U.S. Winners and Losers Against Jamaica
The United States men’s national team took a big step toward qualifying for the 2014 World Cup on Friday night, defeating Jamaica 2-1 courtesy of a 92nd-minute strike from Brad Evans.
The U.S. scored first in the game, taking the lead on a goal from Jozy Altidore in the 30th minute before giving up the equalizer in the 89th minute on a set-piece goal knocked in by Jamaica’s Jermaine Beckford.
The U.S. then found the winner three minutes later.
Here are the winners and losers for the U.S. in the match.
Winner: Matt Besler
For the overwhelming majority of the game, Matt Besler was a quiet but calming presence for the U.S. back line. Much of what Besler does goes unnoticed, but for a center-back, going unnoticed can be a good thing.
When the U.S. midfield failed to pressure the Jamaican attack, more often than not, it was Besler stepping up to pressure the ball. Besler also contributed to the attack on a number of occasions, finding both Graham Zusi and Jozy Altidore with penetrating passes behind the Jamaican defense.
While Besler’s game was largely mistake-free, he did have two bad moments back-to-back in the 76th and 77th minutes, respectively.
On the first play, he lost track of Jermaine Beckford on the weak side of the field, but did do well to recover on the play and bump Beckford off the ball. A minute later, Besler tried to settle a Jamaican service into the box, but took a bad touch, and the Jamaicans got a second chance at the U.S. net.
Overall, however, it was an impressive performance by the U.S. center-back.
Loser: The U.S.’ Inability to Close out a Game
In the last 20 minutes, as Jamaica pushed for the equalizer, the U.S. squandered chance after chance to score its second goal and put the game away.
Then, after a necessary foul by Graham Zusi in the 89th minute, the U.S. poorly defended the ensuing set piece, and the Jamaicans equalized. If not for a minor miracle with Brad Evans' 92nd-minute winner, the U.S. would have thrown away two points by not being able to close out the match.
Winner: Jermaine Jones’ Midfield Play
Jermaine Jones has been in fantastic form for the U.S. over the past week, putting together a particularly strong performance against Germany after a solid game against Belgium.
On Friday, Jones was terrific, switching the point of attack for the U.S. time and time again.
Jones’ vision in switching the field was key to the U.S.’ attack for much of the match, and his skill in being able to deliver 60-yard passes to the weak side provided the U.S. with the type of “can-opener” passes it needed to pry open the Jamaican defense.
It was just too bad the U.S. wingers didn’t do more with the opportunities Jones provided them with.
Loser: The U.S. Midfield Without Jermaine Jones
Jermaine Jones' play on Friday night was terrific—and after he left the match, the U.S. midfield wasn’t the same. Jones left the game after taking an apparent elbow while defending a corner kick.
Normal concussion protocol calls for at least a week off, and if Jones is diagnosed with a concussion as many suspect, the U.S. will be without him for its World Cup qualifier against Panama on Tuesday.
Winner: Jozy Altidore Scoring
After an 18-month international goal drought in USMNT appearances that went back all the way to 2011, Jozy Altidore now has two goals in his last two games for the U.S.
Altidore's goal on Friday gave the U.S. the lead in the 30th minute when he superbly finished an excellent service from Graham Zusi.
Loser: The U.S.’ Forwards' Hold-Up Play
The U.S. went several long stretches on Friday night unable to work the ball out of their defensive third because Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore struggled to hold up the ball.
While Altidore did have a nice goal and Dempsey was involved in a couple of nice sequences for the U.S., both needed to do a better job helping the U.S. break pressure and get the American attack started.
Winner: DaMarcus Beasley, Brad Evans
While both DaMarcus Beasley and Brad Evans struggled at times to contain Jamaica’s speedy attackers, overall, both played very well.
Building on his strong performances for the U.S. of late, Beasley made a number of strong and crucial tackles, got forward well and was surprisingly strong in the air when the U.S. needed him to be.
Evans was culpable on Jamaica’s best chance in the first half when he didn’t pinch in after Omar Gonzalez stepped forward, but overall, Evans did well to contain Jamaica throughout the match. And, of course, Evans came up huge for the U.S. with his 92nd-minute game-winning goal.
Loser: Lack of Dynamic Wing Play
Over the past few months as Edgar Castillo hit a good run of form in Liga MX, many USMNT fans became excited at the prospect of being able to move Fabian Johnson into the left midfield position.
As it happened, DaMarcus Beasley’s outstanding play for the USMNT at left-back allowed that move to happen, but Johnson has been largely disappointing since the move into the U.S. midfield.
Against Germany, Johnson was removed at halftime and did not create the chances that many fans anticipated he would. Against Jamaica, Johnson was largely anonymous and eventually removed for an equally ineffective Edgar Castillo.
On the right wing, Graham Zusi made one outstanding play on the U.S.’ opening goal, but produced little else on the attacking end.
Overall, the U.S. is still lacking the type of dynamic wing play to be able to unlock opposing defenses on a regular basis.
Winner: The U.S.’ World Cup Hopes
With the win in Kingston, the U.S. now sits in second place (behind Costa Rica on goal differential) in the CONCACAF Hexagonal and still has a game in hand over Mexico and Jamaica.
If the U.S. can pick up four points between its next two home matches against Panama and Honduras next week, the Americans will be well on their way to Brazil.
Loser: Jurgen Klinsmann’s Wardrobe
Apparently in an attempt to become the world’s first head coach/male model, Jurgen Klinsmann once again donned a, let’s say, unique shirt for the game.
After trying out the fairly ridiculous navy blue long-sleeved t-shirt earlier this year, the shirt he wore Friday night against Jamaica falls into the outright ridiculous category.
The U.S. picked up the three points, but I mean, c’mon, look at that thing.
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