The United States squeaked out a 2-1 victory over Honduras in their opening group match of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. It wasn't an attractive game to watch, with Honduras taking it to the Americans with their physical style, but the USA got the three points thanks to a brace by Clint Dempsey.
With every game the U.S. national team plays, the players who take part in the game affect their standing within the team's setup. Much like the stock market, when a player has a good game his value and rating in the coach's mind soars. If a player struggles his stock is obviously going to fall.
So, who helped or hurt there cause in tonight's win against Honduras? Here's how we see it:
Clint Dempsey: Yes, he scored the USA's only two goals in the win, so he's an obvious choice. However, Dempsey was active and dangerous around the 18-yard box for most of the game. On a night where the USMNT struggled to sustain possession, he was one of the few players who wanted the ball at his feet.
Gyasi Zardes: Sometimes a good game can be hard to notice. On the surface Zardes did very little on the offensive end. He had one moment of brilliance in the box where he controlled a ball and darted to the endline only to have his pass across the box blocked. What was impressive about his game was his work rate and defensive effort. He ran all night and mopped up around the left side in front of Fabian Johnson. A much-needed good game will increase his chances of keeping his starting spot down the road.
DeAndre Yedlin: After a great performance in the last pre-tournament friendly in which he enjoyed tons of space, Yedlin struggled to find the same success against Honduras. Dempsey set him up for a great chance in on goal in the first half, but his shot was hit right at the Honduran goalkeeper. He was muscled off the ball several times and gave away possession in crucial spots, including one that resulted in a dangerous free kick in the last minute of the game. With so many other options waiting in line, Yedlin's poor performance could have consequences. He'll be lucky to retain his starting spot in the next game against Haiti.
Ventura Alvarado: It was a bit of a shock to see Alvarado's name in the starting lineup ahead of Omar Gonzalez's. Perhaps Klinsmann wanted to get the Mexican-American cap-tied to the USMNT right away. He struggled with keeping up with the shifty Honduras attackers getting burned several times including on their goal. After the goal his confidence dipped and let up a couple more chances. Gonzalez's experience would probably have been a better option. Expect to see a change in this spot next game.
Timothy Chandler: The up-and-down USMNT career of Chandler has once again taken a turn for the worse. He constantly forfeited possession with poor passes and bad decisions. He ran out of gas around the 60 minute mark and had to be replaced by Brad Evans. The once deep position of right back now looks like a question mark.
Jozy Altidore: It may be harsh to list Altidore here, but it appeared the heat of Texas got to him early in the second half. He struggled with his passing and timing throughout the night. His hold up play was very good, but we need more of an attacking presence from him in the future. We need to step back and remember that Jozy is coming off of an injury. He's still the best striker in the player pool by a mile and should continue to get every chance to start.