Already in next World Cup, U.S. seals first place in CONCACAF qualifying by squelching Jamaica.
By Robert Wagman
(Friday, October 11, 2013) -- Having already secured a berth in the 2014 World Cup, the United States men used late goals by midfielder Graham Zusi and striker Jozy Altidore to defeat Jamaica 2-0 tonight and clinch first place in the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying six-nation final group before a sellout of 18,467 at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.
It was the third straight time the U.S. finished first in the final round.
After a lackluster performance over the first 75 minutes, the U.S, received the late contributions to increase its record to 6-2-1 with 19 points with one match left, four points better than Costa Rica (4-2-3), which already has secured entrance into the next World Cup in Brazil.
This was far from the best American performance in the hexagonal. Missing five key players with injuries -- forward Clint Dempsey, midfielders Michael Bradley and Eddie Johnson, defender Omar Gonzalez and defender-midfielder Fabian Johnson -- the U.S. had the look of a patched-together lineup and played like it over the opening 45 minutes.
The opposing Reggae Boyz were the better side in the opening half, but that was not saying much.
Several Americans had first half chances, but could not finish. Jamaica was no better, heading into Tuesday’s finale having scored only four goals in nine final-round outings.
Jamaica had first-half chances, actually better than the U.S.’s, but also showed a woeful inability to find the net. The Americans were fortunate to reach halftime not trailing by a goal or two.
The opening 20 minutes after intermission were not a whole lot better for the U.S., but then the Americans began to see openings in what looked to be a tiring Jamaica defense. Fellow midfielder Alejandro Bedoya fed Zusi, who replaced Landon Donovan and at the break. Zusi shot inside the left post for a 1-0 lead in the 77th minute. .
Four minutes later, as Jamaica started taking chances, U.S. defender Edgar Castillo, coming in along the left side, crossed to a wide-open Altidore for a tap-in and 2-0 advantage. Altidore has scored goals in his last six starts for the U.S.
With only five international fixtures currently scheduled between now and May, and with several key absences, U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann had the opportunity to look at some different players against last-place Jamaica (0-5-4, 4 points). Most -- with the exception of his second-half substitutes -- failed to impress.
The U.S. closes qualifying Tuesday in Panama, aiming to increase its points total to 22, the highest ever in a CONCACAF hexagonal.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Tim Howard - 6: Jamaica did not have a shot on goal, but Howard did come out twice to kick away balls fed into the box and while controlling his area.
Defender DaMarcus Beasley - 5: Against pace, he was not able to generate much offense and at times was back on his heels defending. Not his best match.
Defender Matt Besler - 5.5: He had some problems with the speed of the Jamaican forwards, but he was able to give Beasley help with Deshorn Brown.
Defender Geoff Cameron - 6: He was steady in the back and held his own against some first-half pressure. He showed he can play the middle of the defense when called on.
Defender Brad Evans - 5.5: He cleared an early ball out of danger and was sharp all evening. He did not make much of an offensive contribution, but defensively he did well.
Midfielder Aron Johannsson - 5: He had a big chance to improve his stock, but then did little. He had a pair of good scoring chances, but muffed both.
Midfielder Jermaine Jones - 6: For the first half, he was the only defensive midfielder and cleared the ball often. He could have played the ball more often through the middle. but chose to go over the top. At times, this was not a wise choice.
Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya - 5.5: He did not have a good first half, but played better in the second, especially over the final 20 minutes against a tiring opponent. He was awarded the assist on Zusi’s decisive tally.
Midfielder Mix Diskerud - 4.5: He just didn’t have a good night. His passes did not connect and while he was OK defensively, he did not do much on attack until the final 15 minutes, when he came alive.
Midfielder Landon Donovan - 4.5: This was one of those games where Donovan essentially disappeared for the 45 minutes he was in. It looked like he would have rather have been elsewhere.
Forward Jozy Altidore - 6: In the first half, he simply did not partner well with Johannsson. The last 20 minutes. playing as the lone striker, he did much better and scored the last U.S. goal while then putting himself in good position twice more.
Midfielder Graham Zusi (46th minute for Donovan) – 7: Where Donovan was largely invisible, he was very active, not only getting the first U.S. goal, but pushing the attack from a wide position
Defender Edgar Castillo (66th minute for Beasley) - 6: Where Beasley was not able to get forward, he did well in doing so against a tiring Jamaica. One big mistake was not giving the ball up to Altidore for a sure third U.S. goal and then he shot poorly himself.
Midfielder Sacha Kljestan (72nd minute for Johannsson) - 6: He came in and gave the Americans a better defensive posture in the midfield, while also helping the offense. He, too, seemed to profit from a tiring opponent.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Graham Zusi.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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