Well, to be fair, I did predict an historic 2–1 win in Jamaica; I just got the teams wrong. For those of you that saw it, you know—it was ugly. Little possession, less width, and a lack of speed in the center combined to produce a very poor display from the U.S., even after the best of all possible openings. The Jamaicans, to give credit where it’s due, were not cowed by giving up an early goal, and took advantage of their superior speed and passing.
For the U.S., the main positive is that nearly all the wounds were self-inflicted. The first demerit goes to Jurgen Klinsmann for his team selection, and the second and third go to Kyle Beckerman and Maurice Edu for making clumsy, unnecessary tackles in dangerous positions. What, at worst, should have been a 1–1 game, never needed to be lost.
Is there such a thing as a 4-1-2-1-2 formation? Whether or not it was set up that way intentionally, the U.S. lined up in something that looked a lot like that, with Beckerman behind Jermaine Jones and Maurice Edu, Clint Dempsey above them, and Herculez Gomez and Jozy Altidore up top. 4-3-3 is a formation with little midfield width to begin with, but without any natural wide players on the field, the pressure on the fullbacks to provide a wide outlet is compounded, and with Jamaica’s speed pinning Fabian Johnson and Michael Parkhurst back, the U.S. spent almost no time playing balls into wide areas. The few times they did, the U.S. looked dangerous. Those times were few and far between.
Without wide play, which simplifies offense and provides a release valve from defensive pressure, your central midfielders had better bring something to the table going forward. While Jermaine Jones has his moments, he’s no offensive whiz, and Beckerman and Edu are both defensive players. Simply put, there’s not enough offense there. Dempsey dropped back to pick up the ball with regularity, but then he and the other forwards were often facing numeric disadvantages. Where was Jose Torres? Why did it take so long to see Brek Shea? Not to put too fine a point on it, but Klinsmann got this one wrong.
Tim Howard: 6.5. Tim had almost nothing to do, in truth. He can’t be blamed for either of the goals, but we’ve come to expect a lot from him.
Fabian Johnson: 6. Quiet game. Couldn’t get forward much, but didn’t allow much to come down his side, either.
Geoff Cameron: 6. He was fine, but nowhere near the level he displayed in Mexico City. Was also not required to be at that level.
Clay Goodson: 5. Displayed some wayward, careless passing, especially early, but was otherwise untroubled. His lack of speed may have contributed to the midfielders in front of him resorting to such late tackles.
Kyle Beckerman: 3.5. It’s not even that Beckerman played all that poorly, aside from giving up the foul that led to the free kick, then deflecting the ball into his own net instead of blocking it, and just generally not being able to hold onto the ball for more than three seconds.
Maurice Edu: 4. See Beckerman, above, minus the deflection. Listed on the roster as a defender, and looked uncomfortable in midfield.
Jermaine Jones: 4.5. Committed too many fouls, and let his emotions get the better of him late. There’s always the feeling he could/should do more/better.
Clint Dempsey: 6.5. Took his goal well, then faded. Played himself into the match late on, but could have done better with a sliding chance that went straight at the keeper. Hopefully, the 90 minutes did him well, and he will be sharper on Tuesday.
Jozy Altidore: 5.5. Still struggling to replicate his club form for his country. To be fair, was getting no service at all, but never tried to take the ball and do anything; always looking to play the 1-2, instead.
Herculez Gomez: 7. Active and hungry. Tried to make things happen late. Couldn’t get the ball to feet enough. Tremendous workrate.
Danny Williams (sub): 6. Was an improvement on Beckerman, but unable to effect proceedings much.
Brek Shea (sub): 6.5. Brought much-needed energy and forward drive, but had little time. In 20 minutes was involved in more coherent attacking play than had come in the 70 minutes before.
Terrence Boyd (sub): 5.5. Did fine, but, like his compatriots, suffered from a lack of service.
Playing in the U.S., on a surface far superior to that in Kingston, Klinsmann needs to put out an aggressive lineup. One (or even two) of the midfield trio needs to be axed in favor of someone who will look to attack and feed the forward line. Speaking of the forward line, I’m not convinced that Jozy Altidore should keep his spot. His game (through balls on the ground, overlapping runs, 1-2s) clearly relies on better midfield play than he’s going to get. I’d prefer to see Gomez as the focal point, with Dempsey and Shea running to either side.
My preferred lineup for Tuesday: Howard; Johnson, Cameron, Bocanegra (Goodson is suspended for Tuesday), Cherundolo; Edu, Jones, Torres; Shea, Gomez, Dempsey.
No score predictions this time, just this: the U.S. has to win. That is all. The game is on Tuesday at 8:00pm (ESPN2, ESPN3, Galavision).