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June 27, 2010

Painful exit for the U.S.

Carlisle By Jeff Carlisle
ESPN.com
(Archive)

RUSTENBURG, South Africa -- The United States' fine World Cup run came to an end against Ghana. The Black Stars got off to an early start with a goal from Kevin-Prince Boateng, only for Landon Donovan to equalize from the penalty spot. At that point, the Americans must have thought that they were poised to progress to the quarterfinals, but Asamoah Gyan netted the game-winner just three minutes into extra time.

Here's how each U.S. player performed.

The Grades

Player ratings:
(1-10; 10 = best)

United States

Tim Howard, goalkeeper, 5 -- Gave up too much of his near post on Boateng's goal. He was otherwise solid in his handling, parrying away a free-kick from Gyan in the first half. Could do nothing about Gyan's strike in extra time.

Jonathan Bornstein, defense, 6.5 -- Another strong performance. Conceded a bit too much space out wide in the opening minutes, but was solid with his one-on-one defending throughout the match.

Carlos Bocanegra, defense, 6 -- Was the Americans' most consistent defender for much of the night, yet he was victimized by his club teammate Gyan on the game-winner.

Jay DeMerit, defense, 5 -- Miserable first half, much better second. DeMerit failed to close down Boateng on the goal. He also misplayed a ball late in the first half that gave Kwadwo Asamoah a great chance. Was much more composed in the second half.

Steve Cherundolo, defense, 5.5 -- Was given a torrid time by Andre Ayew early but got forward more as the game went on. Overall, Cherundolo had an outstanding tournament.

Clint Dempsey, midfield, 7 -- Worked his socks off to spark the U.S. attack, setting up Findley with a clear chance in the first half. Was a handful when moved up top and won the Americans' penalty.

Ricardo Clark, midfield, 3 -- Started the same as against England, with a terrible early error that led to a goal. In this case he was stripped by Asamoah, which launched Boateng's run on goal. Being substituted after a mere 31 minutes summed up his night.

Michael Bradley, midfield, 6 -- Struggled initially against Boateng, but gradually came back into the game. The best U.S. chances often started with his tackles.

Landon Donovan, midfield, 6 -- Was forced to help defend often in a bid to limit Ayew's influence. Wasn't that effective going forward in the first half, but grew in influence in the second, especially on set pieces. Tucked away a pressure-packed penalty by kissing it off the post.

Jozy Altidore, forward, 5.5 -- His good moments were undone by poor touches and decisions. He was more of a physical presence in the second half, and nearly scored while on his back in the 80th minute.

Robbie Findley, forward, 4 -- Failed to convert on a glorious first-half chance after being set up by Dempsey, and never really tested Ghana with his speed. Subbed at half-time.

Subs:

Maurice Edu, midfield, 6 -- Solidified the midfield defensively, although his distribution was lacking at times. Still, he had more plusses than minuses.

Benny Feilhaber, forward, 6.5 -- Provided instant offense and was denied by a superb save from goalie Richard Kingson early in the second half. He was sharp with his touches as well and set up Dempsey for the penalty kick.

Herculez Gomez, 5 -- Tracked back impressively, but offered only flashes offensively in extra time.

Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPNsoccernet. He is also the author of "Soccer's Most Wanted II: The Top 10 Book of More Glorious Goals, Superb Saves and Fantastic Free-Kicks." He can be reached at eljefe1@yahoo.com.