The Belgian domination may not have come quickly, but once it came, it was just as comprehensive as expected. On a beautiful night in Cleveland — a phrase few have ever uttered — the USMNT was whole-heartedly outclassed. The American performance in the 4-2 defeat was far from encouraging, but in looking at the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Christian Benteke and even Kevin Mirallas long before kickoff, it seemed more inevitable than anything.
An early goal and a quick barrage by the insanely in-form Benteke in the second half sealed the fate of a lackluster American side, but the little sun through the clouds came in the immediate response to Mirallas’ opener. Sure, Geoff Cameron’s goal off a corner provided a boost, but in many instances it’s not fair to rely on set pieces as an accurate barometer of the game. Instead, it was the 15-20 minutes after that, where the USMNT actually bossed a supremely talented Belgium team around the park. But alas, those moments were too hard to come by for the Americans.
Disappointing? Sure. But one friendly against one of the world’s fasted rising (and most talented) squads does not make or break this team. That said, players definitely made an impression on Jürgen Klinsmann after their display today. Steve Fogarty and I took in the game and put together our grades on each American players performance.
All grades are on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best and 1 being reserved for Jonathan Bornstein.
Tim Howard: 7
As Fogarty put it on Twitter, there was one point where it looked like the Everton keeper was on the verge of an aneurysm. As many USMNT fans know, this is nothing new for the commanding Howard. Did well coming off his line but was let down by his defenders on the opener from his club teammate. Otherwise unfazed by the potent Belgian attack.
Geoff Cameron: 5.5
Took his goal well, but really would have been harder to miss. Provided a presence on the right hand side and even did a little work getting forward, but clearly more comfortable staying at home, though comfortable is little bit of an exaggeration given his play. With the play of his fellow back-line mates, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He might soon be asked to return to the middle of the park judging by the performances of the next two gentlemen.
Omar Gonzalez: 2
Oh Omar, how far you have fallen. The star of the last round of qualifiers took a major step back against Belgium. So good was his performance against Mexico that it is easy to forget how little international experience he actually has. Looked at in that light, his dreadful performance — directly culpable for two goals and hardly convincing otherwise — is excusable as an experience that just might be necessary on a path to hopefully greater successes.
Clarence Goodson: 3
The veteran stalwart, whether called on to start or come off the bench, is rarely spectacular, but generally dependable. Against the big force of Lukaku, later joined Benteke, he was far from either. Although his failure was not as spectacular as that of Gonzalez, he was still at fault for legitimate chances a number of times. Just before Gonzalez turned the ball over to allow Belgium to go ahead, Goodson gave up possession far to easily and allowed a dangerous ball to be whipped into the area. Luckily, nothing came of it, but he move eventually led to Benteke’s first.
DaMarcus Beasley: 6.5
It appears the DaMarcus Beasley experiment at left back is alive and well. Although it did not go horribly — as one of us wished for on our last episode of American Soccer Junkies — it did not make anyway long for his return to the berth for qualifying. Beasley was a potent force going forward, showing he may continue to be better suited as a winger, but may have fallen too deep on the fourth goal and was lucky to avoid conceding a penalty through a handball earlier in the game.
Jermaine Jones: 6.5
While his 93-percent pass completion rate seems a bit to astounding to believe, the Schalke midfielder was a force in the center of the park, even if the presence of his normal partner in crime, Michael Bradley would have helped his cause. Jones was solid, if often unheard from — which is not always a bad thing — and provided his usual grit. His late yellow card was little more than a matter of course that marred a solid performance.
Sacha Kljestan: 4
Given a chance in his natural position in the center of the park and Kljestan did not deliver the goods. He was awful early and listless later, failing to provide the spark or technically he was brought into camp for.
Brad Davis: 5.5
Started wide but drifted into the center of the park at times. Provided solid distribution and was better than some (ok, that would be me) give him credit for. Had a few poor giveaways and took too many touches on his one real chance to let that “famous” left foot rip at goal.
Clint Dempsey: 7
Occasionally enigmatic, as he is wont to do in this side, Dempsey was still the best player on the pitch. Forced to drop deep for service with no Bradley in the No. 6 role behind him, he still managed to work the ball well. Held off on a few moments when I was sure a classic Dempsey attempt was coming – and I mean “held off” in a good way — and looked to integrate teammates more than he sometimes does in a USMNT shirt. Not to mention, the newly minted captain took control of the penalty chance and finished it well to continue an impressive goal scoring record.
Graham Zusi: 6
Good not great. Basically, just another standard performance from Landon Donovan Light. Proved hard to deal with during the best stretch of play for the USMNT in the first, bust always leaves me wanting him to show just a little bit more. Still, one of the brighter performances on the day.
Jozy Altidore: 5.5
His halftime substitution seemed odd, but hard to read much into that in a friendly. Hasn’t looked either great or awful in recent USMNT games, but needs desperately to get on the score sheet for this team, and himself, going forward.
Brad Guzan: 4.5
Hard to blame the Aston Villa standout for any of the goals scored against him, but allow three past you in a half and the reviews are unlikely to be good. Even so, looked more timid than usual and struggled keeping hold of some routine saves. Not nearly a bad enough showing to threaten his place, however.
Eddie Johnson: 5
Given a rare shot, at least recently, with the national team to show his stuff in his natural role up top and looked dangerous. Moved out wide and had his moments but did little when it came to the final ball. Needs to be a little bit better to really challenge Altidore, but the gap is not as big as it might seem.
Terrence Boyd: 4.5
Made some good runs, but never got a real chance. His low grade is more a reflection of his failure to deal with the corner that eventually led to a Marouane Fellaini headed effort for Belgiam’s third.
Matt Besler: 5
Played better than the man he replaced, Goodson, but still far from his best. His last-ditch challenge on Benteke saved a likely scoring chance, but could easily have been a penalty if gotten wrong. Also, he may have actually gotten it wrong.
Brad Evans: 4.5
Wait, Brad Evans played in this game?
Stuart Holden: Unfinished
When Holden finally took the pitch again after the clock struck 80 minutes, many USMNT fans could not be happier. The cameo was more reward than anything, though he will hopefully get a longer run-out against Germany. Any grade he gets for his 10 minutes playing deep in the midfield does not do justice the fact that he got on the pitch at all.