While most of America debated over who was going to win Super Bowl XLVIII, the USMNT had their first action of 2014 on Saturday, February 1. The Yanks did not disappoint, beating an inspired South Korean side 2-0 in sunny Carson, California. The Yanks struck early with much-maligned forward Chris Wondolowski heading in a gimme after a Brad Davis shot was stopped by the Korean keeper. However, for much of the first half, it seemed as though South Korea had the better chances, with much of the action directed toward Nick Rimando’s goal.
The second half started with a bang for the Stars and Stripes, as Wondo coolly buried in a short range shot left for him on a platter by Landon Donovan. That proved to be the only scoring, as the United States spent much of the second half the defensive to preserve the shut out. The game was uninspiring and lethargic, as USMNT games in January often are, but a good result to break camp.
The 2-0 result is the perfect way to start off a World Cup year — on paper. Only getting three shots total is a problem, especially when two of those come in the first five minutes of the game. However, despite both teams missing more than a dozen of their normal players, Jürgen Klinsmann got to try some different combinations, while integrating new players into the fold. This game was far from memorable, but it is a step in the right direction for the Red, White and Blue as we now stand just five months away from the World Cup in Brazil.
Dan Popko and I took time out of our busy schedules to watch and grade the match. All grades are on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being best and 1 being reserved for Mike Magee’s digestive system.
Nick Rimando: 7.5
Rimando had to work hard for this shutout, as South Korea got plenty of opportunities to put the ball in the net. He was credited with six saves, the most important coming right after the opening goal, when he shut the door on a Korean corner, even if goal-line technology could have possibly said otherwise. He’s still firmly entrenched as the USMNT No. 3 keeper heading into Brazil.
Brad Evans: 4.5
A rough night for the Seattle Sounders man. Evans was beaten a few times down the right flank and had very little impact going forward. Klinsmann was able to ride Evans throughout the Hex, but the experiment may be on its last legs. The thought of Cristiano Ronaldo running at Evans in June is terrifying. Subbed off in the 74th minute.
Matt Besler: 5.5
Did all of his usual professional defensive work. Distribution from the back was uncharacteristically poor. I’ll chalk that up to rust, but he must do better against tougher competition. Subbed off in the 62nd minute.
Omar Gonzalez: 6.5
Steady game at center back for Gonzalez, playing in front of his home town fans. Was a force in the air and did a good job distributing in the back. Very good sign for someone who has not played since the MLS playoffs.
Michael Parkhurst: 7
Firmly put himself in the conversation for starting left-back at the World Cup (he’s also in it at right back). Steadied the back line, was smart going forward and provided a calming influence that has been missing from left back for years, or basically ever. There’s a place for him on the World Cup squad, and Klinsmann seems more and more confident in the veteran to get the job done.
Kyle Beckerman: 6.5
I predicted that the USMNT would control the attack in this game and that Beckerman’s services would not be needed. Boy, was I wrong. Played the destroyer role perfectly and distributed well from deep in the midfield. Lost his man once or twice but recovered nicely. Got his head on a crucial Korea set piece just before the final whistle.
Mix Diskerud: 5
Had a chance to run the show from the middle and came up just a bit short. Made some nice tackles to halt Korean progress, but was not particularly sharp in distribution, giving away possession carelessly at times. I disagree with Alexi Lalas’ assessment that he doesn’t fit in with this team, but he has to do better to make it to Brazil. Subbed off in the 62nd minute.
Graham Zusi: 7.5
Started the game with a bang by providing a sensational cross to Davis that opened the scoring after Wondo cleaned things up. Was all over the field and claimed responsibility for the rare USMNT scoring chances. One of his best games wearing the national team shirt. Subbed off in the 82nd minute.
Brad Davis: 5.5
Denied a goal by an awesome save from Jun Sung-Ryong in the fourth minute. Played a workmanlike first half, keeping possession and tracking back nicely. Seemed out of it after half time, giving away possession and playing like someone who had just been given a sedative. Subbed off in the 75th minute, 15 minutes too late for my liking.
Landon Donovan: 5
Set up Wondolowski’s second, but other than that was really, really quiet. Somehow did not get a shot off. Went the full 90, but did not do much to suggest he belongs anywhere but the wing.
Chris Wondolowski: 8
Scored two of the most unimpressive goals you’ll see — as he is wont to do — but scored them nonetheless. I still cannot see him as a serious candidate at striker, but he definitely did not hurt his hopes for Brazil in what may have been his final chance to impress Klinsmann. Subbed off in the 62nd minute. Man of the Match, basically by default.
DeAndre Yedlin: 5.5
Made his USMNT debut in the 74th minute and promptly gave away possession with a lazy pass. He then worked his ass off to get it back. Played with a ton of energy for an otherwise lifeless team, but may be too raw to make an impact this cycle. Interesting to see if he will be featured again in the coming months.
Clarence Goodson: 6
Came on for Besler and kept the back four steady. Nothing spectacularly notable, which is always good for a center back.
Benny Fielhaber: 5.5
Returned to national team after an extended absence but did not make much of an impact. Probably played a little too deep after coming in for Diskerud. It’s unknown how much faith Klinsmann has in him, but he badly wants to be on the plane to Brazil.
Luis Gil: 6
Came on for Davis in the 75th minute, joining his Under-20 World Cup teammate Yedlin as the USMNT’s newest members. Provided some exciting moments in attack that resulted in very little. He’s going to be a force to be reckoned with, probably in the 2018 cycle.
Eddie Johnson: 6
Provided some nice hold up play coming on for Wondo, but gravitated towards the wings a little too often. Relegated to a substitute role after battling a quad strain in training.
Eric Alexander: N/A
Entered in the 82nd minute. He gets an N/A because I can’t remember if he did anything. Not anything noteworthy, but anything at all. Adrian Healey seemed shocked upon his entrance, so that provided some much needed entertainment in a boring game. (Note: Dan Popko gave him a 3.0 for no good reason)