Player Ratings: For U.S., the Good, the Bad, the Nipple



US logoThe United States national team is heading to the semifinals of the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup (vs. Costa Rica on Saturday night) after defeating El Salvador, 2-0, on Wednesday. In a game where absurd and nasty fouls — biting and nipple twisting — by the losers were all too apparent, a few good moments stood out for Coach Bruce Arena‘s side. Goals by two defenders — Eric Lichaj and Omar Gonzalez — led the United States to victory, but unnecessary mistakes by the goal scorers could have led to disaster. In a double sense, the two defenders were offensive.

Here are our ratings of the play of the U.S. players:


Tim Howard stood tall against El Salvador. The veteran was forced multiple times to clean up defensive mistakes, often scrambling to preserve the shutout. Grade: B+


Eric Lichaj scored his first goal for the U.S., but the goal doesn’t forgive his deficiencies on the back line. Three minutes into the match, he provided El Salvador with a shocking opportunity when his weak back pass was intercepted. Howard raced off his line to thwart the breakaway. Grade: B-

Omar Gonzalez got the U.S. going with a goal late in the first half. Apart from the goal, his defensive positioning left much to be desired. He allowed El Salvador’s forwards to run inside and take shots with shocking regularity. Grade: B-

Matt Hedges had an awful night. His inability to stick with his mark and complete passes gave El Salvador more chances than the losers created on their own. Grade: C-

Justin Morrow was nothing more then average. He made simple runs and provided support down the left side. Besides a gaffe late in the game, he was consistent, if quiet. Grade: B-


Paul Arriola made an impact early, but faded quickly. His energy and awareness were not up to par with El Salvador’s gritty defensive scheme. The Tijuana winger was the first to be subbed off. Grade: B-

Michael Bradley had a typical Michael Bradley game. He was all over the field, the team’s midfield engine, actively involved on both sides of the ball. His corners were exceptional and his assist on the Gonzalez’s goal was terrific. Grade: A-

Darlington Nagbe played in center midfield for the U.S. for the first time and did quite well. Besides an early yellow card, he controlled play through the midfield and offered support to Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore. Perhaps the early yellow card made him refrain from entering duels and tackles more aggressively. Grade: B

Gyasi Zardes showed an iffy touch (surprise!) and his crosses were rarely on target. Credit for energy and drive; but the lack of production is beginning to wear thin. Grade: B-


Clint Dempsey remains two goals short of breaking Landon Donovan‘s national team scoring record. After Wednesday, he could be waiting a while. Dempsey struggled to get a good look at goal, playing mostly with his back to the net. A rough and unproductive night. Grade: B-

Jozy Altidore had a difficult night; not because of his ability, but because of how he was assaulted, fouled, kicked — he was bitten and probably discovered a purple nurple after the game. But the big man kept his composure and played a key role in the attack as the U.S. target man up top. Grade: B+


Jordan Morris checked in early into the second half and added another option on offense. Grade: B-

Kellyn Acosta came on to provide extra defense in the dying stages of the match. He did his job. Grade: B

Chris Pontius was a late substitution. Grade: N/A


Bruce Arena and the U.S. won the game. Period. The team is unbeaten (7-0-5) since he took over from Jurgen Klinsmann last November. Though the U.S. is headed to the semifinals (vs. Costa Rica on Saturday), Arena saw much to displease him. The defense was confused, exposed and would have been undressed by a better team. Grade: B