It took 58 minutes of promising yet unproductive attacking play, but the United States eventually was rewarded for a positive mindset as Jordan Morris’ goal lead the U.S. to a 1-0 win over Jamaica in the conclusion of January camp.
Bruce Arena started a number of fringe players looking for somebody to impress, and a few did just that as Dax McCarty distributed well, Benny Feilhaber was the focal point of the attack, and Sebastian Lletget proved a menace down the left in a game that hardly tested the U.S. back line.
The U.S. began strongly, with a 4-1-3-2 formation putting pressure on the Jamaica midfield. McCarty had the game’s first big chance in the 7th minute as he rose high to head Feilhaber’s corner just inches over the bar. What a fascinating first goal of the Arena x2 era that would have been.
Jamaica’s Ewan Grandison earned the game’s first yellow inside the opening 10 minutes after he was dispossessed in his own half and then scythed down Sebastian Lletget. There was a stoppage in play in the 24th minute as Jamaica broke, Cory Burke picked out a nice backheel but crashed into Chris Pontius just after, with their knees colliding. Both players were able to continue.
The turf played a significant role throughout the game, with the ball bouncing more than usual. The U.S. held much of the possession up through the half-hour mark, but struggled with ideas in the final third. Jamaica had a big moment in the 33rd minute that saw a bad miss. A counter-attack came down the right as Cory Burke beat Graham Zusi to the ball and fed Romario Williams at point blank range in front of the net. Luis Robles came out to block the cross, but he deflected it straight to Williams who should have scored, but missed badly with the goal gaping.
Minutes later the U.S. will feel they missed a chance of their own as Juan Agudelo headed a ball forward to spring Jordan Morris, but the young Sounders striker took just slightly too long, and it was smothered by Jamaican goalkeeper Andre Blake. On the ensuing corner, Lletget came inches away from the opener again with a beautiful curling ball that just missed the top corner.
Overall, the first half proved promising, but there was also a lack of execution up front and some sloppy play along with it. Arena only made one change out of the break, swapping Luis Robles in goal for Dave Bingham.
Finally, the breakthrough for the United States came 13 minutes after halftime. With the U.S. again holding much of the meaningful possession, Feilhaber played a perfect one-two to unlock the Jamaica back line, and this time Morris finished the chance clinically for the 1-0 lead.
Immediately after scoring, Bruce Arena replaced Feilhaber and McCarty with Michael Bradley and Darlington Nagbe. The game snoozed its way to completion, with Jamaica not threatening to draw level. Agudelo had a chance with nine minutes remaining as a cross came in from the right but his header was flubbed under heavy pressure from a defender.
The final whistle came and gave Arena a second clean sheet of January camp, and more importantly a win moving into World Cup qualifying.