"It's more about the team's performance than what I did individually," said Player X after almost every game in any sport, ever.
Well, that's an admirable way for players to approach the game, but last night's friendly between the United States and the Czech Republic was about just the opposite. In the final game before Bob Bradley announces his 23-man World Cup roster, this game was about assessing the performances of individual players.
Yes, the team looked terrible at times in a 4-2 loss to a Czech team that is in a rebuilding phase after missing out on the World Cup. But, keep in mind that seven usual starters weren't in uniform.
So, who impressed and who didn't? Who knows if Bradley had already made his roster decisions before the game (after all, assessing a player's World Cup future based on 45 minutes it a little unfair), but here's a breakdown of what we saw last night.
Barring any shocking ommissions on Bradley's final roster, Oguchi Onyewu will be the most talked about player between now and Saturday -- we can guarantee you that. We're going to see that one clip of Tomas Sivok soaring over the 6-foot-4 U.S. defender for the Czech Republic's first goal numerous times in the next four days. Was it an indicator of Onyewu's fitness level? Was it just a mental lapse? It'll be analyzed to death.
What about the forwards? It's clear that Robbie Findley has been shown the door, as he was the only "bubble" forward not to get in the game. Of the other four, Eddie Johnson would have to be the odd man out. Edson Buddle showed plenty of gumption in the first half and was involved early, though his play was just medicore late. Herculez Gomez capitalized on a scoring chance and whiffed on another, but overall, he looked solid. Bring Ching was poised up front and appears recovered from his hammy strain. It's possible that all three could get the nod to join Jozy Altidore on the forward line.
In the midfield, Maurice Edu started, scored the Americans' first goal and played the full 90. He moved to the back line in the second half and was beaten for the Czech's fourth and final goal. It was interesting how Ricardo Clark didn't see any time in the second half, but he appears to be booked for South Africa. Stuart Holden looked the part as the Americans' starter on the right wing. As for the maybes? DaMarcus Beasley wasn't that impressive, though he did track back on defense when necessary. Jose Torres played well, but I'm still not convinced he's meshing well with this team. In the second half, Sacha Kljestan did little to impress and Bedoya didn't get much action, while Robbie Rogers played well on the left side. Might he jump ahead of Beasley and Bedoya on the depth chart?
On defense, Clarence Goodson was the star. He broke up several plays on defense and was extremely dangerous off set pieces on the attack -- assisting on the United States' second goal. Cherundolo also looked very solid on the right wing. We'll see Spector on Saturday, but that's an interesting position battle. Luckily, both can handle the job. The same cannot be said for the other side, however, as Johnny Bornstein and Heath Pearce had forgettable games. It's looking more and more like Carlos Bocanegra may be needed -- badly -- to fill in at left back.
In goal, Brad Guzan let up four goals, although some weren't his fault. He looked aggressive at times, but it wasn't a superb performance by any means. Tim Howard should start Saturday, but it'll be interesting to see if Marcus Hahnemann plays the second half and earns the back-up spot ahead of Guzan.
The countdown from 30 to 23 is almost over. In five hours, we'll find out what Bob Bradley made of all of this when he announces his team this afternoon on ESPN. Stay tuned.