Carlos Bocanegra, 5: Not a ton to do for the U.S. captain over about 60 minutes. He's showing no lingering damage from that hernia surgery a month back, and that alone helps the team by subtracting one variable. Bocanegra did lose track of Kennedy once just after the break, and there was no real linking play with Dempsey along their side. Then again, he's not there for linking play; he's there because no one else can reliably police the left side.

M, Landon Donovan, 6: Spent the afternoon in second or third gear along the right, not really mixing it up as much as Clint Dempsey on the left. But his work with the ball was fine, if not always typical Donovan class, and his positioning on defense reliable. His through ball arranged a 52nd-minute goal that was disallowed but should have been. And his precision, driven pass neatly set up the late Herculez Gomez put-away. He looks ready.

M, Ricardo Clark, 5: He never looks quite comfortable on the ball, and on a day when the surface was troublesome his passing was particularly vanilla. But that's OK; his role is clearly to be destroyer. Only on one sequence, as Jonathan Bornstein surged forward late, did the U.S. seem overly vulnerable on the counter, which is part of Clark's job. No one can be too pleased to see him limping off the field clutching his left hamstring in added time.

M, Michael Bradley, 5: He kept the midfield organized in a match that was pretty wide open. His use of the ball was adequate. There was some wayward passing, although he wasn't the only one. If the ball is flying off feet as we keep hearing, perhaps Bradley needs to be more assertive from 25-35 yards. He had just one such try, a decent little effort in the 50th.

M, Clint Dempsey, 5: Not his best match, albeit a busy one playing on his preferred left side. He lost Tim Cahill on the first Aussie goal, and that came minutes after a bad midfield give-away; He did get on the end of the best first-half passing sequence, only to be denied by a Mark Schwarzer finger tip. Later, he was a little casual while missing from close range in first-half injury time. Dempsey's dynamic 52nd-minute diving header should have counted. Finally this: a petulant little first-half spat with Craig Moore is troubling. Something similar could spell disaster in the tournament.

F, Edson Buddle, 8: Jozy Altidore's injury (ankle sprain) provided opportunity, and Buddle spun gold from it with a pair of first-half goals. He had two chances and took them both with authority. He even stripped the ball from Vince Grella to help create the opener. Buddle's hold-up play was just OK, and he was perhaps too close to Robbie Findley on too many occasions, so there's still improvement to be had.

F, Robbie Findley, 5: The Real Salt Lake Man was busy and you love to see the inexperienced striker getting into goal-scoring areas. But at some point strikers have to score, too; Buddle supplied the first goal, but it was Findley offering the telling pressure. His hold-up play and ability to connect was perhaps just a little better than Buddle's, but his finishing surely wasn't. Findley just can't miss chances like the open net he blew in the 15th minute after rounding Schwarzer. And he may have been a little unlucky to see his 52nd-minute shot bang the cross bar but, again, he just has to make those. He's about to play in a World Cup, after all.

Substitutions

GK, Marcus Hahnemann, 5: The U.S. backup produced three quality saves but was alarmingly unstable in dealing with crosses. He completely misjudged the ball twice, watching it helplessly fly over. In one other case, he punched with insufficient authority. Was this the product of the altitude and extra bounce in the ball everyone is talking about? Several players miscalculated ball flight through the match.

D, Jonathan Bornstein, 5: Ironically, his work on defense trumped his work on attack. He did some scrappy work here and there in breaking up Aussie surges after entering on the left for Bocanegra. He seemed to have a little chip on his shoulder; he wore it well. It wasn't a grand performance, but it represented individual improvement.

D, Oguchi Onyewu, 6: Played a little more than 30 minutes, as Bob Bradley sided with caution in bringing him off the bench once again. If strong challenges are the metric, then the big fellow looks ready. On the other hand, can he keep his strength over 90 minutes? He had a little trouble judging ball flight, but so did everyone else.

M, DaMarcus Beasley, 5: Played on the left for the last 12 or so minutes. His role may be just this: a handy introduction of late energy and experience.

F, Herculez Gomez, 7: Just kept drifting and drifting to keep himself open while the late sequence unfolded, as a good striker does. Those instincts paid handsomely once again as he made the most of his late appearance with another goal. He was undone by the beleaguered turf on a break supplied by Donovan. And it's good to come back and help defend late, but he has do it right. His foul, the result of poor positioning, provided Australia a chance to score in the 89th minute.

Manager Bob Bradley: The U.S. boss chose to give the unheralded Aussies plenty of time on the ball with a low-pressure approach, and it worked in the end. He asked Clark and Bradley to clog the passing lanes and delay rather than aggressively tackle through the middle. Looks like a defend-and-counter approach will be the way forward, with goals also hunted on set-pieces.

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