Coming off a 4-2 drubbing against Belgium on Wednesday, the U.S. men's national team was in serious need of a confidence boost. On an individual level, so was international-goal-starved Jozy Altidore. Both emerged from RFK Stadium with those aspirations met.
The USA turned in its best attacking performance in some time with a 4-3 victory over Germany in the Centennial Celebration match, with Altidore breaking his 19-month international goal-less skid by netting the opening goal in the 13th minute, plus a pinpoint assist to two-goal-scorer Clint Dempsey later. As three World Cup qualifiers wait on the horizon, the Americans have plenty of positive momentum -- even if Germany was missing the vast majority of its A-squad players -- to build off of heading into matches where the results truly matter. Here are the player ratings from the match (as always, on a scale of 0-10):
GK, Tim Howard, 6.5 -- Howard was battered late in the second half when the defense in front of him broke down, but he managed to come up with some major saves to preserve the result. He conceded a rebound that Julian Draxler was able to tip in for Germany's third goal, but that was just about the only blemish on his otherwise sure-handed day.
D, Brad Evans, 7.5 -- Evans trained with the first team at right back on Saturday, so it was not a complete shock to see him in the starting XI. That being said, he's a midfielder for the Seattle Sounders with limited experience at the position, and his performance was one of the major takeaways from the victory. Evans delivered precise service down the right flank for Altidore and he also bottled up Arsenal's Lukas Podolski to great effect. As Klinsmann said after the match, "He took his chance. Simple as that." As wild as it may seem, consider Evans a viable option at the position now.
D, Omar Gonzalez, 5.5 -- As he's proven he is capable of doing, Gonzalez bounced back from a poor outing with a strong showing, but his performance waned in the second 45 minutes. He lost Heiko Westermann on a corner kick just minutes into the second half, allowing the Hamburg defender to head home from an uncontested position. Gonzalez was in the thick of it with the defense getting stretched and pressed in the final minutes. Considering how soundly positioned he was in the first half, it showed that he is able to overcome the mental hurdle of a shocker to effectively mark the likes of Miroslav Klose and Draxler.
D, Matt Besler, 6 -- In a small sample size, Besler has proven to be the top complement to Gonzalez in central defense, and he had another strong game against a tough opponent. The two held their line, maintained disciplined spacing together and hardly resorted to fouling in dangerous spots on the field. Besler came up with a few important clearances and passed extremely accurately out of the back as well. His rise to MLS standout and national-team contributor has been meteoric, but he keeps justifying his place on the field.
D, DaMarcus Beasley, 7 -- In his 101st cap, Beasley worked his tail off to defend from his left back position, only letting a player get behind him on one occasion -- and even then, the ball played in was over-hit. Beasley also got forward with regularity, sent in crosses, won corners and tested the goalkeeper. With Fabian Johnson faring well on the left wing and Edgar Castillo not showing so well in his performance off the bench, Beasley could find himself with a regular role on the back line.
M, Graham Zusi, 6.5 -- Zusi's ability to pick out Altidore with a perfect cross helped set the tone for the day, and even though he did not see a ton of the ball, he brought the necessary wide play on both ends of the field to validate his repeated place in the starting lineup. Zusi also was pressuring high on the backpass that led to the atrocious own goal by Germany goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
M, Michael Bradley, 7.5 -- It was no coincidence that the USA's overall performance improved when Bradley returned to the fray. After having to miss the Belgium game, Bradley re-established stability, order and calmness in the midfield. His touches and passes were clean, his positioning was sound and his defined role along with Jermaine Jones in the center is one of the USA's foundations. Klinsmann and his players praised Bradley's return without even being asked, and for good reason.
M, Jermaine Jones, 7 -- For a second straight game, Jones displayed an extremely high work rate, but this time he was doing so from a more forward-roaming role. He admitted how much more comfortable he is in the midfield with Bradley as his partner, and it appears as if the two have developed a strong chemistry that has cleared any spacing issues the USA was having. Jones also picked out Jozy Altidore with a long pass on the play that led to Clint Dempsey's first goal. And perhaps more importantly, he strayed from any rash challenges and managed to emerge card-less.
M, Fabian Johnson, 5.5 -- Johnson was given an attacking role, much to his delight, and he got forward well, pushing a shot wide with his only attempt on goal. He combined with Beasley to a great effect down the left-hand side, with neither leaving the other stranded and out of position despite both having an attack-first mentality. Johnson was pulled off at halftime with what Klinsmann described as precautionary measures with tightness creeping up in his hamstring, and the hope is that he does not have to miss any time. He provides a balanced complement to Zusi's wide play and is defensively aware as well.
F, Clint Dempsey, 9 -- Dempsey's showing was downright prolific. He drew rave reviews from Klinsmann after his two-goal performance, one that saw him leapfrog Eric Wynalda to second all-time on the USA scoring chart. In the build-up to the opening goal, it was Dempsey who carried forward and played it wide to Zusi for the decisive cross. In the second half, he connected for two highlight-reel goals, first hitting a volley off a bounce from Altidore's cross and then capping his day with a beautiful left-footed strike from distance.
F, Jozy Altidore, 9 -- There are drought-breaking goals, and there's what Altidore did to snap his seemingly endless run without an international goal. Altidore's first-time right-footed volley off Zusi's cross brought the house down and simultaneously lifted mounds of pressure off of his shoulders. Altidore's game was about much more than the goal, though, and it appeared as if his confidence grew with each passing moment. His hold-up play was extremely helpful in bringing his teammates into the attack, and his poise to collect a long pass, keep his head up while being defended and pick out Dempsey for the USA's third goal was as impressive as his strike. All things told, Sunday could very well be a turning-point day in Altidore's international career.
D, Edgar Castillo, 4 -- Castillo's performance was just about the only downer on the day. Entering after a strong run of club form with Tijuana, Castillo was a huge part of the defensive breakdown late in the second half, getting burned repeatedly. He did come up with one vital clearance and a strong tackle, but on the whole, he did not play the part of someone who is vying for a starting job.
M, Brad Davis, 6 -- Davis replaced Johnson at halftime, and the U.S. attack did not miss a beat as a result. Davis was effective in getting forward, dug in defensively, cut centrally when necessary and combined well with fellow substitute Eddie Johnson to help set up Dempsey for an opportunity.
M, Eddie Johnson, 6 -- Johnson came on with a ton of verve and energy for his 34 minutes on the field, and he pressured ter Stegen into making a diving save. With Dempsey and Altidore the preferred attacking tandem and the wing places starting to become more defined, Johnson may not have a place in the starting lineup, but he makes for an intriguing substitute.
F, Terrence Boyd, 5 -- Boyd replaced Altidore for the final nine minutes and change, getting the chance to play against his birth country. Even though he was active in trying to make things happen, his decision making was a little questionable. He tried to force the issue a bit too much on his own, especially on one occasion when Dempsey was clamoring for the ball. Still, the team would rather have that than passiveness and inactivity.