With key players out, U.S. is dominated, loses qualifier to Jamaica on set peices.
By Robert Wagman
(Friday, September 7, 2012) -- Jamaica shook off an early deficit and defeated the United States men 2-1 with a pair of long free-kick goals in a CONCACAF World Cup Group A qualifier before a raucous crowd at Jamaica's National Stadium.
It was the first victory for Jamaica after going 0-10-8 in previous meetings with the U.S. Tuesday's rematch between the nations at Columbus (Ohio) Crew Stadium suddenly looms large for the Americans, whom are 1-1-1 with four points in the four-team, six-match semifinal series. Jamaica is in first at 2-0-1 with seven points.
Guatemala defeated Antigua and Barbuda 3-1 in the other qualifier tonight and is tied the with U.S. at 1-1-1. Antigua is 0-2-1 with one point.
The U.S. has never won a qualifier in Jamaica, drawing the first four.
The Americans, hampered by the absence of midfielders Landon Donovan (strained hamstring) and Michael Bradley (strained quadriceps), will be without the pair Tuesday. They must find a way to counter Jamaica's dominance of the midfield or possibly fall into a deep hole in the standings with two matches remaining.
Tonight's match was not all that different from the four previous World Cup qualifiers, three scoreless draws and a 1-1 tie. Neither team threatened at all from the run of play. The U.S. went ahead 1-0 after 36 seconds - the fastest American goal ever to start a qualifier -- after Herculez Gomez's shot was stopped on the goal-line and the rebound landed at the feet of fellow forward Clint Dempsey. Dempsey expertly finished.
Both Jamaica goals came on dead-ball plays, one by Rodolph Austin, which deflected off a U.S. player in the defensive wall. The other, by Luton Shelton, was drilled off the left post and in, just beyond American goalkeeper Tim Howard's reach.
Considering the absence of dangerous attacking soccer, the match could easily have finished 0-0.
In almost every match this year, the U.S. attack has been largely absent. It certainly was tonight. The final statistics showed the U.S. had only two shots on goal, one on Dempsey's goal and the other on a sliding shot by Dempsey in the 44th minute, which was well saved by Jamaica keeper Dwayne Miller. That shot and the passing play leading up to it was just about all of the U.S. offense on the night.
Jamaica played the U.S. in the manner used by American opponents recently, using five midfielders and clogging up the middle. The U.S. has no one in the middle that can hold the ball and play it forward, so its attack often becomes aimless.
For most of the match, U.S. striker Jozy Altidore and Herculez Gomez seldom touched the ball, except when they came back deep into the midfield.
Meanwhile, Austin, who plays for Leeds United in England's second division, absolutely dominated in the central midfield. He repeatedly ran at the U.S. and it was midfielder Kyle Beckerman's clumsy foul on him that resulted in the free kick that Austin sent off Beckerman's foot for the first Jamaican goal.
The Americans were beaten on as good a free kick as one might ever see. It was taken by Shelton, who kicked around England's lower divisions before finding himself playing for Karabukspor in Turkey.
The match showed how important Donovan and Bradley are to the U.S. Dempsey, despite not playing a competitive match since June while he was involved in a complicated transfer drama in England, went 90 minutes, but clearly wilted somewhat in the second half.
At times, the U.S. was terribly disorganized. Fearing Jamaica's pace, U.S. manager Jürgen Klinsmann started a younger and faster back-line, but one without the experience of players, such as Carlos Bocanegra in the center and injured Steve Cherundolo on the right. Those two were sorle missed.
With the midfield filled with Jamaicans, the American back-line had difficulty finding anywhere to go and when passes came from the back, the recipients were often quickly swarmed.
Because of Jamaica's speed, the U.S. outside defenders had to stay at home, especially Fabian Johnson, who was bedeviled by Austin. The Americans depend on the defenders going forward to give the offense width and that was completely absent.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Tim Howard -- 7: He had no chance to stop Austin's deflected effort or Shelton's marvelous free kick. He played well as he tried to organize the defense in front of him.
Defender Fabian Johnson - 5.5: He was good on defense, but completely lacking going forward and failed to contribute to the offense.
Defender Clarence Goodson -- 6: He was steady in the center of defense, made few missteps and often had to roam to make clearances.
Defender Michael Parkhurst - 5.5: Like Johnson, he was solid, but lacked the skill and pace to get forward or to provide the U.S. offense with needed width.
Defender Geoff Cameron -- 6: A good, but certainly not an error-free night. His passing out of the back needed to be better.
Midfielder Maurice Edu - 4.5: He was often a step too slow or forced out of position. His poorly-timed, lunging tackle resulted in the free kick that became Jamaica's winner.
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman - 3: Just too slow. Beaten often, he had to resort to fouling, giving up the free kick which produced Jamaica's first goal, a shot that went off his foot on a poorly-timed jump in the middle of the U.S. wall.
Midfielder Jermaine Jones - 5.5: He ran himself ragged in the middle, perhaps trying to do too much. He was all over out of necessity, at times looking poorly, but not for lack of trying.
Midfielder Clint Dempsey -- 7.5: It says something, not good, when a player who has not set foot on a field for three plus months is the best American player. He put out a huge effort and, if he had been match sharp, might have scored a second goal and salvaged the night.
Forward Jozy Altidore - 4: In his defense, he received no service whatsoever but, except for a couple of instances dropping deep to play defense, he was simply never in the match.
Forward Herculez Gomez -5.5 Certainly, a great first minute, but he should have been able to do more holding the ball and dishing off. He rarely saw the ball despite his best effort to put himself into good positions.
Midfielder Danny Williams (58th minute for Beckerman) - 5.5: Looked better in the center of the field in this, his first "official" appearance for the U.S. He might have made a difference had he started.
Midfielder Brek Shea (72nd minute for Edu) - 6: He certainly perked up the U.S. attack, but not enough to really pressure the Jamaican goal.
Forward Terrance Boyd (72nd minute for Altidore) - 5: As with the other strikers, he received no service, which meant he had little impact.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Clint Dempsey.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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