U.S. grades: Stars and Stripes face reality check

Posted by Jeff Carlisle

AP Photo/Hans PunzBrek Shea couldn't build on his solid cameo vs. Scotland and was disappointing against Austria. He remains on the bubble for the 2014 World Cup.

A record-setting year for the U.S. men's national team ended in disappointment.

The Americans, who recorded the most victories in a calendar year (16) and had the highest winning percentage (.761) in their history, fell 1-0 to Austria in an international friendly. Marc Janko grabbed the only goal of the game, firing home Gyorgy Garics' centering feed in the 33rd minute.

The U.S. attack, which finished with a flurry in Friday's 0-0 tie against Scotland, had its moments, but couldn't find a way past Austria goalkeeper Robert Almer.

For those U.S. players attempting to state their case for more playing time, there was little to cheer about. Brek Shea struggled mightily before being subbed early in the second half. John Brooks, who came in at center back as Geoff Cameron slid out to right back in place of the injured Brad Evans, had an up-and-down performance. Brooks and fellow center back Omar Gonzalez struggled through the first half before delivering more composed performances after halftime.

Cameron, however, was one of the few U.S. bright spots. He made a case to be the team’s starting right back with a solid defensive effort and showed that he could go upfield with good effect.

The U.S. started out the match showing the same aggressiveness with which it finished against Scotland. Jozy Altidore fired just wide in the 14th minute, and Aron Johannsson stung the palms of Almer two minutes later.

The Americans thought they had gone ahead in the 17th minute when Cameron's deflected header -- off what looked to be the hand of Marko Arnautovic -- appeared to be over the line. But Almer scrambled the ball away, and no goal was given.

The U.S. wasn't having everything its own way, however. Austria midfielder David Alaba was finding plenty of space in front of the U.S. back line, allowing him to set up several good chances.

The Bayern Munich star kept at his task and helped Austria break on top. The Austrian midfielder once again found space in the center of the park and slid the ball wide to Garics. His subsequent cross evaded Martin Harnik but was enough to wrong-foot Brooks, allowing the unmarked Janko to fire home from close range.

The U.S. finished the half strong as a Michael Bradley attempt was blocked and Altidore stabbed a corner just wide.

Austria nearly doubled its advantage to start the second half, but Harnik, after faking Gonzalez to the ground, curled his shot just wide of U.S. keeper Tim Howard's post.

But the U.S. gradually took control, especially after the introduction of Mix Diskerud and Eddie Johnson for Johannsson and the disappointing Shea. Geoff Cameron began to make some forays up the right side and nearly equalized for the U.S. in the 66th minute when his rebound attempt from close range was saved by Almer.

The U.S. had another great chance in the 74th minute when Gonzalez's layoff found Altidore open inside the box, but he could shoot only tamely at Almer.

The Americans used their full complement of subs, but couldn’t find a breakthrough and suffered just their fourth loss of 2013.

Player ratings: (0-10)

G Tim Howard, 6 – Couldn't do much about the goal, but commanded his box well. Made a terrific save in stoppage time on a late Austria breakaway.

D DaMarcus Beasley, 5.5 – Was often forced to tuck inside to help Brooks, which compromised his ability to defend out wide. Could have done a tad more to defend crosses, but overall a solid performance defensively.

D John Brooks, 4 – His distribution was sharp, but his one-on-one defending left plenty to be desired. Turned too easily by Harnik in the 13th minute and was among those found wanting on Janko's goal. Recovered in the second half.

D Omar Gonzalez, 4 – Didn't get close enough to Janko on Austria's goal and was faked out of his socks on Harnik's attempt early in the second half. His clever layoff teed up Altidore for a great chance.

D Geoff Cameron, 6.5 – Robbed of what looked to be a perfectly good goal in the first half and denied by a good save from Almer in the second. Held up well defensively and really grew into the game by getting forward more often.

M Michael Bradley, 5 – Sharp with his passing, but along with Jones allowed Alaba to find space too easily. Was uncharacteristically dispossessed a few times, as well. Made some odd choices in terms of his set-piece deliveries.

M Jermaine Jones, 4 – Similar defensive performance to Bradley, and wasn't nearly as sharp with the ball, be it with his passing or getting caught in possession.

M Brek Shea, 3.5 – Was largely ineffective in the first half, save for digging the ball out to keep one attack alive. Looked far too passive. Tried to pick it up in the second half, but was deservedly pulled after 56 minutes.

M Aron Johannsson, 5 – It was Johannsson’s turn to be guilty of a foul throw. The shame of it. Linked up well with Altidore, and forced a sharp save from Almer in the 16th minute, but struggled to get rid of the ball quickly when in possession.

M Alejandro Bedoya, 5 – Marginally more effective than Shea, slipping Altidore through during one clever buildup. Lots of hustle, with his header keeping alive a chance for Cameron, but overall not much end product.

F Jozy Altidore, 6 – Was active throughout and won his share of free kicks. His finishing let him down, however, as he missed the target on a few opportunities in the first half. Freed himself for a great chance in the second half, but could shoot only weakly at Almer.

Subs:

M Eddie Johnson, 5.5 – Was much livelier than against Scotland, and while his moves didn’t always come off, his speed of play helped raise the level of the U.S attack.

M Mix Diskerud, 5.5 – Had some bright touches, and kept the U.S. attack ticking.

M Terrence Boyd, 5.5 – Took some pressure off Altidore, but could only fire high after being put through by Brooks.

M Sacha Kljestan, 5 – Did what he could to spark the U.S. attack from a deeper role than he manned against Scotland.

D Eric Lichaj, 5 – Got forward to good effect, but could have done more to prevent a late breakaway.

F Chris Wondolowski, NR – Late cameo for the San Jose forward.

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