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Bradley earns top honors for U.S.

Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Landon Donovan (L) and Michael Bradley were the USA's key performers in South Africa.
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Ives Galarcep

Ives Galarcep is a 14-year veteran of the American soccer beat. He created and operates the popular American soccer blog, Soccer By Ives, which was voted Best American Soccer Blog by US Soccer in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Ives was also voted Best Football Writer by SoccerLens in 2010. 
 

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The U.S. men’s national’s World Cup is over, but the team’s successful run through the group stage, and even its disappointing loss to Ghana in the round of 16, provided a stage for players to impress, surprise and disappoint.

Landon Donovan cemented his status as the national team’s best player, but he wasn’t the only player to impress during the team’s four World Cup matches.

There were also disappointing performances, with Ricardo Clark coming away from this World Cup with a performance he would rather forget.

Here is a look at how all 23 U.S. national team players did at the 2010 World Cup.

FORWARDS

Jozy Altidore (B-) Really blossomed in a target striker role, giving the United States a vital physical presence at the front of the attack. He helped set up the vital equalizer against Slovenia, and played a role in the game-winner against Algeria. He doesn’t get a better grade because he missed every chance he took, including a point-blank chance against Slovenia. He struggled against Ghana, and will need to improve his fitness and finishing to take the next step.

Robbie Findley (D) Considered the team’s only speed option, Findley was given three starts to make something happen. He was subbed off at halftime in his last two matches and failed to score goal. He wasted some great chances and fell well short of establishing himself as a capable replacement for the absent Charlie Davies.

Herculez Gomez (C ) Gomez looked good when given minutes, but also failed to find the net. He did play a part in the team’s comeback against Slovenia, but he couldn’t duplicate his goal-scoring ways of the Mexican League in South Africa.

Edson Buddle (Incomplete) Buddle played a combined 39 minutes as a substitute against England and Algeria, but he never did make much of an impact in his limited minutes. He looked shaky against Algeria, though he did put one header on frame that was saved. He lost out in the battle for minutes to Herculez Gomez.

MIDFIELDERS

Landon Donovan (A-) Donovan provided creativity, goals and inspiration when the team needed it, netting goals in the team’s final three matches. He looked tired in the team’s loss to Ghana, which kept him from the A, but he definitely enjoyed his strongest tournament in three World Cups.

USA vs Ghana

USA VS. GHANA

After topping their World Cup group over England, the USA takes on Ghana for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Clint Dempsey (B+) Dempsey was cheated out of at least one goal, against Algeria, but he never did build on his gift of a goal against England. What Dempsey did do was put in an impressive amount of work, both in attack and defensively. He took a tremendous amount of punishment against Ghana, and drew the penalty Landon Donovan converted. A good overall performance, though he could have finished his chances better.

Michael Bradley (A-) No player did more to increase their stock on the international market than Bradley, whose tenacity, tireless work rate and ability to join into the attack when needed, made him one of the most important players for the United States this World Cup. He made clean tackles, passed well, and his clutch equalizer against Slovenia helped the United States top Group C. His World Cup performance should lead to a major transfer from German club Borussia Moenchengladbach.

Ricardo Clark (F) Clark played two games, and was subbed out early both times, but he played a major role in the United States giving up early goals against England and Ghana in the two games he did play in. Against England he did settle down, though he provided nothing offensively. Against Ghana, he just looked overwhelmed and came out after just 30 minutes, leaving the United States with one fewer substitution.

Maurice Edu (C+) Edu played in three matches and provided good support in central midfield in each match. He even saw some time in central defense against Slovenia. USA fans will long wonder why Edu didn’t get the start against Ghana instead of Clark.

Benny Feilhaber (B-) One of the more surprising successes of the group, Feilhaber came off the bench on three occasions to play the left wing, and he provided possession and attacking creativity. He never looked out of his element and probably played well enough to earn a start.

Jose Francisco Torres (Incomplete) Was given the start against Slovenia and struggled. He passed the ball well when he wasn’t losing it, but he committed some turnovers in bad spots and looked overwhelmed. He’s still a talented young player who should be considered a good prospect for 2014.

Stuart Holden (Incomplete) Came on as a late sub against England for his only appearance. You wonder how much his broken leg in March cost him a bigger role this World Cup.

DaMarcus Beasley (Incomplete) Made just one brief appearance during the tournament in what was his third and potentially final.

DEFENDERS

Steve Cherundolo (B+) A shaky performance against Ghana shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Cherundolo was the U.S. team’s best defender during the group stage. He was a tenacious defender and, more impressively, he became a key contributor to the American attack. He delivered the most passes of any American in the tournament, and while fatigue likely played a role against Ghana, Cherundolo was still the United States best defender this World Cup.

Carlos Bocanegra (B-) The U.S. captain was steady, and stood out against Algeria, but he had some shaky moments against Slovenia and Ghana. He wound up being the team’s most reliable center back after starting out at left back.

Jay DeMerit (C+) He enjoyed an outstanding showing against England, but DeMerit looked a step slow at times throughout the tournament. He didn’t lack for hustle and toughness, but he started slowly against Algeria and could have done better on both Ghana goals.

Oguchi Onyewu (C) Onyewu was a beast against England and played a key role in the USA securing a point in that match, but he never could reach that level again. He struggled against Slovenia, and never played again. His surgically-repaired knee was clearly an issue that kept him from being the defensive anchor the United States expected him to be.

POLL

  • Who was the USA's best player at the World Cup?
    • Michael Bradley
    • Tim Howard
    • Landon Donovan
    • Steve Cherundolo
    • The whole team

Jonathan Bornstein (B) Before the World Cup, most U.S. fans would have dreaded the idea of Bornstein playing, but all he did in his two starts was provide steady play at left back. He did get caught out of positions a few times, but for the most part provided a strong option at left back and a promising tournament to build on.

Clarence Goodson (Incomplete) Did not play.

Jonathan Spector (Incomplete) Did not play.

GOALKEEPERS

Tim Howard (B) He made key saves when called on, and avoided the mistakes that plagued other goalkeepers during this World Cup, but wasn’t able to conjure up any magic in the loss to Ghana. His key long throw on Donovan’s winner against Algeria will go down as the best throw in American soccer history, but Howard never could deliver one of his trademark, save-the-day, performances.

Marcus Hahnemann (Incomplete) Did not play.

Brad Guzan (Incomplete) Did not play.

Ives Galarcep is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the U.S. national team and Major League Soccer.

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