There are ideal ways to kick off a five-game stretch, and then there is what the U.S. men's national team was able to accomplish in its 5-1 thumping of Scotland Saturday night. Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones led the way, which is reflected in the U.S. player ratings from the match:
GK, Tim Howard, 5 -- Didn't have a thing to do, as Scotland hardly threatened his goal. There was nothing Howard could have done to prevent the own goal that accounted for Scotland's only score, and he had one instance where he aggressively punched away a Charlie Mulgrew cross from the left to prevent any potential chances on frame. Other than that, it was a pretty quiet evening for the surefire U.S. No. 1 goalkeeper.
D, Steve Cherundolo, 6 -- Another steady evening for the Hannover captain. Cherundolo was tight in his marking, played hard to the final whistle despite the result being well in hand and offered enough going forward to keep Scotland honest. Cherundolo was one of five U.S. players to go all 90 minutes, and he'll undoubtedly be tested more by the pace and skill that Brazil's attackers offer, but for those worrying about Timmy Chandler's decision to pass on the national team, Cherundolo offered a reminder that he still has what it takes to be the top right back option in the player pool.
D, Geoff Cameron, 4 -- Cameron was responsible for the only blemish on the U.S. night, with his own goal accounting for the Scots' tally. It wasn't just the own goal that Cameron was at fault for on that sequence, though. He completely lost track of Kenny Miller on the simple, lofted cross into the area, appeared to play Miller onside and then had the misfortune of Miller's header deflecting off him and into the goal. To his credit, Cameron calmed down and responded from that point forward in his 90-minute shift -- though he wasn't really pressed into any high-intensity situations -- and his distribution was sound. He also did a good job of staying home and not getting pulled forward, which he has a tendency to do.
D, Carlos Bocanegra, 5.5 -- The U.S. captain did not have a whole lot to do, with Scotland failing to pressure through the middle. Even so, Bocanegra is the king of having effective performances that often go unnoticed for their being unspectacular in nature, and that was again the case in Jacksonville. Bocanegra did offer a glimpse into the Old Firm derby by body checking Celtic captain Scott Brown after losing the ball and earning himself a yellow card. If this were an official tournament, which is how Klinsmann is trying to simulate these five matches, then that card would be a bit more detrimental and costly.
D, Fabian Johnson, 6.5 -- Is there any doubt that Johnson is the first-choice left back going forward? After Klinsmann called him one of the best left backs in the Bundesliga on a Friday conference call, Johnson played like it. He was dangerous going forward, earned a pair of free kicks in dangerous areas and was solid when called upon in defense. A couple of his second-half crosses ended up behind their intended targets, but displaying technical savvy while on the ball and never really being caught too far up the field, Johnson had himself a strong night.
M, Michael Bradley, 8.5 -- Landon Donovan will steal the headlines because of his hat trick, but Bradley's performance in the midfield was sublime. Building off his man-of-the-match performance against Italy in February, Bradley kicked off his night by playing Jermaine Jones forward to help set up Donovan's opening goal, and he punctuated his match with a tremendous volley from distance, showing the confidence to call for Jones' layoff pass, and the skill and ability to execute and leave no chance for goalkeeper Allan McGregor. That was just the start, though. He was a constant presence in the midfield all night, covered a ton of ground and rarely lost the ball in an accurate passing display. His effortless pass to set up Donovan for his third goal was a fitting cap to a dominant 90-minute showing.
M, Maurice Edu, 6 -- Of the midfield triumvirate, Edu was the most defensive and he did a decent job clogging the center. In terms of distribution, Edu got into the act and was quite accurate, with Scotland never really closing down on him when he stepped over the midfield line. Edu had one golden chance to have a go at goal, but instead was unselfish and tried to set Terrence Boyd up instead. Playing against some of his current and former club teammates, Edu had a stable night in the midfield, but he is a candidate to head to the bench when Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey force Klinsmann into lineup decisions in the upcoming matches.
M, Jermaine Jones, 8 -- Saturday's match was by far Jones' best attacking performance in a U.S. jersey. Jones set up the first two goals and looked downright dangerous and in control while going forward, something that has been a rarity during his days representing the national team. He embraced his role in the midfield triangle and was rewarded for his stellar play with a snap header for his second-career U.S. goal. And to top it all off, he avoided picking up a yellow card, which has been a constant problem in his career for club and country.
F, Jose Francisco Torres, 7.5 -- A reinvigorated Torres enjoyed a strong season at Pachuca, and he carried that confidence into Saturday night's match, evidenced by his quickly taken free kick that nearly stunned Scotland but hit the crossbar. Even though he was technically stationed on the left, Torres pinched centrally and facilitated things moving forward on a regular basis, but with Johnson getting into the attack, the U.S. formation was never lopsided or unbalanced. That's not to say that Torres ignored his responsibilities on the wing, as his pressure in the attacking end forced a turnover that led directly to the opening U.S. goal. It's easy to forget that Torres was a starter in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and he may have played his way into more starter's minutes with his showing against Scotland.
F, Terrence Boyd, 5.5 -- Making his first international start before having his first first-team club start, Boyd constantly got himself into dangerous positions, and was fearless going for the ball in the area. He never quite found his finishing touch, but he displayed the eagerness and work rate that has Klinsmann so hopeful about his potential. The sharpness will come as his club career progresses, and while he most certainly has a place on the bench when Altidore and Dempsey return to action, Boyd did well for himself.
F, Landon Donovan, 9 -- Welcome back, Mr. Donovan. Providing the consistent threat down the right that has been sorely lacking throughout the Klinsmann era, Donovan marked his return to the national team after a nearly nine-month layoff with a hat trick, his third in international play and first since 2007. It was not just the goal scoring that was impressive with Donovan, though. His passing and off-ball runs were sharp, and his crosses from the right were pinpoint and on target. The only things muted about Donovan's triumphant return were his goal celebrations. For a player who has admittedly not been himself on the field lately, Donovan dug deep and tapped into his reserves to show that the all-time leading U.S. goal scorer still has what it takes to be a game-changer.
GK, Brad Guzan, 5 -- Like Howard, Guzan was not pressed into action at all, but regaining his place as the U.S. No. 2 is accomplishment enough for a player entering an important summer in his club career.
D, Oguchi Onyewu, 6 -- If there was any doubt that Onyewu lost any of his athleticism, his leap to cut out a cross after Scotland's most promising buildup of the match in the final minutes should erase all of it. Klinsmann rates Cameron as a top-four option at center back and gave the Dynamo defender the start Saturday, but there should be no contention to Onyewu being the ideal complement to Bocanegra in the back when qualifiers begin June 8.
D, Edgar Castillo, 4 -- Castillo sat on the bench watching Johnson thrive and had to figure that he's fighting for backup minutes at this point. He was a bit careless with the ball and hooked a shot attempt from distance that went out for a throw-in. Castillo rightfully earned his place on the roster with a strong season at Tijuana, but as has been the case in a small sample size in the past, his club form doesn't necessarily translate to the international level.
M, Kyle Beckerman, 5.5 -- The Real Salt Lake captain stepped into the spot vacated by Edu and came up with a couple of blocks in his few minutes on the field. While he remains a favorite of Klinsmann for his willingness to follow orders and work hard, it should be clear where he stands on the totem pole of central midfielders.
F, Joe Corona, 5 -- Although Corona hardly had a chance to make an impact with the game well in hand when he came on, the night was a special one in his budding career, as it marked his first career cap. After leading the U.S. Under-23 side in scoring during Olympic qualifying and earning rave reviews from Klinsmann, the cap figures to be the first of many.
F, Herculez Gomez, 6 -- He was involved in setting up the last two U.S. goals, including one just seconds after he stepped onto the field to replace Boyd atop the U.S. formation. For someone who has now twice beaten the odds to make the national team as he heads into his 30s, Gomez is the quintessential example of hard work and determination paying off.