Of course, that grade is a shade below average, so I certainly did not hammer the guy. I also do not wish to run down his overall effort (which included tons of running, plenty of solid positioning and some decent second half work helping Da Bease in his corner). However, I do want to explain my reasons for the grade. They are quite simple, really.
- On the ball... off the ball
- The Ghana action zone
At the intermission, I always scribble some general team notes and a stray few for individual players on my ratings scratch pad. My very first jot at the break last night was, verbatim, "HELP CLOSE SOMETHING DOWN!!!" next to Jones' name. Thirteen crosses (marked by squares) and a pair of long shots (the circles) came out of his zone, a great many of them in the first half. That is well more than came out of DMB-ville, and he is being widely criticized for his failure to close down space on ball carriers. To me, Jones was uncharacteristically timid at this before the break, considerably better after it.
Also, I am starting to wonder if some people confused defensive plays made by Beckerman for Jones actions, because they both rock dreads. As you can see below, the RSL midfielder broke up eight total Ghana moves up the middle, with five of those at the gate to the area.
Beckerman made more defensive plays to guard the US box than Jones and Bradley combined. I say he, and not Jones, deserves the MOTM talk. By comparison, Jones made three tackles, all next to the sideline, and one pass interception, which was way up the field. He made all of one recovery play (colored yellow) between the areas, and had only three break-ups of any kind until the last seconds of first half stoppage time. Again, he improved in this area after the break, but was clearly more on top of this aspect of the game against Nigeria.
And that about covers it. Feel free to argue with my analysis... you certainly won't be the first. But the USMNT needs a lot more impact from Jones (and Bradley, to be sure) if they want to advance from this group.
UPDATE: For whatever it is worth, US Soccer, the worldwide FIFA fan survey and the foreign write-ups I have seen all named Dempsey as MOTM. Interestingly enough, those polled in the USMNT analysis forum at BigSoccer chose Jones with an astounding 82% of the vote.
Combined with many media opinions around our bubble and the majority of commenters at MLSS, including several who are strangely hostile over my Jones rating, I am now very curious about this massive gulf. I am trying to figure out exactly what they saw. And my theory about mistaking hairstyles with Beckerman on certain plays seems more viable by the minute. That, and the possibility of simple beer goggles.
- Greg Seltzer