KINGSTON, Jamaica – In the countdown to Friday night's World Cup qualifier against the host Reggae Boyz at the Jamaica National Stadium, U.S. Soccer asked its Twitter followers to pick a Bob Marley song that best described the occasion.
“Redemption Song” might seem appropriate given the late heroics that pushed the Yanks to a 2-1 win, their first-ever qualifying victory on the island and a suitable riposte to last September's stunning loss here.
To hear coach Jurgen Klinsmann extol the fighting spirit that propelled his team forward in search of winning goal immediately after Jermaine Beckford drew Jamaica level in the 89th minute, “Wake Up and Live” or “Get Up, Stand Up” might be more germane, though.
“With a little bit more fine-tuning we come through there and we score that second goal far earlier – especially before they scored that equalizer,” said the German-American coach with a trademark grin at the postgame press conference. “But then [our players] got a second wind, and they said 'Now we're going to go for it.'
“You could see the energy – they were angry with themselves, conceding that goal, and they reacted in a good way. Obviously you need also a little bit of luck, that the ball comes through [on Brad Evans' 92nd-minute finish].”
Klinsmann always seems more apt to discuss the mental and psychological side of the game than he does Xs and Os and it showed again on Friday. He criticized his team's apparent inability to heed the lessons that were drilled into them from last year's 2-1 loss to Jamaica in Kingston, and quickly moved on to warm praise of his group's intangibles.
“It's just frustrating because last September we came here and we gave away two free kicks and they scored with two free kicks,” he said. “[But] what's important is that this team gets more and more the mentality to bounce back and to challenge themselves to win here, not to look for a tie. We said from the beginning that we are ready now here to come into a difficult place like Kingston and say, 'We want the three points.' That's obviously now a big plus for us, going into two home games.”
Klinsmann suggested that these late heroics fit usefully into a larger narrative of unity and resilience – which are certainly not a new feature of US national teams, but nonetheless are highly valued as the squad begins to embrace its own identity and potential.
“It helps them realize that even if you kind of get a knock, you can correct it right away – at least you give it a shot," Klinsmann said. "And the energy that they developed for the last few minutes, right there, that reaction is what you want to see. It helps the players to always remember, 'We were in that before.'
“That is a culture you've got to develop. You have to have that belief.”