USA vs. Jamaica World Cup Qualifier Player Analysis
Following a U.S. Men's National Team match, it has become a ritual for U.S. soccer fans, such as myself, to constantly hit the refresh button on our Twitter feeds as we await player ratings from the major sports media outlets. Once these ratings get published, diehards and casual fans alike rush to analyze and debate over the latest numeric values assigned to their favorite players.
When I analyze the latest player ratings following a critical international game, I catch myself either nodding my head in agreement or thinking "well that's one way to spin it" due the subjectivity of this performance analysis tool. It's easy to see where these ratings do become subjective- Edgar Castillo either effectively stopped (7) or helplessly watched (4) Mexico's attack in August, as his performance in Azteca earned drastically different scores depending on who you ask. Not only is it difficult to use one set of player ratings to accurately assess an individual's performance, but the single game ratings also make it difficult to get a good look at how players performed across multiple matches.
So to help you speculate on how the next two World Cup Qualifying games could play out, I've pulled player ratings from ESPN, Fox Soccer, New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and the Washington Post for each player who played in, and received ratings for, 2 or more games since the Scotland friendly. After aggregating these across from the aforementioned 5 media platforms, I averaged ratings from the last 6 games to create a Composite Player Rating (CPR) for each player.
With those restrictions in mind, 15 of the 24 players called-up for the September matches vs. Jamaica had sufficient data for this analysis:
Fabian Johnson - 4 games; 6.80 CPR
Carlos Bocanegra may be Captain America these days, but Johnson continues to log solid game after solid game in the wing-back position. While he never received the highest rating for a single game he was consistently rated one of the best performers. Even on nights when he isn't marauding too far up field he turns in a solid defensive outing.
Clarence Goodson - 3 games; 6.57 CPR
Didn't face the stiffest of competition, but in the three games he did feature in, his ratings were always solid, making him a surprise showing in the top half of the rankings. Goodson manages to routinely meet that slightly above average standard of play without making any major mistakes.
Tim Howard - 6 games; 6.49 CPR
Shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone! Even when he isn't having games like he did against Mexico, he normally comes through in a big way. Howard is as good as it gets at the position right now, even when discussing his quality at the international level.
Clint Dempsey - 4 games; 6.16 CPR
For someone who was coming off an injury at the end of the Premier League, Dempsey was obviously still in form. With the exception of Canada, where most of the team was just "meh," Dempsey was one of the best attackers, most recently scoring in both June qualifying matches.
Herculez Gomez - 6 games; 6.12 CPR
Only one goal in the past six U.S. games for the Santos striker, but the service just wasn't there in many of these matches. Nary a complaint about his work-rate or energy level in any of those games, help to propel his name atop the rankings.
Carlos Bocanegra - 5 games; 5.92 CPR
Captain America isn't flashy but he's got style, guile, and makes hockey-esque body checks (had to be said). Other than the game against Brazil, he continues to put in solid defensive work despite his age.
Kyle Beckerman - 4 games; 5.94 CPR
The "Dread Pirate" Beckerman isn't always the quickest, well he's never the quickest, but in a three man mid-field triangle speed is not a necessity. Instead, Beckerman serves as the defensive wall in front of the backline, a dependable player in Klinsmann's system.
Terrence Boyd - 5 games; 5.92 CPR
For a player who had yet to make his 1st team club debut at the time of these games, he didn't have bad outings with the senior national team. Boy is in good form right now in Austria, scoring 4 league goals already, and I'm sure he's eager to continue his scoring ways and make his mark against Jamaica. After showing no signs of inexperience against Mexico in Azteca, I expect Boyd to step up during this round of qualifiers.
Steve Cherundolo - 5 games; 5.59 CPR
Still the same Steady-Eddy but you can't help but wonder if 'Dolo isn't losing a step or two at the age of 33. It seems as if Cherundolo is not getting forward at the same rate as he had in the past, a possible sign of his decline.
Jozy Altidore - 3 games; 5.00 CPR
One of the harder players to judge from this past stretch of international matches just because Altidore was coming off his best European club season last campaign, but was not released to play for the U.S. until the last possible moment by his club, AZ Alkmaar. Jozy is off to a torrid start this season though (4 goals in 4 league matches), and thus he shouldn't have the same fitness issue this go-round.
Geoff Cameron - 3 games; 5.95 CPR
Aside from the own-goal, Cameron's game and rating improved with each fixture he played in, making him the only player who can claim this distinction during this past stretch of matches. His better-than-most-center-backs passing distribution, highlighted in the Yanks historic August win vs. Mexico in Azteca, may give him a slight edge in the depth chart as well.
Hot 'n' Cold
Maurice Edu - 6 games; 5.66 CPR
Edu's best game came when he was shifted from defensive midfield to the center-back position for the Mexico friendly. He has once again been listed as a defender in Klinsmann's recent roster announcement. One outing may not be enough for a permanent switch but it certainly warrants another look, which likely will come in game 2 at home after Edu gains proper fitness (Edu has not played for quite awhile as his switch from Rangers to Stoke City took quite some time).
Jermaine Jones - 5 games; 5.67 CPR
Outstanding performance against Scotland. Not so hot against Brazil, Canada, and Mexico, but showed quality in the June qualifiers against Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala. Yellow cards aside, it's anyone's guess which version of Jones we'll see against Jamaica, especially since there isn't any clear pattern based on opponent quality.
Jose Torres - 5 games; 5.16 CPR
Similar to Jones (except he didn't feature against Guatemala due to injury), Torres has not received consistent player ratings recently, but unlike Jones, Torres' position on the team is not secure. You get the feeling that unless he comes up strong against Jamaica in one of these upcoming games, like he did versus Scotland, he's going to become expendable.
Michael Parkhurst - 2 games; 3.94 CPR
No one else called in for this roster had a lower average rating than Parkhurst, a newly touted Champions League participant. Yes, he only featured in two games, but his score was lower against Canada than it was Brazil (which also wasn't a good rating). If you have a coherent reason for why Parkhurst was called up instead of Eric Lichaj I'm all ears.
If we're firing on all cylinders - lookout
The best evidence of this was the game against Scotland. Our starters all took care of business from defense to offense (own goal not-withstanding) and if weren't for big minutes by the subs when the game was well in hand than the Yanks would have collectively recorded the best CPR ranking when compared over this recent stretch for a given match. With Donovan and Bradley, two of the heroes from that game, out Klinsmann will have to look to others (i.e. Jermaine Jones, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore) to step up their games and fill those voids.
Midfield needs to show up
A flat game by the men in the middle can make for a frustrating night. Even with solid, if not inspired, defending (see: away at Guatemala) the opposing team can still find a way into the match. Nights when the midfield has more than one player off his game, especially if the attack minded Dempsey is on the bench, then the Americans we'll likely find their performance resembling their lackluster effort against Canada a few months back.