USA World Cup Group Stage Grades (Goalkeeper and Defenders)

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The group stage of the 2010 World Cup is now over for the United States, and while the Yanks were three minutes from being eliminated, they will now advance to the knockout rounds. As the team prepares for Ghana on Saturday, TSB is grading each player on the team based on their performance in the group stages. Part One will look at the teams goalkeeper and defenders, and Part Two will look at the midfielders and forwards.

Goalkeepers:
Tim Howard: A. Yes, Timmy has let in three goals in the tournament, but those three were far more about lackadaisical defending than any goalkeeper error. Howard has been near spotless, coming up with huge saves in the first match against England and putting in assured performances against Slovenia and Algeria. In a tournament where we have seen many a goalkeeper gaffe, Howard is looking like one of the world’s best.

Defenders:
Steve Cherundolo: A. There was actually some debate about whether Cherundolo would be the first choice right back for the US heading into the World Cup. It’s safe to say that debate is over. There’s nothing flashy about him, but Cherundolo has been the most consistent defender for the Yanks so far. He manhandled England winger James Milner so badly that Milner was subbed off in the first half, and he’s shut down every other player he has faced after that. His attacking has also been very good, and he’s done a great job of combining with Landon Donovan on the right flank.

Carlos Bocanegra: A-. The captain played the first two matches at left back before playing center back for the Algeria game, and his play has been consistent even if his position has not. Some thought that his lack of pace would leave him exposed, particularly on the outside, but Bocanegra has hardly put in a wrong foot through three matches. Whichever spot he ends up in against Ghana, the US can feel safe with him in the back.

Jay Demerit: A-. Like Cherundolo, it was not known whether the UIC product would start for the US- Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu had previously been the default central defensive partnership for the Yanks, and a successful one at that. But also like Cherundolo (and Bocanegra), Demerit has played all three matches and has taken the most of his chances and has used his physical style to cement himself in the team. Sure, he has had a few iffy moments, whether misplaying a ball or failing to close down a shot, but for the most part he has shut down opposing forwards, particularly in the air.

Oguchi Onyewu: B/B+. It’s been a bit of a mixed bag for Gooch as he continues to recover from a serious knee injury that cost him practically his entire club season. An impressive display against England gave fans hope that he was back in form, but he was a bit sluggish in the Slovenia match- he was subbed out in the second half and then did not play at all against Algeria. If he plays against Ghana, US supporters can only hope that the extra rest helps him return to full form, because he is a nightmare for attackers when on his game.

Jonathan Bornstein: B. The much-maligned Bornstein started the Algeria match at left back after not appearing in the first two matches. While he was certainly not spectacular, he was also not completely out of his depth, as many predicted he might be. The question now is, did Bornstein do enough to convince Bob Bradley to put him in the lineup again? If he does start against Ghana, the team will be looking for him to show a little more composure on the ball.

DaMarcus Beasley: N/A. Beasley only played ten minutes against Algeria, but that’s ten more than people thought he was going to play- just a few months ago it looked like he had played his way off of the team. The three-time World Cup vet is naturally a midfielder, but with a crowded midfield, his best chance at more playing time might be at left back. With Onyewu still recovering, Jonathan Spector looking iffy in pre-World Cup matches and Bornstein not nailing down his spot, don’t be shocked if that happens.

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