On Friday night in Kansas City, the U.S. defeated Jamaica, 2–0. With Eddie Johnson pulling out of the squad with a groin injury, Jürgen Klinsmann brought Clarence Goodson, Brad Davis, and Chris Wondolowski in. The starting lineup was shaken up more than expected, with Klinsmann perhaps hoping to guard against complacency by starting hungry players. Aron Jóhannsson started alongside Jozy Altidore, and in midfield, Mix Diskerud and Alejandro Bedoya also got starts, alongside Jermaine Jones and Landon Donovan. The back line was as expected, with Geoff Cameron starting alongside Matt Besler, flanked by Brad Evans and DaMarcus Beasley, and Tim Howard in goal.
In a sloppy first half, the U.S. looked consistently the more dangerous team, but too often conceded possession to Jamaica, and were sloppy in their passing. Jamaica’s athletes also troubled the U.S., running at speed up the flanks and up top.
And it was Jamaica with the first chance. In the 7th minute, after an innocuous foul, Jamaica crossed in a dangerous free kick, and Evans was forced to clear a ball off the line. While preventing a goal, the clearance did not take the US out of danger and Jamaica had a second chance before the ball was finally corralled.
Play was stretched and disjointed, with neither side holding possession for very long. Jamaica’s pressure was strong, but presented the U.S. with break-away opportunities. In the 10th minute, a U.S. throw was only half-cleared by the Jamaican defense, and it fell to Diskerud, who screwed his volley wide.
In the 17th, pressure by Beasley on a weak outlet pass from the Jamaican defense led to a run and shot by the U.S. left back. His strike was deflected out, but on the resulting corner Jóhannsson took the ball down with a deft touch. Had his nerves stayed calm, the goal beckoned, but he put his shot wide, perhaps rushing the chance.
In the 20th, good work from Bedoya fed Donovan at the top of the box. Donovan, in turn, fed Jóhannsson in the Jamaica box. Jóhannsson cut inside his defender, transferring the ball right, to his stronger foot, where it was tackled away just before he could pull the trigger. The U.S. was getting a hold of the game, taking advantage of Jamaica’s aggression.
In the 24th, the U.S. gave a Jamaican runner too much room, and invited a shot on goal. Howard was up to it, parrying the ball away. Jamaica was having too much of the ball, and the U.S. was struggling to deal with their pace out wide and up top, though Jamaica wasn’t doing enough with their possession.
In the 26th, Donovan was hacked down 30-plus yards from goal, but the U.S. free kick was called back for an offsides on Jones.
In the 29th, a Donovan corner cleared everyone in the box, falling again to Jóhannsson on the back post, but his volley didn’t have the requisite accuracy. The young Icelandic-American was getting into excellent positions, but his final touch was failing him.
Altidore and Jóhannsson were combining well, but more often than not, Altidore’s return pass was poor, leading to a turnover.
In the 38th, Evans made a good tackle outside the U.S. box, but saw it differently and Rodolph Austin free kick went inches wide.
In the 41st, an excellent delivery from Bedoya put Donovan away with a run into the Jamaica box, but the ball got caught under his feet, and pinged too far away from him and rolled out of play.
In the 45th, Jóhannsson had the ball wide left, and sent a raking cross-field pass to a wide-open Bedoya. Bedoya drove at the Jamaica defense and put in a shot on goal, but the keeper held the ball. Darron Mattocks returned the favor a minute later, putting in a zippy shot on the stroke of halftime.
Had Jóhannsson finished one of his chances, the U.S. performance might have looked better, but without a goal, their performance was underwhelming. Donovan wasn’t involved frequently enough, and when he had them, his touches were poor. The U.S. would need better in the second half.
Graham Zusi came on for Donovan at halftime, a somewhat shocking change, but Donovan’s performance in the first half had been poor.
The U.S. started better in their passing, but without creating any dangerous chances. And in the 52nd, the U.S. nearly gifted Jamaica the opening goal. Diskerud was dispossessed in midfield, and Jamaica had numbers attacking the U.S. box. A through ball put one attacker in alone, but Howard did well to force him wide and make the save.
In the 54th, a strong run through midfield gave Bedoya a shooting opportunity, but his strong shot was blocked.
In the 56th, a subtle through ball from Zusi nearly put Jóhannsson in on goal inside the Jamaica box, but he was crowded out before reaching the ball. The U.S. was playing better, but Jamaica’s defense seemed ready for everything.
In the 61st, a foul on Diskerud led to a Zusi free kick. The ball dropped behind the defense, and Altidore tried to poke it across the six. The ball deflected off several players before being scooped up by the keeper.
In the 68th, the first Jamaican possession in some time resulted in a good cross from the left back. The ball found a Jamaican player, but the header wasn’t enough to bypass Howard.
Jóhannsson was removed in the 73rd, replaced by Sasha Kljestan. Almost immediately, the U.S. had a good chance. Edgar Castillo, himself a second-half sub for Beasley, was released down the left. His cross cleared to the back post, where Bedoya was there to head back across goal. The ball was cleared out to Diskerud, whose shot nearly found Altidore at the back post, but instead drifted out of play.
In the 76th, the broken-est of broken plays finally gave the U.S. the breakthrough. Cameron fed a great ball into the heart of the Jamaica defense, where Diskerud played a one-touch ball to Altidore. Altidore returned the favor, but as Diskerud tried to turn, the ball was tackled away. Altidore jumped on the loose ball, and was fouled, in turn. Instead of blowing the play dead, the ref waved play on, as the ball had fallen to Zusi. Zusi played the ball out wide to Bedoya, streaking into the box. Bedoya tried to cross, only to hit a brick wall, but the ball stayed at his feet. His second cross attempt was deflected, but fell to Zusi, who stroked it home. Just like they drew it up in practice.
Just moments after play restarted, Zusi was again at the heart of a dangerous U.S. move, taking the ball wide right and playing in a tantalizing cross. Kljestan was there to strike the ball first time, but the shot was well saved by the keeper’s feet.
In the 80th, the U.S. put the game away. A Diskerud tackle gave the ball to Kljestan, whose first-time feed into Altidore was cut out. The ball rebounded out wide to Castillo, who was racing into the box. His cross found Altidore all alone to tap in his eighth goal in as many starts.
In the 83rd, good interchange between Bedoya and Diskerud resulted in a dangerous cross. Zusi collected it and could have scored the third, but his shot was well over.
In the 89th, Castillo nearly had a goal to go with his assist. A give-and-go between Castillo and Zusi led to a flick over the top from Zusi to Castillo, who was alone with only the keeper to beat. With the goal at his mercy, he poked the ball wide. Had he simply knocked it across goalmouth, Altidore was open for another tap-in.
Instead, the U.S. settled for two goals and the win. In the 93rd minute, Jamaica had their most dangerous chance of the night. Theo Robinson took down a high ball inside the U.S. box, poked it around Castillo, and belted a shot Howard’s way, but the U.S. keeper was equal to the effort and kept the clean sheet.
Formation switch pays dividends: The U.S. played most of the game in a 4-4-2. While Jóhannsson looked dangerous in the first half, the U.S. midfield was disjointed and careless. After Jóhannsson’s removal, the U.S. switched to a 4-3-3 (or 4-2-3-1), and immediately improved its possession and passing game, which resulted in two goals.
Landon has an off night: Perhaps more than anyone else, Donovan looked out of sorts, and was removed at half time. While it surely will not affect his standing in the long term, it was Donovan’s first poor showing for the U.S. in months.
Zusi gives Klinsmann a reminder of his quality: Zusi was a locked-in starter not so long ago, but with Donovan’s resurgence, Zusi has slid down the pecking order. But it was Zusi at the heart of all of the U.S.’s best moves in the second half and who scored the first goal.
Jóhannsson’s got it: He didn’t score. Indeed, it wasn’t until he left the game that the U.S. looked most dangerous. However, had Jóhannsson’s nerves not betrayed him in the first half, he might have had two goals. His movement was consistently dangerous, and he and Altidore showed they could play together, even if they often weren’t on quite the same wavelength. While Altidore is still undeniably the man for the U.S., Jóhannsson is one to watch, and should make the plane to Brazil.
Three in a row: With the win the US claimed the Hexagonal for the third straight World Cup qualification cycle. They did so without conceding a goal in any of their home games, where they are now unbeaten in 12 games in a row. The US is now 15-3-2 on the year, those 15 wins topping the team’s previous record of 13 wins in a calendar year set in 2005 and 2009.
The U.S. started very slowly, but never looked threatened by Jamaica. And once again, Klinsmann made the correct adjustments, and the U.S. went on to win the game. With the win, and Costa Rica’s loss, the U.S. secured top spot in the qualifying group with a game to spare. While tougher tests than CONCACAF await, what more has the U.S. to prove, at this point? Not much. Now, it’s all about what happens next summer.
Match: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Jamaica
Date: Oct. 11, 2013
Competition: 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying – Final Round
Venue: Sporting Park; Kansas City, Kan.
Kickoff: 5:30 p.m. CT
Weather: 72 degrees, cloudy
USA – Graham Zusi (Alejandro Bedoya) 77′
USA – Jozy Altidore (Edgar Castillo) 81′
USA: 1-Tim Howard (capt.); 6-Brad Evans, 20-Geoff Cameron, 5-Matt Besler, 7-DaMarcus Beasley (2-Edgar Castillo, 66); 11-Alejandro Bedoya, 8-Mix Diskerud, 13-Jermaine Jones, 10-Landon Donovan (19-Graham Zusi, 46); 9-Aron Johannsson (16-Sacha Kljestan, 72), 17-Jozy Altidore
Substitutions Not Used: 3-Michael Orozco, 12-Brad Guzan, 14-Terrence Boyd, 23-Kyle Beckerman
Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
JAM: 1-DuWayne Kerr; 12-Demar Phillips, 19-Adrian Mariappa, 7-Westley Morgan, 3-Lloyd Doyley; 11-Darren Mattocks , 17-Rodolph Austin (capt.), 15-Je-Vaughn Watson (14-Theo Robinson, 73), 22-Deshorn Brown; 10-Joel McAnuff, 9-Ryan Johnson (21-Jermain Anderson, 85)
Substitutions Not Used: 2- Daniel Gordon, 4-Marvin Ellitott, 5-Alvas Powell, 6-Romario Campbell, 8-Jermaine Johnson, 13-Richard McCallum, 16-Jermaine Taylor, 18-Shaun Cummings, 20-Kemar Lawrence, 23-Gariece McPherson
Head coach: Winfried Schaefer
Stats Summary: USA / JAM
Shots: 14 / 9
Shots on Goal: 5 / 5
Saves: 5 / 3
Corner Kicks: 3 / 2
Fouls: 14 / 15
Offside: 3 / 2
USA – Sacha Kljestan (caution) 90+1′
JAM – Jermain Anderson (caution) 90+2′
Referee: Elmer Bonilla (SLV)
Assistant Referee 1: Hermenerito Leal (GUA)
Assistant Referee 2: Ronaldo De La Cruz (GUA)
Fourth Official: Sandy Vasquez (DOM)