Germany 4:1 US--Player analysis
As I wrote earlier, this game was all (well, mostly) about individual performances for us. So what can we take away from it? Whose stock is up and whose has gone down?
Blue-chippers on the rise:
Gibbs: He was one of the main ones to watch this game. A bad game could have scuttled his World Cup chances altogether, but he truly rose to the occasion. He played Gerald Asamoah tough from the get-go and basically marked him out of the game. He also came forward well along the left, and got a shot off early that was earmarked for the far corner if it hadn’t been well-defended by Josh Wolff.
Convey: The only player all game long who could create danger with the ball at his feet. Other players did well with a shot or a pass, but Convey ran down the left all day long, with creativity and skill. He’s definitely going to be on the roster come June, perhaps as a super-sub (a role in which I think he’d excel) or even as a starter if DMB doesn’t improve his game. (Also, did you know that according to some ranking system he’s the best player in the English first division?)
Johnson: Not the post-injury breakout game that I’m still waiting for (perhaps against Jamaica?), but he showed something I didn’t think he had in him: a tough, hard-fought ninety minutes. EJ was well marked but provided our only danger on set pieces, twice getting headers on goal (that would have resulted in at least one score against a lesser goalie than Oliver Kahn). Plus, he tracked back well on defense, and was as responsible as Dolo for the flukey goal we scored, bearing down on Kahn to create danger even in minute 86 of a game we were losing 4-0. He still needs to improve his first touch and link up better with teammates (both making and seeing runs off the ball), but based on what I saw today I’m excited to see what he’ll bring after some MLS seasoning.
They’re dogs with fleas—dump ‘em:
Berhalter: largely responsible for the three goals we gave up toward the end. The second and fourth goals were the result of some miscommunication, though Gregg was beat on the second, and was standing in the box as Ballack headed in the fourth. So those two might be partially on Conrad, but the third was all Berhalter, with the awful giveaway gifting Klose a chance clean in on goal. Shades of the turnover to Adriano that created Brazil’s only goal in their 1-0 defeat of us during the 2003 Confederations Cup. He shouldn’t be on the roster, but Bruce loves him, so I fear he may be.
Ching: two good moments. A nice shot on goal that forced Kahn to save well in the tenth minute, then he battled well to win a 50-50 ball in the box, but was wrongly whistled for the foul (the ref likely didn’t want to whistle it on the German player who did commit the foul—that would have meant calling a penalty). In sixty minutes, that’s not nearly enough production. Ching is a good guy, and a solid MLS player, but not good enough at this level.
Conrad: not as bad as Berhalter, and in fact very good in the first half and up until the minute 70 debacle. He even went forward a few times and had a decent chance on goal (that he flubbed, not surprisingly). But two of the three late goals were partly due to his hesitation and miscommunication, and when the US defense was in pieces late on, he was a major contributor. Centerbacks have to be steady 100% of the time. JC’s not at that level yet, and while he will be important for us in Gold Cup and Concacaf games, I doubt he’ll ever be a world-class defender.
Zavagnin: A few decent moments, but basically invisible. He’s like Pablo in that you don’t notice him that much, but unlike Pablo in that he doesn’t have the same ability to control and calm the midfield. When you’re a holding midfielder and you’re not effective at holding possession, you shouldn’t be on the team. I don’t see him on the final roster.
Klein: He was only on the roster thanks to Noonan’s injury, and only got in the game thanks to Wolff’s injury. Barring a similar series of lucky breaks, he won’t be on the World Cup squad, especially after his consistently unimpressive play on Wednesday.
Unchanged after heavy trading:
Keller. He really can’t be blamed for any of the four goals. In his best moments, he’d come up with wonder saves on some of the breakaways and point blank chances, but when you leave Ballack wide open in the middle of the eighteen-yard box or allow Klose to run in unmarked on goal, you can’t hold the goalkeeper responsible for the resulting score. His angry reaction after the game suggests that he’s emerged as the unquestioned team leader as well.
Dolo. Another typically great game from someone who’s locked into the starting XI as solidly as any of our players. Plus, have we ever had anyone score from behind the midfield stripe? Hey, maybe he’s the solution to our striker problems…
Mastro: Celo Balboa called it right—Mastro is steady. He knows his role and executes within it, helping give the midfield coherence and stability. It’s no coincidence that right around the time he was subbed out in the second half, things began to go to pieces. Reyna is probably better and deserves the start if healthy, but even if Claudio’s unavailable, I think we’ll be OK with Pablo shoring up the midfield.