KANSAS CITY, Kan. – It wasn’t always easy to watch, but the United States still managed to finish off their perfect Hexagonal home campaign with a 2-0 victory over Jamaica on Friday night at Sporting Park.
Thanks to late goals from Graham Zusi and Jozy Altidore, the Americans wrapped up the top spot in CONCACAF’s final World Cup qualifying stage, finishing with 15 points from five matches stateside.
With Michael Bradley, Omar Gonzalez and Eddie Johnson all out injured, US manager Jurgen Klinsmann experimented with the spine of the team, pairing Geoff Cameron with Matt Besler in central defense, starting Mix Diskerud alongside Jermaine Jones and giving Aron Johannsson his first-ever US start next to Altidore.
Jamaica chose to field an all-MLS frontline, with the Portland Timbers’ Ryan Johnson leading the line with support from the Colorado’s Deshorn Brown and Vancouver’s Darren Mattocks. FC Dallas’ Je-Vaughn Watson also manned the midfield for German boss Winfried Schaefer.
With the result of the match rendered relatively meaningless, neither team was particularly sharp in the first half, with passing sloppy on both sides and clear-cut chances hard to come by.
The first true danger came in the seventh minute when the US failed to deal with a Demar Phillips free kick from the right flank following a soft foul on Besler. Despite being out of his goalmouth, Tim Howard got a touch on the ball, which ricocheted its way to the back post where Brad Evans hoofed it out of danger.
The US had their best opportunity of the opening stanza 10 minutes later when DaMarcus Beasley forced a turnover on the edge of the visitors’ 18-yard box, driving toward goal before having his shot deflected out for a corner kick. Johannsson latched onto the ensuing service, but he couldn’t redirect his half-volley on goal from 10 yards out.
Klinsmann made one change at the half, replacing Donovan with Zusi, who received an enthusiastic welcome in his home stadium. Castillo came in for Beasley in the 62nd minute, and Sacha Kljestan entered the game 10 minutes later for Johannsson.
Those substitutions proved to be the difference. In the 77th minute, Bedoya crossed the ball in from the right-hand side that deflected out to Zusi at the top of the box. The Sporting KC star fired it past Jamaica goalkeeper DuWayne Kerr for his second international goal and first since January of 2012.
Bedoya nearly created another goal just a few minutes later, but Kljestan’s first-time finish from his curling ball was saved by Kerr. But the Jamaica netminder could do nothing about the US’ second, though, as a bad turnover in the 81st minute allowed Castillo to waltz in on goal from the left and square a perfect ball to Altidore, whose easy tap-in gave him a goal in six straight US starts.
The US finish World Cup qualifying with a trip to Panama City next Tuesday to face a Panama squad still battling for a place in Brazil (9:30 pm ET, beIN Sport). Officially eliminated from contention, Jamaica conclude their campaign with a home match against Honduras.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Graham Zusi||Scoring the game-winner in your own home stadium is not a bad way to make your case here.|
|2||Edgar Castillo||Provided a monstrous shot in the arm off the bench; nearly had a second assist had he tapped back to Jozy.|
|3||Sacha Kljestan||Arguably the biggest difference-maker; looked comfortable in his Anderlecht central midfield spot.|