Kick Off: US deliver changes, emotions, win vs. Jamaica
Jurgen Klinsmann is a man of his word.
The US national team boss promised it would be a different story in Columbus after a disappointing 2-1 loss in Kingston and his team delivered with a 1-0 victory over Jamaica that got the USMNT “back on track” (watch the highlights here).
Goalkeeper Tim Howard said the win was a “relief,” but US captain Carlos Bocanegra was more practical in his assessment of the three points: “We have fate in our own hands,” he said. “Now, we don’t have to rely on other teams to help us out. That’s the biggest thing about tonight.”
Klinsmann rang in the changes with five new starters, including a combination on the right which worked wonders: Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi with veteran right back Steve Cherundolo. “We combined nicely a few times and we were able to get behind their backline,” said Zusi.
But the biggest difference-makers on the night were arguably German-Americans Danny Williams and Jermaine Jones, two of the most heavily criticized players in the Klinsmann era who now have analysts and fans changing their tune after their performance in the middle of the park. They were part of a US midfield that was crisp, effective and created numerous opportunities.
It was especially satisfying for Williams, who confesses that he had discussions with coaches about playing at defensive midfield after being shifted out wide on multiple occasions by Klinsmann. The German manager was impressed enough to say: “I’m sure that wasn’t the last time you’ll see Danny playing the No. 6 for us.”
But Williams, a player US supporters haven’t really gotten to know yet, revealed a personal side last night that is sure to warm up fans to him even more. He told Ives Galarcep at SoccerByIves.net how important playing on 9/11 was to him: “I know it’s big for my dad [who grew up in the New York area] also because on that day I was 12 years old and he was crying in front of the TV.”
Proof of the US midfield transformation is in the Opta statistics: The passing numbers and turnovers were very different compared to what happened in Jamaica.
Catch all the player ratings after the match: MLSsoccer.com’s own Greg Seltzer, ESPN.com’s Jeff Carlisle, SI.com’s Alecko Eskandarian, The New York Times’ Brian Sciaretta and Soccer America’s Ridge Mahoney.
Columbus Crew Stadium and the sold-out crowd also earned plenty of rave reviews after what proved another magical World Cup qualifying night. They won over Williams and convinced goalkeeper Tim Howard of this much: “There’s no bigger home-field advantage in America than there is here.”
Clint Dempsey, who will go down in national team lore for his “Dempsey Face” that he flashed at Ryan Johnson yesterday (watch it here, you have to), was also on board with that assessment: “It was one of the best atmospheres I’ve experienced with the national team.”
However, Dempsey seemed to struggle with his limited fitness in the second match against Jamaica and Klinsmann admitted it in this exclusive FoxSoccer.com interview. The former German international wants to see more goals from the USA. (VIDEO)
It was looking like this wasn’t going to be the USMNT’s day after the Americans struck both posts and the crossbar in a scoreless first half. The breakthrough came on a Herculez Gomez free kick which went through the hands of goalkeeper Dwayne Miller, who had been spectacular up to that point: "After all we did in the first half, we deserved a little bit of luck," said Gomez, who admitted to “pulling rank” on Jose Francisco Torres during the free kick.
Klinsmann is becoming a bigger and bigger Gomez fan by the game: “When you talk about hunger, he’s probably a role model,” he said. “This is something we need to develop even more in our team — that hunger to succeed, that hunger to score, but also that willingness to suffer.”
The USA are now in a three-way tie atop the group with Guatemala and Jamaica on seven points. Guatemala kept pace with a 1-0 home win against Antigua and Barbuda on a phenomenal strike from former MLS forward Carlos “El Pescadito” Ruiz. (VIDEO)
Those late-night parties outside the Canada hotel must have worked as Canada lost to Panama 2-0 on the road, conceding a qualifying goal for the first time in a year. Canadian manager Stephen Hart even admitted: “I don’t know how they slept last night. ... A lot of players looked lethargic.”
Hart readily confessed they were second best on the night, especially without two of their most important players: the suspended Will Johnson and Dwayne De Rosario, who went off due to an early injury. That De Rosario injury could be worrisome for D.C. fans: “It might be an MCL [injury]. We don’t know. We have to do an MRI,” Hart revealed.
Montreal midfielder Patrice Bernier was especially hard on his team after the loss: “I think in a game like this we should have been ready from the get-go and gave them a little bit more of a battle."
Back to Panama, it’s difficult not to be moved by the emotion that overcame FC Dallas forward Blas Perez, who scored their second goal and dedicated it to his late father. He collapsed to the ground in tears as Philadelphia Union midfielder Gabriel Gomez tore down a banner of his father in celebration. (VIDEO)
In the same group, Honduras got another goal “Made in MLS” as Sporting Kansas City’s Roger Espinoza found New England’s Jerry Bengtson for the lone goal in a narrow 1-0 win over Cuba (watch the goal here).
It was a different story in South America for Chivas USA midfielder Oswaldo Minda, who is facing the heat back home in Ecuador for failing to clear a ball in the penalty box which led to Edinson Cavani’s equalizing goal for Uruguay (watch it here).
Meanwhile in Europe, Vancouver Whitecaps Designated Player Kenny Miller scored for Scotland to salvage a 1-1 home draw against Macedonia, which reports indicate might spell doom for Scotland’s World Cup qualifying hopes.
Here’s the full list of MLS players in action during World Cup qualification matches.
It must be the graphics person from the Little League World Series. Who else at ESPN could have put an American flag next to “Georgia” on the scoreboard graphic that showed the nation's heartbreaking World Cup qualifying loss to Spain? (PHOTO)
Back in MLS, the Chicago Fire tonight will look to continue their push for the playoffs with three road points against a Toronto FC team (7 pm ET, TSN2 and MLS Live in USA), which one media member calculates is already eliminated from playoff contention.
There was an MLS Reserve League match yesterday between FC Dallas and Colorado, which was noteworthy for the continued progress of FCD’s Argentine forward Matias Jara and midfielder Ricardo Villar.
Another highlight from MLS: Seattle Sounders defender Zach Scott tells his story in this video in which he praises Sounders fans and talks about how his wife supported their family while he chased his dream: “I still feel like a rookie out there.” (VIDEO)
Lastly, this was no rookie strike. Some are calling it the best goal of the European qualifying on Tuesday night: Ukraine’s No. 10, Yevhen Konoplyanka, silences Wembley Stadium with this sensational strike. (VIDEO)
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