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United States Man of the Match rankings against Portugal

Jun 22, 2014, 9:43 PM EDT

Howard AP

So many emotions after the US gave up a goal early, comes back, takes the lead late, then coughs it up at the death.

So. Many. Emotions.

But for a moment, let’s give credit where it’s due, because the fact remains that the United States is still in the driver’s seat for the second spot in World Cup Group G.

The point against Portugal is a big one, and there are plenty of positives to take away from this game.

Let’s look at the top five performers.

5. Jermaine Jones, MF

Jones was by far the hero of the midfield. Not only did he score an absolute blinder of a goal, but he was a machine in the middle. While he didn’t complete a tackle, he sliced down a few Portuguese counter-attacks before they could build fully, and he also provided important cover for the defenders who occasionally found themselves out of position, whether it was the outside backs caught out on a break, or the central defenders sucked out by the threat of Cristiano Ronaldo.

The only issue for Jones is he was a bit sloppy dishing out the ball. He completed just 77% of his passes (36/47) and had six giveaways in the dead center of the pitch, a very bad place to give up the ball.

But Jones is most valuable when he’s running a lot, has freedom to move around, and is chopping down counter-attacks. Even the yellow card he earned today – the only one the US has picked up over its first two matches – was a quality yellow that halted a Portuguese counter in its tracks.

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4. Fabian Johnson, D

It took some time for Fabian to get into the game down the right flank, with just three touches in the first 20 minutes of the match. However, as the first half built on, Johnson became stronger, and by the half-hour mark he was the US’s biggest creative threat. Johnson received 24 passes in the final 25 minutes of the first half, accounting for 63% of his touches.

That number also tells you he faded late, and as the US took the lead he was again tasked with heavy defending. Altogether, Fabian was a force on the right side, taking advantage of Cristiano Ronaldo’s refusal to defend on the wing.  His work produced one of the biggest US chances on the night, crashing down the flank near the end of the first half, drawing the goalkeeper with him before cutting back perfectly to Michael Bradley wide open in the box. Unfortunately Bradley blasted his shot directly at Ricardo Costa covering on the line with the goal gaping, but the work was there for Fabian.

source: AP

Clint Dempsey cropped up in a vital position yet again for the United States, scoring in the 81st minute to put the US ahead.

3. Clint Dempsey, FW

Jurgen Klinsmann surprised many by slotting the US captain into the striker position instead of using Aron Johannsson or Chris Wondolowski at the head of the attack. Dempsey proved all the doubters wrong, and was a menace all match. He excels at making perfectly-timed runs and popping up in space, and he did just that throughout the match.

Clint put two shots on set pieces just inches over the crossbar in the first half, and came up with a great trailing run to secure the lead for the United States late.

A closer look at Dempsey’s passing chart also shows he was given the freedom to roam just about…literally anywhere. He crops up on the left wing, the right wing, and the middle of the pitch. Dempsey was careful with his dishing as well, completing 26/28 passes, an incredibly clean number for a number 9 at the head of the attack.

Many feared Dempsey by himself at the front would result in his isolation from the rest of the game, but the US proved that wrong, and he was dangerous in the attack.

2. Matt Besler, CB

Coming off a stretch of pedestrian matches where Besler didn’t disappoint but didn’t shine either, he produced a stellar 90 minutes. His passing out of the back was 44/47, and he was able to stretch himself wide to the left to cover the flank as DaMarcus Beasley pushed forward but still never found himself out of position.

He produced 12 clearances for the US, seven of which were inside the 18-yard box. No one on the US had more than five clearances. He made five interceptions, most by a US player. Safe to say Besler was the strongest man at the back for the United States, on a day where Geoff Cameron produced a performance well below his standards.

1. Tim Howard, GK

Nobody was more valuable in this game for the United States than its veteran goalkeeper. Tim Howard produced a brilliant match, stopping just about everything in his path. His two saves at the end of the first half likely saved any chance the US had at getting points out of the game, as a 2-0 scoreline at halftime would have been devastating.

Howard even stopped a late shot from point blank range despite no less than five Portugal players standing in an offside position. The Everton goalkeeper was enormous, and without his heroics the United States would likely be coming away from Manaus with nothing to show for their very positive performance.

  1. bdh75gunner - Jun 22, 2014 at 9:49 PM

    Bradley … perhaps a 4? General was pathetic. Didn’t bother to even try to get back in defense in the last minute.
    Perhaps should have been subbed off for Mix instead of bringing on Gonzo…

    • braxtonrob - Jun 22, 2014 at 10:22 PM

      Definitely! I was thinking the same thing (about subbing in Mix for Bradley.)

    • dws110 - Jun 22, 2014 at 11:01 PM

      Bradley was completely destroyed by 90 minutes, he had absolutely nothing left in the tank. My problem with him is how deep he spent most of the game. MB had no business at all collecting balls at the top of Howard’s box. Very poor outing from the General.

  2. Nick & Deena - Jun 22, 2014 at 9:51 PM

    Those are my top 5, but Jones was my MOTM. Excellent game by the USA, just too bad about the finish. #IBelieve #1N1T

  3. fagiolip - Jun 22, 2014 at 10:00 PM

    Spot on…2 of those picks (by the way) German -Americans…players that developed their soccer in Europe. Bradley made a big mistake moving to the MLS. He will regress. He had a real chance to finally fully develop playing in the best leagues and his MLS return certainly shows in his mediocre to bad performance in the 2 WC games.

    • braxtonrob - Jun 23, 2014 at 2:38 PM

      Don’t blame MLS for Bradley’s sub-par play.

  4. kellybeck15 - Jun 22, 2014 at 10:18 PM

    You, sir, where watching a very different game than the rest of us.

  5. 950003cups - Jun 22, 2014 at 10:20 PM

    Timmy T!
    Nuff said!!!!

  6. braxtonrob - Jun 22, 2014 at 10:32 PM

    Not even close.

    Jermaine Jones was the MOTM.

    Honorable mentions: Fabian Johnson, DaMarcus Beasley (which would have been catastrophe if hadn’t come back on after being hurt), and DeAndre Yedlin (despite being a sub).

    Bradley looks exhausted and is trying too be WAY too clever (with passes AND shots).
    Howard was great, but I suspect he would evaluate himself harsher (and rightfully so maybe).

    Note: You have to be impressed by Wondo’s relaxed impact, and that performance is begging for him to be subbed in MUCH earlier next match.

  7. herogoesallin - Jun 22, 2014 at 10:52 PM

    only soccer noobs put tim bradley at #1.

  8. herogoesallin - Jun 22, 2014 at 10:53 PM

    see what i did. i might got you guys

  9. dws110 - Jun 22, 2014 at 10:59 PM

    I will never again speak ill of Jermaine Jones. He has been an absolute beast over the last two games. I’m glad one of our center mids showed up to Brazil.

  10. cupquest - Jun 22, 2014 at 11:56 PM

    Was not a huge fan of Jermaine jones coming into the WC but tonight he was unbelievable. An absolute machine out there.

    Also thought fabian played very well, however, if you watch the last goal, it was his man, not cameron’s that got behind the defense. With 30 seconds remaining in the game, he was playing way too high and on the wrong side of his mark. Varela was a fresh sub which made it even worse. He makes a 60 yard run and theres no way johnson could catch him. Completely unnecessary risk at that point in the game.

  11. jdfsquared - Jun 23, 2014 at 12:22 AM

    I thought Bradley pushed hard up the middle, fought to control possession, sent out well-weighted, creative balls up both wings all night, and made one errant pass at the back for which he’s unnecessarily becoming the scapegoat.

    Beasley, who also had a fine game positionally (which has been his achilles heel), was as much to blame for the late goal as anyone, allowing Ronaldo to get around the outside and send in the cross.

    Give MB a break. He was way better than last in week’s outing, and I have faith he’ll show up even stronger on Thursday.

  12. striker2727 - Jun 23, 2014 at 12:43 AM

    This ranking is incorrect, Howard was good in the third attempt from Portugal, but in the goal he surrender before the shot. Also in the second attempt he got lucky that the shot hit the post. Don’t get me wrong, he did perform a couple of great plays, but he needs to improve his game!

  13. Dan Haug - Jun 23, 2014 at 5:20 AM

    Howard has not looked that good in either game. He’s gotten sloppy with his fundamentals. It’s frustrating to watch him try to anticipate where the ball is going to go and end up giving up easy goals.

  14. midtec2005 - Jun 23, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    Soooo…. Start Graham Zusi in place of Bradley?

    That’s where he plays for SKC.

    I don’t think I’d do it, but the recent performances make it worth considering.

  15. quackbury - Jun 23, 2014 at 12:38 PM

    The most telling moment of Bradley’s tournament: 55th minute, well inside the box, with the keeper out, and the entire net to shoot at, Bradley shoots right at the only defender who could possibly stop what should have been a certain goal.

    I’ve seen U10’s in town league who are better able to capitalize on gifts. Sad.

  16. heelfans - Jun 24, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    JK needs to get inside MB’s head and straighten him out –don’t know if it’s the heat, playing out of position, playing next to JJ, etc—— whatever it is, get over it!! He’s supposed to be a professional, well paid professional at that! You are asked to play out of position (check out the number of WC players not playing their natural positions); you don’t always like your teammates; and everyone plays in the same weather — suck it up and Beat Germany!!!

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