Player grades: U.S. versus Mexico

Posted by Jeff Carlisle

The song remained the same for the U.S. men's national team against Mexico at Crew Stadium. So did the score, as the Americans defeated their bitter rivals 2-0 on Tuesday night and are now on the brink of qualifying for the World Cup.

Eddie Johnson broke a scoreless tie four minutes into the second half, heading home Landon Donovan's corner kick. Donovan then added an insurance tally in the 78th minute, converting from close range after excellent work from substitute Mix Diskerud. A makeshift U.S. back line, with some considerable help from goalkeeper Tim Howard, performed solidly on the night and then was able to see out a critical victory.

The win marked the fourth consecutive World Cup qualifying victory over El Tri at Crew Stadium -- all by 2-0 scores -- and was especially impressive given that Jozy Altidore, Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron were suspended, while linchpin midfielder Michael Bradley was out injured. If Honduras gets a result in its match against Panama -- the Catrachos were ahead 1-0 as the U.S. game ended -- the Americans will clinch a spot in Brazil for next summer.

As so often happens in a rivalry game, neither team risked much in attack in a cagey first half. Howard was on hand to make a few vital saves, including a 19th-minute stop on a Christian Gimenez blast, as well as a strike from Giovani Dos Santos just before halftime.

The best chance for the U.S. came in the 32nd minute when Johnson’s free header from a Donovan corner was hit too close to Mexico goalkeeper Jesus Corona.

But when presented with a near-identical opportunity in the second half, he made no mistake, powering home his header into an empty net after Corona came off his line.

Mexico did all they could to climb back into the match, bringing on Oribe Peralta alongside Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, but the U.S. defended capably, and it was left to Donovan to deliver the deathblow. A clever touch into space by Diskerud took him to the end line, and his low, driven cross was tapped home by Donovan, setting off raucous celebrations among the U.S. fans in attendance.

Clint Dempsey earned a late penalty, only to fire his attempt off target. That did little to dampen the party atmosphere and at least maintained the "Dos a Cero" score line that has been the script at this venue now for four games running.

Player ratings: (0-10)

G Tim Howard, 8 -- Came up with two big stops on Gimenez and Dos Santos in the first half, and was solid with his positioning throughout. It was a performance that will do much to silence those calling for him to be replaced by Brad Guzan.

D DaMarcus Beasley, 5.5 -- Nearly scored a horrific own goal and was very quiet going forward. Hauled himself back into the match and defended his side with more confidence in the second half.

D Clarence Goodson, 7 -- Delivered an impeccable performance, as he was positioned well to clear some dangerous crosses.

D Omar Gonzalez, 7 -- Was caught out of position on one Mexico attack but had some vital interventions and dominated in the air. His distribution was solid.

D Fabian Johnson, 4 -- Didn’t inspire much confidence with his touches or his passing early on. Got forward a bit more as the half went on, but the end product was lacking. An injury forced him off at halftime.

M Jermaine Jones, 7 -- Was much more consistent than against Costa Rica on both sides of the ball and snuffed out a dangerous opportunity for Dos Santos. A huge bounce-back performance.

M Kyle Beckerman, 6 -- Lucky to avoid a booking on a first-half foul of Dos Santos, and his lack of pace was exposed a few times. But he helped the U.S. in possession with some safe passes and drew some fouls in good spots.

M Landon Donovan, 6.5 -- Didn't make enough of an impact in the first half, although he did break through for one shot that was blocked. No complaints about his set piece deliveries, though, and he was perfectly positioned to tap home his goal.

M Clint Dempsey, 5.5 -- Had a good opportunity that was blocked by the Mexico defense. Stayed aggressive in running at El Tri’s back line, even if his efforts didn’t always come off. As for his penalty, ah, who cares?

M Alejandro Bedoya, 5.5 -- Had several chances to deliver crosses from out wide but opted to cut in. Showed good hustle on one opportunity, but couldn’t quite connect with Eddie Johnson on the cross.

F Eddie Johnson, 7.5 -- Held the ball up well and had some clever exchanges with Dempsey. Should have done better with a first-half header but made up for it on his goal. He answered the call in the absence of Jozy Altidore.

D Michael Parkhurst, 6 -- Came in under somewhat difficult circumstances for Fabian Johnson but was solid in all respects.

F Mix Diskerud, 7 -- What an entrance. Just after coming on, his deft touch into space allowed him to rifle a cross for Donovan to finish. Delivered some nice passes to keep possession and help kill the game off.

M Graham Zusi, NR -- Late cameo for the U.S. midfielder.


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