U.S. player ratings Tuesday against Ecuador (scale of 1-10).
GK Tim Howard, 6 -- Howard's 70th U.S. cap was a bit of a strange one. He was never forced to make a big save, far less harried than in Saturday's highlight-reel night against Honduras. In the first 45 minutes, aside from being quick off his line a time or two, the U.S. No. 1 was more or less unbothered. And yet, he did concede the one second-half goal. So, yes, a bit of a strange one.
D Steve Cherundolo, 4 -- The veteran U.S. right back wasn't at his best by any measure. Cherundolo had to kick up his game a notch to deal with Jeferson Montero's pace, and even then he was beaten a time or two along the outside. The Hannover captain's positioning and ability to read the game usually more than makes up for a slight lack of pace, but he certainly seemed bothered in this one. All that meant he wasn't the usual, added presence on attack.
D Oguchi Onyewu, 8 -- Well, it's safe to say the big fella is back. His timing has never been better, as he was unimpeachable in the tackle and in aerial challenges. And Onyewu demonstrated a steady and heady sense of just how to employ all that muscle in his first start under Jurgen Klinsmann. One nitpick: he did get drawn out of position a time or two in the first half, which has always been an Onyewu bugaboo. But his overall body of defensive work and steely determination to get forward late (above and beyond in a friendly) more than made amends. All things considered, his impressive and memorable 90 minutes at Red Bull Arena might be the most significant take-away from Tuesday's loss. Michael Orozco Fiscal, we barely knew ya.
D Carlos Bocanegra, 6 -- There's no question the U.S. defense is better when Bocanegra is policing things and organizing from his left center back spot. His positioning and awareness Tuesday was almost always perfect. Would Klinsmann have avoided a third loss in five matches if Bocanegra had been marking centrally rather than Tim Ream on the game's only goal? We'll never know. That said, there was a time or two you'd rather see him do something constructive out of the back rather than being so quick to hoof it forward in "safe" mode. He got on the wrong side of Christian Benitez once in the second half and took a yellow card when Onyewu seemed to be positioned to quash the danger.
D Tim Chandler, 7 -- Think long and hard about the last time a U.S. left back had such a productive night against a quality opponent. Is the long-awaited answer at this trouble child of a position finally emerging? Chandler had oodles of confidence on the attack, especially for someone still in early days along the left, and especially for someone opposing Manchester United's Antonio Valencia, who rarely kicked up any trouble. It was interesting how much less Chandler was able to get forward in the second half without Brek Shea around. He still found the attacking third, but not nearly as often. Was it DaMarcus Beasley (Shea's second-half replacement) and a drop off in spacing, relationship, understanding, etc.? Or was it just that Ecuador was a better side in the second 45?
M Kyle Beckerman, 5 -- Passes that lack authority and precision might suffice against most CONCACAF sides, but the Real Salt Lake man needs to kick it up a notch against South American and European opposition if he wants a more prominent place in the rotation. He did play a lot Saturday, so the legs may simply have gone. Still, there seems to be a pattern, his ability in possession and his linking play seemingly stretched when levels of competition improve. In the end, Beckerman's defensive positioning was usually good, and he erased plenty of Ecuadorean attacks before they reached the danger zone.
M Danny Williams, 4 -- The German-born midfielder's second cap under Klinsmann didn't quite match his promising debut Saturday (against lesser opposition). Playing him as a right-sided midfielder was always an experiment, and it may be over now for the man more accustomed to working centrally. He just doesn't look comfortable in one-on-one opportunities and lacks a feel for spotting the runs and finding the spaces out wide. All in all, a fairly ineffective night, especially during an utterly invisible spell after intermission.
M Maurice Edu, 4 -- Has Edu really ever looked good in a U.S. shirt in anything other than a strict holding role? It's not that he looks awful in a more advanced position -- he was playing just ahead of Beckerman, centrally, on Tuesday. But he looks habitually average, never particularly smooth and without much of an attacker's predatory sense of where to move or how to create. In fairness, it was difficult to pinpoint his role Tuesday; was he supposed to be more of a second-ball winner (along with Beckerman) or more of an attacking midfielder?
M Brek Shea, 6 -- If all these reports of cascading European interest are to be believed, the young winger did absolutely nothing to dent his value Tuesday. A big shot from beyond the penalty area tested goalkeeper Maximo Banguera early and FC Dallas' man was off and flying from there, almost always with an aggressive, positive first touch. He and Chandler have a bright understanding, which tends to push Shea inside a little further. Finally, he always manages to be more involved than his opposite, right-sided U.S. teammate.
F Clint Dempsey, 6 -- Klinsmann and Dempsey both seem to have the same idea about which spot best fits the Texan. Once again, Dempsey worked effectively as a withdrawn forward behind Jozy Altidore. Positive: he usually found the gaps to make himself available for passes out of midfield, and he liberally called upon all that one-on-one moxie to beat defenders. Not as positive: would anyone else like to see a wee bit more variety, as in a few more one-touch passes rather than always absorbing possession and then looking to create off the dribble? As always, he was at his best when inside the 18, although he was never rewarded Tuesday.
F Jozy Altidore, 3 -- An audacious, early shot from a tough angle right away turned out to be Altidore's best moment. He couldn't win his usual share of tussles, sometimes lacking a little spring, perhaps still spent from Saturday's contest. Altidore doesn't yet enjoy a great understanding with Dempsey, which is somewhat understandable since Dempsey tends to freelance. Still, since Dempsey is more firmly established in the player pool, it's on Altidore to create that interplay and understanding.
M Michael Bradley, 5 -- It's interesting that he's no longer an automatic starter, although no one has made a solid case as a superior option centrally. Bradley entered at halftime for Edu and enjoyed his usual solid outing, positioned slightly further back than the man he replaced, (deployed basically alongside Beckerman). Even though his defensive starting position was deeper, Bradley managed to get forward and into attacking spots as much as Edu, which says a lot about the Chievo man's ability to see the game. Generally, he demonstrated a good variety of passes and frequently found Dempsey faster than Edu could. Bradley also inherited some of the free kick and corner kick duty and was generally crisp with those deliveries.
D Jonathan Spector, 4 -- An up-and-down performance after replacing Cherundolo at right back at the half. Each of his first three clearances needed to be better, which is certainly not the way to start. His sneaky little near-post shot off a corner kick was nearly a late equalizer, and was unfortunately about as close as the United States came to scoring in the second half.
M DaMarcus Beasley, 5 -- Entered at halftime for Shea and successfully jitterbugged his way into good positions here and there, in quintessential Beasley style. But aside from a few bright moments on attack and some decent defensive work, there were no telling crosses and, in the end, not much in the way of final product.
F Juan Agudelo, 4 -- He showed more in the first 10 minutes after coming on at halftime for Altidore than the man he replaced had shown in 45 minutes. The young Red Bulls product made some spunky runs early, but lost some energy after that.
F Edson Buddle, 3 -- Entered in the 65th for Williams to work up front alongside Agudelo, but really wasn't seen much at all. If not for a couple of headers inside Ecuador's penalty area, which had little chance of ever being dangerous, we would all have forgotten he was in there.
D Tim Ream, 3 -- Let's just say it: this is not Tim Ream's year. It seemed like such a nice gesture from Klinsmann, bringing in Ream to play at his home ground for the last 18 minutes (replacing Bocanegra). But the nice gesture spiraled into another 2011 black mark when Ream was beaten on the game's telling header. He wasn't terrible on the play, and credit Ecuador's Jaime Ayovi for terrific determination in manufacturing something with Ream on his shoulder. Still, Ream needed to be stronger and meaner in the challenge. It just wasn't good enough.