U.S. thoroughly outclassed by England

May 29, 2008
McIntyreBy Doug McIntyre
(Archive)

LONDON -- "Easy win," said one of my colleagues in Wembley Stadium's gloriously equipped press box after a star-studded England side secured a convincing 2-0 victory Wednesday night. And there could be no argument from even the most optimistic U.S. fan. For all the progress that American soccer has made in recent years, it is games like these that remind the faithful that there is still a long way to go.

GettyImages / Carl De SouzaEddie Johnson, left, was held in check by the English defense.

"We've been successful and we're getting better, but we didn't need to play this game to know there is a difference [between the teams]," said U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati afterward. "Games like this -- played away, at Wembley, against top-level players, make us better. We'd like to win, but is it a positive experience? Yes."

That's probably true. It is also true that the Americans were outclassed in this match from the start. Fabio Capello's lineup featured seven players that also started last week's Champions League final, and while the Yank defenders admirably coped with their opponents' world-class midfield -- Owen Hargreaves, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and David Beckham -- for a while, it was just a matter of time until the home team broke through.

After a few near misses early, they finally got the only goal they would need seven minutes before the break. The scorer? Who else but captain John Terry, the man whose penalty miss in Moscow denied Chelsea European glory, off a patented cross by Beckham.

The Americans were without their top player in Landon Donovan, who missed the chance to earn his 100th cap because of a groin injury. Without their most dynamic offensive force, they failed to seriously trouble the English back line at all.

In the second half, when the U.S. players began to tire, England continued to play at a speed that clearly troubled the visitors. The second goal was as much to do with Steven Gerrard's brilliant run and finish as it was with Oguchi Onyewu's blown assignment.

"I give credit to England," said U.S. coach Bob Bradley afterward. Fair enough. The bottom line is that the home team played very well, and Bradley's boys didn't. On a different night, if the roles were reversed, perhaps the Americans eek out a result against a superior team. Instead, for the Three Lions, chalk this one up as an easy win.

Player ratings: (scale of 1-10)

Tim Howard, 5 -- Blameless on Terry's goal, which was essentially a free header from the penalty spot. Didn't have to rescue the U.S. with any of his trademark athletic stops, as he wasn't really tested otherwise before being replaced by Brad Guzan for the second half.

Heath Pearce, 4 -- Poor (read: no) communication with Onyewu on Gerrard's goal. Picked up a silly booking in the second half. Did have one off his team's few scoring chances when a loose ball fell to him on at the top of England's area, but his shot was deflected out for an easily dealt-with corner.

Carlos Bocanegra, 4 -- The best American back, but that's faint praise. The former Fulham man didn't mark Terry tightly enough on the opener. His first half slip on the soggy turf allowed Rooney to spring a dangerous counterattack down the right side. Still, didn't do his chances of remaining in the Premier League any harm with a professional performance.

Oguchi Onyewu , 4 -- Caught napping on Gerrard's perfectly timed run. Won several aerial challenges in his own half, but that's what's expected of him. Continues to be troubled by small, speedy players as Jermain Defoe got the better of him on more than one occasion.

Steve Cherundolo, 5 -- Played only 45 minutes but was one of the few Yanks to show any savvy going forward. Displayed good skill o the ball and got in one dangerous early cross. Smart decision by Bradley to pull him at the break after he had picked up a yellow card late in the first half.

Ricardo Clark, 5 -- Lone MLS player in Bradley's starting lineup was active throughout, but was lucky not to be booked on at least one of the several hard fouls he committed. Had trouble coping with an England midfield that bypassed him and partner Mike Bradley easily most of the night, especially during the final 30 minutes.

Michael Bradley, 5 -- Failed to distinguish himself at all on the offensive side, and made several, uncharacteristic gaffes in his own end, including a late giveaway in the U.S. box. In fairness, seemed to be playing as a fifth defender much of the night.

DaMarcus Beasley, 6 -- Encouraging performance considering it was just his third game in six months following reconstructive knee surgery. Fitness was obviously lacking, but showed flashes of the skill and guile that makes him an automatic selection whenever he's healthy.

Clint Dempsey, 5 -- Was the best American player along with Beasley. Did some good work in the second half with the ball at his feet, and was one few Yanks that didn't seem overwhelmed by the occasion. Still, had little to show for it as he didn't really threaten England's goal at all.

Josh Wolff, 3 -- Didn't write Wolff's name in my notebook until he sent hapless header well wide off a good cross by Dempsey. Was pulled moments later. That pretty much says it all.

Eddie Johnson, 4 -- Considering he hasn't played for Fulham in months and was operating as a lone striker against the likes of Terry and Rio Ferdinand, EJ wasn't as awful as you might expect. Made a few nice plays and got off a couple (feeble) shots, but the rust was clearly evident.

Subs:

Brad Guzan, 6 -- Forced to handle a few balls early and got more work overall than Howard did in the first half. Looked solid. Zero chance on Gerrard's perfectly placed shot into the side netting.

Frankie Hejduk, 5 -- Showed both his experience and his limitations at the international level. Frustrated Wayne Rooney with his tenacity, enough that Rooney received a late yellow card after a hard challenge on the Columbus veteran.

Freddy Adu, 4 -- Came on midway through the second half but didn't provide the spark his side needed. Failed to link up with his teammates, but gets credit for putting a right-footed shot on target late in the game, something no other U.S. players seemed willing to do.

Eddie Lewis, 6 -- Had a sweet chip towards a lurking Bocanegra at the back post from his off (right) wing, but David James tipped away what might have been the Americans' best scoring chance of the second half.

Maurice Edu, NR -- Game was over by the time the Toronto FC midfielder entered the fray. Didn't look out of place, but didn't do anything of note either.

Nate Jaqua, NR -- Replaced Johnson in the 90th minute.

Doug McIntyre is a soccer columnist for ESPN The Magazine and ESPNsoccernet.