Jamaica vs. USA: 6 Things We Learned from World Cup Qualifier
The United States Men’s National Team suffered a potential blow to their World Cup qualifying hopes, as they lost to Jamaica 2-1 Friday night in a match played in Kingston.
With Guatemala also defeating Antigua and Barbuda, the USMNT now finds itself tied on points with Guatemala for second place in group A. With only two teams from each group advancing to the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying and half of their games already played, the U.S. has put itself in a difficult position heading into its remaining games.
Here are six thoughts from the loss to Jamaica.
The U.S.’ Lack of Width and Wingers Is Beginning to Become a Real Problem
On Friday night, the U.S. employed a 4-1-2-1-2 formation with Kyle Beckerman holding, Maurice Edu and Jermaine Jones playing as central midfielders and Clint Dempsey playing underneath the forwards.
While this formation fits the U.S.’ personnel right now, it is not an effective formation. With Landon Donovan and Josh Gatt out hurt, the only true winger on the U.S. roster is Brek Shea.
Sure, Jose Torres, Graham Zusi, Clint Dempsey, Joe Corona, Jermaine Jones and Danny Williams can all play out wide, but it is not the natural position of any of them. And the only one who has proved he can do it consistently well is Dempsey.
On Friday night, one of the big problems the U.S. attack faced was that it couldn’t stretch the field east-to-west.
Without true wingers, Klinsmann cannot play his preferred 4-3-3, nor can he play the 4-2-2-2 that was typical of the Bob Bradley era.
The U.S. Is Still Desperately Searching for a Playmaker
If this game proved anything, it proved what Michael Bradley is worth to the USMNT. Without Bradley, Klinsmann went with the “safe” choice, and the midfield combination of Beckerman, Jones and Edu.
However, none of those players is the type of deep-lying playmaker that Bradley is and, with Jose Torres on the bench, the U.S. struggled.
Klinsmann needs to stop tinkering with Torres; in Klinsmann’s reign with the USMNT, Torres has played as a No. 10, a winger and even a left-back.
Torres’ best position is a box-to-box center midfielder where he can dictate the play and control the tempo of the game. Instead, on Friday, Klinsmann tried to pigeon-hole three defensive midfielders into a diamond midfield with little success.
The Defense Actually Did Ok
Despite the scoreline, the USMNT’s defense actually played fairly well.
Michael Parkhurst, a surprise inclusion in the starting eleven, played much better than his poor performances this summer. Clarence Goodson and Geoff Cameron, never the quickest players on the pitch, did well to keep the Jamaicans in front of them. Fabian Johnson, while he didn’t get forward as much as usual, did well defensively playing against the width of Jamaica’s 3-4-3.
Even Tim Howard, beaten twice on dead balls, was helpless to stop either shot and made a number of key saves which kept the U.S. in the game.
The real problem for the U.S. was its midfield, which failed to hold possession and created both fouls that resulted in the goals against the U.S.
Is Jurgen Klinsmann the Only Person Who Thinks Kyle Beckerman Is USMNT-Worthy?
Following repeated performances where he has been the U.S.’ weakest link, Beckerman was poor again on Friday.
He was beat on the dribble repeatedly and lost possession far too often. Several times in the match he was forced to foul after getting beat to avoid allowing the Jamaicans to have an open shot.
The goal against the U.S. in the 22nd minute was not only the result of a foul from Beckerman, but also went off the inside of Beckerman’s right leg as he stood in the wall. After bouncing off Beckerman’s leg, the ball changed directions and went past a wrong-footed Tim Howard.
The U.S. Needs to Consider a Two-Man Torres/Bradley Center Midfield Combination
As discussed, the U.S.’ lack of width screams for a return to the 4-2-2-2, or at least Klinsmann’s preferred 4-3-3. With a two-man center midfield tandem of Jose Torres and Michael Bradley, the USMNT gets the best of both worlds.
Bradley can do the dirty work in the middle of the field and possess the ball out of the back, while Torres is the go-between running from box-to-box. It puts both Bradley and Torres in their natural positions and gets rid of midfield liabilities Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones.
Against Jamaica, Jones spent the majority of the match losing possession, yelling at the referee, feigning injuries after losing 50/50 battles and picking up stupid fouls.
He is also a consistent red-card threat and has far too many up-and-down performances to be a consistent starter for the U.S.
Beckerman, as discussed, is nowhere near the quality needed to be a U.S. international, and Maurice Edu could fill in as a substitute for either Bradley or Torres when needed.
The U.S. Attack Was Flaccid
With no playmaker, and Jozy Altidore and Herculez Gomez having subpar games (to put it nicely), the U.S. generated few real chances.
Altidore was uninvolved for most of the match and Gomez, his bright start aside, did not look to be his usual self.
One of the biggest problems the U.S. faced on Friday night was a problem it created for itself. While playing two strikers and Dempsey just underneath them, the U.S. should have been pressuring the Jamaican defense high up the pitch.
Instead, the U.S.’ three attackers were content to allow Jamaica to pass the ball around the back. With three attackers working in tandem, the U.S. certainly could have done better to force the Jamaicans to work the ball out of their own end.
Instead, the U.S. allowed the Jamaicans time and space on the ball and, as a result, the U.S. could never get a real foothold in the game.
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