By IVES GALARCEP
When Jermaine Beckford delivered a late header goal to give Jamaica a 1-1 tie vs. the U.S. Men’s National Team, it looked for a second like the Americans would once again be doomed to a disappointing World Cup qualifying result on the Caribbean Island.
There was no quit in this U.S. team though. Rather than hang their heads and settle for a respectable road point, the Americans kept pushing for a win and their determination was rewarded in stoppage time when Brad Evans took a Michael Bradley pass and slotted a shot past Donovan Ricketts in the second minute of stoppage time to help give the U.S. a 2-1 victory on Friday night in Kingston.
The U.S. didn’t play their prettiest match, but they held a lead for a large part of the 90 minutes, with Jozy Alidore opening the scoring with a 30th minute header off a quality Graham Zusi cross. That goal seemed to wobble the Jamaicans, but the U.S. couldn’t find a killer blow to finish off the home team.
Jamaica threatened with chances throughout the match, even hitting the woodwork late in the first half on a Rodolph Austin shot. The Americans struggled to put the ‘Reggae Boyz’ away and appeared to pay the price when Beckford snuck behind the U.S. defense to head home a long free kick in the 89th minute.
Jamaica looked like they might rally for a late win but the U.S. eventually settled down in the closing minutes and Michael Bradley took control of matters, keeping hold of the ball and probing the Jamaica defense until he worked a give-and-go off a corner kick and put a quick move on Alvas Powell to free himself before sending a quick pass to an unmarked Evans. The Seattle standout turned quickly and fired a shot past Rickets from 10 yards out for the winning goal, and the latest game-winning goal in U.S. Men’s National Team history.
The U.S. trotted out the same starting lineup that beat Germany, 4-3, in a friendly last Sunday and Klinsmann’s decision to stick with the same group looked like it would pay off early on as the Americans took control early on. Zusi and Altidore combined on a goal for the second straight match, with Zusi once again creating space to deliver a quality cross in to Altidore, who rose up to head home the 15th goal of his U.S. national team career.
Jamaica eventually shook off the shock of that Altidore goal and slowly found a rhythm and started to find chances, though the home team never really took complete control of the match. The midfield pairing of Bradley and Jermaine Jones did well to keep Jamaica from building through the middle, though Rodolph Austin still found some dangerous looks, his best coming just before halftime on a give-and-go with Ryan Johnson that produced a shot off the right post.
Bradley nearly made it 2-0 in the first half, but saw a 20-yard shot past off the left post to keep the score 1-0.
The second half saw Jamaica press and press in search of an equalizer, but the U.S. defend kept bending without breaking. Jamaica’s speed on the wings caused problems for American fullbacks Evans and Beasley but they couldn’t translate that pressure into quality chances.
The U.S. lost Jermaine Jones in the 56th minute after he collided heads with Daniel Gordon on a set piece. He left the match with what was later determined to be a concussion. Geoff Cameron replaced Jones and slid into a central midfield role and looked comfortable there despite not having played there for the U.S. before.
Klinsmann’s experimentation continued in the 73rd minute when he slotted Edgar Castillo into a left wing role, replacing Fabian Johnson, who was largely ineffective on the night despite being matched up against 18-year-old Jamaican fullback Alvas Powell. Castillo turned in a respectable shift on the left wing.
Evans goal helped the Americans record their first qualifying win in Jamaica after five previous attempts without a win. The victory helped move the U.S. up the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying standings with seven points. They are currently in second place, behind leaders Costa Rica on goal difference. Mexico also has seven points, but have played one match more. Panama sits in fourth place with six points.
The Americans will return to the United States to play a pair of home World Cup qualifiers, starting Tuesday in Seattle against Panama. Klinsmann will have to make some changes to his squad given Jones’ concussion situation and the fact Graham Zusi is suspended due to yellow cards.
Regardless who Klinsmann turns to, he will be fielding a U.S. team sitting pretty in qualifying with seven points from four matches, a good clip considering three of those first four matches have been on the road. That means the U.S. now has four of their final six HEX qualifiers at home.
The loss leaves Jamaica in last place in the qualifying group, with their World Cup hopes all but faded. The Reggae Boyz would need to win all five remaining matches to finish with 17 points
What did you think of the match? Impressed with the U.S. team’s determination? Still worried about the U.S. defense? Starting to believe in Klinsmann’s decisions? Think the U.S. can win all three June qualifiers?
Share your thoughts below.