WCQ: US left kicking themselves after 2-1 loss in Jamaica

Clint Dempsey in the US loss to Jamaica

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KINGSTON, Jamaica – They departed Independence Park bearing a few knocks and bruises from a forceful Reggae Boyz side, yet the US national team were left kicking themselves most of all in the wake of Friday night’s historic 2-1 loss in front of a passionate crowd at the Jamaica National Stadium.

The defeat is the US national team’s first loss to Jamaica in 19 competitive matches, and the decisive free-kick goals from Rodolph Austin and Luton Shelton also substantially complicate the standings picture in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying Group A. And amid all the challenges posed by the trying circumstances, the Yanks place the blame on their own shoulders.

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“We gave them two easy chances with free kicks. We gave them bad fouls in good areas and they had guys that could take good free kicks,” said an exasperated Clarence Goodson, who nosed out incumbent captain Carlos Bocanegra for the starting job at center back alongside Geoff Cameron.

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“So those were easy chances to give them. As far as breaking us down and getting in behind us and having good chances, they didn’t have any of those tonight, at all. All their chances were shots from distance, and you fancy [goalkeeper Tim Howard’s] chances with those shots. But free kicks, set plays, those are a crapshoot, you never know what you’re going to get, and we gave them way too many chances tonight from those areas.”

Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann chalked his center back decision up to Bocanegra’s “problems getting into a rhythm” in the aftermath of his transfer from Scotland’s Rangers FC to Spanish side Racing Santander. The phrase could also be applied to the USMNT’s attempts to weather the storm after the Jamaicans rallied from the gut punch delivered by Clint Dempsey’s goal some 35 seconds after the opening whistle.

The visitors created the most attractive sequences of what was a choppy contest overall, their new-look back line wasn’t broken down often and Dempsey looked lively for most of the night as he surprisingly logged a full 90 minutes despite his lack of recent match action.

“I’m happy with the goal but I still would’ve liked to have been a little sharper on the ball,” he said afterwards, one of many US players who lamented the effect of the slick, uneven playing surface on their attempts to sustain possession and create passing combinations.

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“The ball bounced up on me a few times, I got caught on it a few times, trying to find pockets to get on it – just not much time and space on the ball. It’s just getting back to that intensity, playing at a high level ... I’ve just got to try to hit the ground running and hopefully I’ll be better next game.”

A litany of ill-advised fouls just outside their own penalty area exposed the Yanks to the inherent risk posed by set-piece opportunities, however, and the trigger-happy Reggae Boyz made them pay with a deflected strike by Austin which prodded the home support to noise levels that eventually became deafening and, for the US, discombobulating. That set the stage for a long-range goal of devastating quality by Jamaican dangerman Shelton.

“We knew the Jamaican team has their strength in set pieces, we knew that,” said Klinsmann. “So it was not a good idea. After that equalizer they rose to the occasion, had a tremendous amount of energy, they gave everything they had and at the end of the day, they deserved that win...They were hungrier, they were more determined and that’s how they come off the field as the winning team.”