Shorthanded U.S. Soccer Drops World Cup Qualifier To Jamaica
Amid questions over his fitness, new Tottenham man Clint Dempsey scored off a Hérculez Gómez rebound less than one minute into the match to give the U.S. a lightning fast 1-0 lead.
Under most circumstances, that would have been enough for the U.S., which could have played keep away on defense the rest of the match.
Instead, as was the case against Guatemala in June (which ended in a 1-1 draw), the U.S failed to seal the deal, and the Jamaicans, playing in front of a frenzied crowd at Independence Park, capitalized.
In the 23rd minute, the Reggae Boyz equalized with a free kick from Leeds United midfielder Rodoph Austin after a foul by Kyle Beckerman. The kick hit Beckerman as he jumped as part of the U.S. wall and deflected past Tim Howard and into the net.
Then in the 62nd minute, Maurice Edu made a crucial mistake and fouled Tremaine Stewart, allowing Luton Shelton to net another free kick past Howard for Jamaica and leaving the U.S. side stunned.
Without key midfielders Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley, the U.S. figured to have some issues with ball control in the midfield. Few, however, would have predicted that the Stars and Stripes would be done in by sloppy passing and poor tackling.
The U.S. largely managed to control time of possession in the first half, but that advantage was chipped away after the Reggae Boyz' first goal, which brought much needed momentum to the Jamaicans.
Though the Jamaicans rarely threatened with shots on goals, they managed to bait the U.S. into fouls, which was more than enough on this night.
Dempsey had a good opportunity to bring the U.S. up 2-1 late in the first half when he found himself with space fresh off of a cross, but his kick didn’t quite have the mustard that his first minute goal did, allowing Jamaican keeper Dwayne Miller to stop the ball.
That would be the U.S.’s last effective shot on goal as the U.S. struggled to string together a cohesive attack in the second half.
U.S. manager Jürgen Klinsmann tried to shake things up late in the second half by bringing in Terrence Boyd and Brek Shea—some of the heroes from the U.S. win over Mexico— for Jozy Altidore (who was a non-factor throughout the game) and Maurice Edu.
But with the substiutions coming in the 70th and 71st minutes, it was too late for either player to make a significant impact, although Shea did initiate a few creative balls from the left of the pitch.
The loss is the first ever for the U.S. against Jamaica and puts the Americans in the awkward position of being tied for second place in Group A of this round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers.
With four points, it is now behind first place Jamaica (seven points) and tied with Guatemala. Only the two group leaders will advance to the next round.
Fortunately for the U.S., they will have a chance to get revenge (and draw even in the standings) against the Reggae Boyz on Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio. The U.S. will no doubt be expected to come out looking stronger, especially after this lackluster effort. But if they continue to give away free kicks to their opponents, it simply won’t matter.