Spector makes an impression
GLASGOW, Scotland -- In the run-up to the friendly against Scotland, Bruce Arena had been on record as stating "this game can eliminate some players from consideration (for the World Cup roster) and it can improve the situation of others."
With that in mind, here are report cards for some of the fringe U.S. squad players who saw action against Scotland.
Chris Rolfe: B+
In his first international for the men's national team, Rolfe came on in the 58th minute for Josh Wolff and made an immediate impact with his pace. Within minutes, he had taken the ball on the left side of midfield and blown past Scotland's Gary Caldwell as if he was standing still. He had another chance to run at the defense later in the match but nothing came of the chance.
As an energy guy, it's quite possible that Arena could look to Rolfe to come on late in matches when the opposing defense is sagging.
"I was just trying to get a couple first touches to get my confidence and fortunately I got through a couple times," Rolfe said. "I just try and do what I can. Hopefully I caught his eye tonight and will get called in to the next camp. We'll see where it goes from there."
Josh Wolff: B
Wolff, who scored the American goal on a penalty kick, spearheaded the offense as the United States took the game to Scotland from the opening whistle. It was Wolff who slid a perfectly weighted ball to a streaking DaMarcus Beasley to draw the penalty.
Scotland's a very physical side and Wolff matched their intensity in the first half. Despite playing his first game since the end of the MLS season and battling a nagging rib injury, he flew around the ball and made his presence felt.
"These type of games, you have to come in with the right attitude and realize it's going to be a battle," Wolff said. "In the first 20 minutes, we answered everything they brought and we were rewarded with a penalty kick."
Wolff also had a gift-wrapped chance to score again, but his shot to the near post from 12 yards was well wide.
Arena will hold in a training camp in Carson, California to take a closer look at a number of players in the weeks before the Norway friendly on January 29th. Provided he heals his rib injury, which he said he may have aggravated tonight, Wolff's a safe bet for that camp.
Brian Carroll: A
Arena mentioned Carroll as one of the players to account well for himself. With Claudio Reyna watching from the stands, Carroll kept the patchwork midfield together while playing the entire 90 minutes.
With so many new faces, continuity was a question mark coming into this match. With help from the back four, Carroll helped keep the team composed from his holding midfielder spot. For the first 35 minutes of the match, the United States was well-organized and thoroughly outplayed the Scots, and Carroll's calming influence and passing was a big part of that.
As he said after the match, Carroll certainly didn't do anything tonight to hurt his chances of being selected for the World Cup. However, with Reyna, Landon Donovan, and John O'Brien already in Arena's plans, Carroll will have to take a number and join the rest of the midfield hopefuls.
Eddie Gaven: D
For whatever reason, Gaven didn't find the action on Saturday. Playing on the wing opposite DaMarcus Beasley, he was a non-factor before being subbed off at halftime. He didn't play well at the World Youth Championships in June either. As someone who needed to have an eye-opening game, it's looking more likely that Gaven will be left out of the roster this time around.
Jonathan Spector: A-
In his dress rehearsal for the open position at left-back, Spector tunred in a solid all-around performance for the USA. With Steve Cherundolo turning in a fantastic game at right-back and Gregg Berhalter and Carlos Bocanegra in the middle, Scotland's attack failed to make any noise.
One must remeber that Spector played striker his whole career before being thrust into defense and still plays like one on occasion - which can be both good and bad.
Early in the match, when the U.S. controlled possession, Spector was able to roll up the left flank and join the attack. He had a great chance to win the game in the closing minutes - his 30-yard blast on a counterattack forced a diving save from Scotland's keeper Craig Gordon.
However, he has a habit of dribbling too much out of the back - he'll have to learn to show more caution if he expects to be in Germany. He also came close to handling the ball in box while defending a cross.
For now, he'll continue to get much-needed experience at Charlton, where he has been playing left-back as well. If he continues to improve, he may be called upon World Cup rolls around.
Brian Ching: C
With Brain McBride also watching from the stands, Ching played the duration up front. His biggest impact on the match was being knocked down by Scotland's Andy Webster as he headed home their only goal.
Heath Pearce: C+
Pearce also earned his first cap, coming on for Beasley in the 77th minute. Although he was playing out of position on the left wing, the former University of Portland star put in a couple of good crosses, one of which skidded just by Ching.
Benny Feilhaber: Incomplete
Feilhaber was the last one picked for kickball - he was the only field player not to make an appearance. If he couldn't get an audition with the majority of the U.S. midfield players gone, it isn't going to happen. He'll return to the Hamburg S.V. reserves and set his sights on serving his country in 2010.
Andrew Winner is a freelance writer who covers U.S. soccer for ESPN Soccernet.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org