With Jozy Altidore nursing a mild ankle sprain, Saturday’s friendly against the Socceroos was a good opportunity for the remaining three strikers to make an impression and a case for significant minutes against England. Edson Buddle stole the show early by nabbing two goals in the first half, but more importantly showed everyone that he can score at the international level. Herculez Gomez rounded out the scoring proving that he is an incredibly efficient sub (2 goals in less than 6o minutes of actual playing time).
But oddly enough, on a day where we expected to have plenty of questions about the front line, it was the U.S. backline that left us dumbfounded. What has usually been the strength of the team, suddenly vanished as the fullbacks looked bothered and confused when trying to deal with Australia’s forwards and crosses into the box. If I were a British scout watching this game, my report would say start 6’7″ Peter Crouch next to Rooney and start crossing the ball all day.
A side note: I’ve always viewed Mexico to be the dirtiest national team of all time. However, with today’s display I am tempted to put Australia right up there with them. From blatantly late challenges, two-footed tackles to even a clothesline challenge, it is hard to not consider the Socceroos for the title. Very disappointed that they would be so reckless in the last friendly before the World Cup actually starts.
Player ratings: (1-10; 10=best )
Tim Howard, goalkeeper, 6.5 — Didn’t have much to do but as always very steady and composed.
Carlos Bocanegra, defense, 5.5 — Solid defending from the U.S. Captain but lacked any offensive bite or link up play with Clint Dempsey. But what he does best is shut down opposing attackers. Will be starting against England next week.
Clarence Goodson, defense, 5.5 — Has continued to make a strong case to be included in the starting XI. Did well and made some timely tackles but surprisingly looked lost in the air, which has normally been the strongest part of his game. I won’t be surprised if he starts ahead of Onyewu on June 12th.
Jay DeMerit, defense, 4 — Looked frazzled and very foul prone for the first 60 some minutes. Settled in once Onyewu was his central partner but cannot play at this level against England if the U.S. wants a chance.
Steve Cherundolo, defense, 7 — Did well running up and down the right flank providing good combination play with Donovan. Was very active getting involved in the offense. His run and cross on Buddle’s second goal was a thing of beauty.
Landon Donovan, midfield, 7.5 — It’s clear he is playing some of the best soccer of his career. Made some great runs showing off his pace and delivered a perfect through ball in the 52nd minute that should have been a goal. Donovan’s confidence level and leadership will guide the U.S. into the second round and quite possibly a shocking upset against England.
Ricardo Clark, midfield, 4.5 — 35 minutes into the game and I had to look up who was starting next to Bradley in the middle. Was very anonymous for the whole game. Did some nice tidy defensive work but with Jose Torres’ fantastic display against Turkey, Clark needed to do much more to be considered for a starting spot.
Michael Bradley, midfield, 6 — Another typical performance from the head coach’s son. Did plenty of dirty work early on and showed that he can be counted on when needed. Had a good attempt on goal that many fans would love to see more of from him. I look forward to seeing him stack up against Frank Lampard.
Clint Dempsey, midfield, 6 — Put in a good performance on the attacking end, nearly scoring on two occasions. Largely to blame for losing Cahill on Australia’s equalizer. But more troubling was his little scrap with Craig Moore in the first half, which would probably be a red card offense come tournament time. The U.S. cannot afford such nonsense at this level.
Edson Buddle, forward, 8 — Jozy who? Buddle made of the most of his chances and showed off his finishing touch with an incredible blast with his right and a well placed header. Has given Coach Bradley some things to think about.
Robbie Findley, forward, 5.5 — Made some fantastic plays taking on defenders, unbalancing them with his pace. Missed a wide open goal in the 15th minute and hit the crossbar on another occasion. The positive was that he put himself in dangerous positions to score, but for a striker at the international level, he must finish those.
Marcus Hahnemann, goalkeeper, 6 — Made timely saves to bail out the shaky defense in front of him. Completely missed two crosses in front of his goal which is concerning but could be attributed to the sun being in his eyes. A good No. 2 behind Howard.
Jonathan Bornstein, defense, 5 — With his introduction to the match, I was prepared to see him concede two goals to give the Socceroos the win. But Bornstein was fine and gave some timely clearances. Perhaps there’s hope for him yet.
Oguchi Onyewu, defense, 5 — Still looked tentative and reserved when playing. While he made no glaring mistakes, such play against England would give Wayne Rooney a hat trick by half time. A lot can happen between now and June 12th, but if it were up to me, he isn’t ready for England.
DaMarcus Beasley, midfield, 5 — Did well tracking back and contributing to defense. Didn’t do much else than provide a shield for Bornstein. Would’ve loved to see him get in the attack and put pressure on Australia to get the ball from him instead.
Herculez Gomez, forward, 6.5 — Continues to shine in the super-sub role. Came on late and rather than putting himself behind the ball and opting to just defend, Gomez found seams and holes in the Australian back line and was constantly putting offensive pressure. Was unlucky when the turf flubbed a pass to a streaking Findley but made up for it by finishing Donovan’s cross through the box.