The United States Men’s National Team put together a much better display on Tuesday night, beating Jamaica 1-0 in Columbus, Ohio.
Coming off a 1-0 loss to Jamaica only four days ago, the USMNT was nearly in a must-win position. After a solid first-half in which the U.S. dominated play, Herculez Gomez scored on a free kick in the 55th minute to guide the U.S. to victory.
The U.S., Guatemala and Jamaica are now all tied at the top of Group A in CONCACAF qualifying with seven points, and all have two games to play. The top two teams will advance to the next round of qualifying.
Here are the player ratings for the U.S.
Howard was not called upon often in the match as the U.S. controlled play for the majority of the game. But when he was needed, he was there as usual.
Howard shielded a ball out of play on a ball over the top in the 48th minute and made a nice low save on a bizarre shot that found its way through multiple U.S. defenders from 40 yards out in the 80th minute. To top off the game, Howard made a nice push on a dangerous corner service in the 83rd minute.
Cherundolo had a very solid game for the Nats, getting forward well, especially in the first half and putting in a solid defensive shift.
Cherundolo had seven services from the flank as he pushed up on the attack, although, to be fair, most of them were fairly poor. He also found Herculez Gomez on a nice long ball in the 11th minute that could have resulted in a penalty and had a nice long serve to Jozy Altidore in the 81st minute.
Cherundolo also formed a very good partnership with surprise starter Graham Zusi on the right side of the U.S. attack, and Cherundolo had two key headed clearances on a Jamaican corner kick in the 28th minute.
With the Jamaicans playing low-pressure for much of the match, Cameron did not have a lot to do defensively, but along with Carlos Bocanegra, he did a nice job circulating the ball around the back line when the U.S. was in possession.
When he was called upon to do work defensively, he had a nice, strong tackle in the 58th minute to clean up a mess and covered well for Bocanegra in the 75th minute when Boca was beaten and the Jamaicans looked like they might get behind the U.S. defense.
Bocanegra returned to the lineup on Tuesday and did a nice job organizing the U.S. back line and keeping everyone calm, especially when the game became a bit nervy in the final 20 minutes.
Like Cameron, Bocanegra wasn’t called on much defensively, but he did his job when he needed to. He had a nice win in the eight minute, strong tackles in the 31st and 63rd minutes and a key corner clearance in the 82nd minute.
A solid, if not spectacular, shift from the man with the armband.
Johnson did a much better job getting forward than he did last Friday against Jamaica, but his partnership with Jose Torres on the left side of the U.S. attack was off-key all night long.
Johnson was put through on a good chance created by Clint Dempsey in the 21st minute, but he wasn’t aggressive enough attacking the ball, and his shot was blocked by a Jamaican defender.
He had a great give-and-go in the 44th minute, but he hesitated when he got the ball back and lost what looked to be a great opportunity to penetrate the Jamaican defense.
Twice, early in the second half, Johnson got forward well, only to have Jose Torres either not see him or lose the initiative of the attack by taking too many touches. Johnson’s last good attacking opportunity was in the 63rd minute, which he skied, quite impressively, well into the crowd.
Johnson did well in his defensive duties, winning a big tackle in the fourth minute, being big in 50-50 challenges in the seventh minute and 21st minutes and covered very well for Bocanegra on a dangerous Jamaican diagonal run (the historical Achilles' heel of the USMNT) in the 28th minute.
Williams had a man-of-the-match performance for the U.S. and he was easily the States' most consistent performer. Finally started by Jurgen Klinsmann in Williams’ preferred holding-midfield role, Williams cycled the ball well from side-to-side for the U.S. all night long. He also had a sick hit from 30 yards out that ricocheted off the post and easily could have gone in.
Defensively, Williams was also spectacular, recognizing when the U.S. center backs were being pulled out and covering for both Bocanegra and Cameron at key moments.
Late in the game, Williams was moved out to the right flank as Maurice Edu was introduced, and Williams did well to hold possession and had a huge tackle in the 90th minute. His work rate out wide was just as good as his play in the middle.
A great night for the young man.
Jones was, once again, unimpressive. Although he looked better than on Friday, he makes more mistakes than he does meaningful contributions.
Jones missed what looked to be a fairly easy header on a free kick taken by Herculez Gomez in the 15th minute, had two very stupid fouls in the first half and a horrible giveaway in the 93rd minute that could have cost the U.S. the game. Fortunately, his natural instincts kicked in, and he immediately fouled the Jamaican he had lost the ball to.
The only bright spot of Jones' performance on the night were that his “injuries” actually helped the U.S., as time ticked off the clock as he rolled around on the pitch.
Following a number of less-than-spectacular performances for the Nats, Torres was better—but not good.
He looked out of rhythm all night long, especially with Fabian Johnson on the left side of the U.S. attack. Torres took too many touches and did not recognize the runs his teammates were making. This is even more unfortunate considering that Torres is supposed to be one of the best “playmakers” for the U.S.
To be fair, Torres was once again played wide, which is not his best position. He also showed some heart with his defensive effort, which has been called into question in the past.
Surprise starter Graham Zusi put together one of the more impressive performances for the Nats, especially in the first half when he played with a lot of energy. He combined very well with Steve Cherundolo down the right side, as if the two were regular partners.
Zusi had a great shot off the crossbar early in the game, had a sure goal blocked by a Jamaican defender in the 21st minute and a great service into the box in the 39th minute.
Zusi faded a bit after halftime and did not finish the game.
USMNT fans are always quick to jump on good performances by newcomers (most recently Brek Shea), so it’s important to recognize that this was a very good but not outstanding performance by Zusi.
There’s no question that Clint Dempsey’s mojo is off after going three months without playing in any competitive fixtures. While there is no doubting Dempsey’s overall quality, he had one of his poorer performances for the Nats on Tuesday.
He often appeared to be trying to do too much, especially seen in consecutive lost possessions on attempted backheels early in the first half. Dempsey spent much of the game dropping very deep and had one lost possession in the 49th minute that could have easily resulted in a goal against the U.S.
Dempsey was also uncharacteristically caught in possession at times on Tuesday. In the 83rd minute, when he was surely exhausted, he had one very bad giveaway when the U.S. desperately needed to hold onto the ball to kill off the game.
Gomez had the game-winner, but even fanatics of the USMNT have to recognize that it was a poor save effort from the Jamaican keeper.
Gomez floated in and out of the game, although he did have a number of good chances. He was challenged hard in the box on a great through ball from Steve Cherundolo in the 11th minute which might have resulted in a penalty on another night. In the 33rd minute, he was put through by Dempsey and incorrectly called offsides, but he missed the shot anyways.
Despite the game-winning goal, it was a pedestrian performance from Gomez.
Brek Shea’s introduction into the game when the U.S. was trying to hold onto a 1-0 lead seemed to be a dubious move by USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann, as Shea’s lack of possession skills were a factor in the U-23’s failure to qualify for the Olympics.
However, Shea did well to repay Klinsmann’s faith in him, combining nicely with Maurice Edu in the 86th minute to work the ball out of the back under pressure when the natural instincts of most players would have been to blast it forward. Shea also did well in the 89th minute to win a corner kick to help kill off the game.
He could have done more to contribute to the attack, however. In his one real opportunity to go forward, he couldn’t get the ball out from underneath his feet, and by the time he was ready to serve the ball, the U.S. advantage was gone.
Edu’s introduction was another curious decision, not because the U.S. didn’t need more of a defensive presence, but because Danny Williams had been doing so well as a holding midfielder.
Almost as soon as he entered, Edu had a dicey moment where he gave away possession, but after a few minutes, he settled into the rhythm of the game and helped the U.S. kill off the final Jamaican attacks.
It was another shockingly bad performance from Jozy Altidore, who entered the match in the 80th minute.
Coming in up top, his job was to hold the ball. He failed miserably in that role, giving possession away multiple times, once on an attempted backheel in the 90th minute and again in stoppage time with a stupid pass when he and Shea were attempting to kill off the game on a short corner.
Follow me on Twitter @AmerTouchline.
Follow me on Facebook www.facebook.com/AmericanTouchline.