KANSAS CITY — The United States clinched first place Friday in CONCACAF final round qualifying out of the region with a 2-0 win over Jamaica, the final World Cup qualifier at home until the process begins anew before World Cup 2018.
Some early thoughts on Friday’s match at Sporting Park:
Credit the U.S. for digging up some urgency
I saw a couple of Twitter pals who thought the United States lacked urgency … and I don’t exactly disagree. Then again, trying to manufacture urgency is tricky business; generally speaking, it’s either there or it isn’t.
In that regard, you’d have to call a wonderful fall night at Sporting Park (another great, loud crowd there) a victory in more ways than one for Jurgen Klinsmann’s men. One of Klinsmann’s larger goals was to create a more aggressive mindset throughout the program. Part and parcel is handling teams in friendlies and in these less meaningful matches – and Jamaica is a team that the United States has regularly handled at home.
The first 60 minutes? Meh. Not much to shout about for the United States. But credit to Klinsmann for a couple of subs that worked out, and to his team for eventually sorting out the midfield and continuing to probe aggressively for channels through the Jamaican back line.
The breakthrough finally came thanks to local lad Graham Zusi (the place nearly came apart when Zusi found the far post in the 76th minute). There was a lot of good work from quite a few U.S. men in that one.
The Jamaicans were pretty much done at that point. The rest was just playing it out, seeing whether the final score would land on 2-0 or 3-0 or wherever.
It took the Americans awhile … but Klinsmann and Co. did ultimately locate that urgency he has worked so hard to create.
Did someone play their way out of roster contention?
In at least one way, this was like a U.S. friendly: the match was mostly about fine-tuning and, from the most practical standpoint, about individual assessment. As I always say with friendlies, the athletes cannot really play their way onto a World Cup team with plum performance in matches that don’t really matter – but they can sure play their way off.
You have to wonder this evening about Alejandro Bedoya.
Bedoya is solidly on the bubble and he was front and center among the brigade who needed a big night at Sporting Park. But the place turned into a mini-house of horrors for Bedoya, who did little right in the first half and was only slightly better after the break.
Klinsmann knows as well as anyone: if a guy cannot do it on a wonderful Friday night with nothing on the line, can he be trusted when it’s all on the line in soccer’s ultimate pressure cooker, a World Cup?
The U.S. back line held up
It’s a little hard to make much of this, as Jamaica’s attack lacks much structure and polish. Generally speaking, the visitors just weren’t very good. That said, Brad Evans and DaMarcus Beasley did well in handling Jamaica’s speed on the flanks.
And centrally, Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron were on the job in their first time together as a central pairing. The one nit-pick on Cameron: his passing over longer distances rarely found their targets.
That’s perhaps a product of his playing right back at Stoke, and working with the different angles that come from that spot.
Wondering about Jozy Altidore
Another U.S. man who didn’t have his best night: Sunderland’s Jozy Altidore. He did score toward the end, and maybe that will help him shake the Black Cats funk.
This was always a concern, that he would go to a less-stable situation at Sunderland and watch his game fall to pieces.
There’s plenty of time for a rally. It’s just such a darn shame to see all the good work of the summer more or less evaporate. Altidore is still a good striker – he’s just not a confident striker at the moment. And that’s a problem for the men paid to score goals.