It took a while to crystallize, but a formation change and a healthy does of subs power eventually had Jurgen Klinsmann and the US national team celebrating a 2-0 victory over CONCACAF World Cup qualifying visitors Jamaica on Friday night.
With the boys already holding a ticket to Brazil 2014, the boss opted to experiment a bit in Kansas City. Some worked and some didn't, but the US never really looked like losing and hit twice in the final 13 minutes to ensure a first place finish in the Hexagonal.
Tim Howard (6) - For the large part, the Everton mainstay was large and in charge. Losing that free kick, though, is precisely the type of mistake that could help open up a job battle with hot-topic backup Brad Guzan.
Brad Evans (7) - Is it just me, or do we need to get this guy a top-tier test ASAP? Though Evans doesn't typically provide a great deal going forward, his defensive work is increasingly commanding. He was in nearly every yellow shirt that came his way and pitched in a needed early line clearance.
Geoff Cameron (7.5) - This was quite easily the Stoke man's best US outing in central defense. In addition to stopping Jamaica advances all around the back half of the pitch, Cameron also found time to help move the ball forward smoothly.
Matt Besler (6) - The Sporting KC defender enjoyed a solid first half, but had a couple of quick catnaps shortly after the break. On the ball, Besler remains conservative but competent.
DaMarcus Beasley (6.5) - "Da Bease" is starting to get the hang of various aspects of this new position, most noticeably jumping the lanes for interceptions. Though his attack game was hot and cold on this night, he was denied an assist by poor finishing.
Jermaine Jones (6) - We may need to start calling the Schalke midfielder "Mixed Bag" as long as he's tasked to guard the defense. Jones made several influential plays on both sides of the ball, to be sure, but also some of his usual errors (such as leaving the gate open and needless long balls). He also should have scored from Beasley's pass at the end of a restart.
Mikkel Diskerud (6) - Though Mix continues to show improved physicality at the international level, he's still miscast as one of only two central midfielders. His passing was hit and miss, including a particularly bad turnover in his end just past halftime. However, Diskerud's game clicked into place with the formation change and his spin-o-rama attempt disoriented the defense to help the US finally hit paydirt.
Alejandro Bedoya (7) - Though he still looks most dangerous when he drifts inside, Bedoya became stronger out wide as the game progressed, eventually creating trouble at will. His persistence on the Zusi's winner earned him the assist.
Landon Donovan (6.5) - The LA Galaxy star didn't see the ball consistently enough over his 45 minutes, but was involved in many of the team's attack moves during the period.
Aron Jóhannsson (5.5) - While the AZ Alkmaar hitman showed enticing glimpses of his Swiss Army knife skill set, he failed to open his US account and faded after the break. The perfect example of his night? On one play, Jóhannsson displayed a world class takedown touch, only to mis-hit his shot well wide from a great position.
Jozy Altidore (5.5) - Much of the game was exasperating for Altidore, what with all the sloppy link passes, offside flags and turnovers. Perhaps it had something to do with ice in his cola, but whatever the negative effect, it quickly wore off when the formation changed.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann (7) - The starting alignment didn't quite click, but we won't count off as "the time to try things" has begun again. As such, we won't gripe about needing adjustments, instead giving full credit for the decisive tactical switch. Also on the plus side: the backline selection worked well and team showed no qualification hangover.
Graham Zusi (7.5) - The obvious was a measured, well-placed winning strike. On top of that, his movement across lanes and link touches gave Jamaica fits.
Edgar Castillo (7) - The left back sub showed tremendous aggressiveness aiding the attack, which paid off with an insurance assist.
Sacha Kljestan (7) - Given the chance to play in his natural position in the middle, "Inspector Kljouseau" showed why he's so valuable to Anderlecht. For an 18-minute outing, he made quite a few effective plays.