The USA needed only 38 seconds to get down to business at The Office, but Clint Dempsey's goal, the fastest U.S. goal ever scored in World Cup qualifying
history, raised false hope that Jurgen Klinsmann's depleted team could get a result against Jamaica.
The USA had no answer for Rodolph Austin, the best player on the field, and the 2-1 loss was inevitable. The result snapped the USA's 18-game unbeaten streak against Jamaica, and its manner also raised serious concerns about what lies ahead in Concacaf, where the USA's ability to get results on the road has been the key to its success in World Cup qualifying going back more than 20 years.
DEPLETED LINEUP. Not only were stars Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley unavailable, but veteran Steve Cherundolo, who earned his first cap against Jamaica way back in 1999, was a late scratch. (Also out was injured left back Edgar Castillo.)
The loss of Donovan and Bradley meant that the closest thing to a creative force in the U.S. lineup was Herculez Gomez, who was responsible for the U.S. goal. He evaded Adrian Mariappa at the corner of the goal area and had two shots on goal blocked before the ball bounced to Dempsey in front of goal with keeper Dwayne Miller out of position.
Dempsey has not played in almost three months, but the chance he received was so easy that he probably would not have missed even if he had not played in three years. He pulled the trigger on a few other opportunities later in the game but otherwise wasn't yet sharp enough to help out much in his role as the third attacker underneath Gomez and Jozy Altidore.
But such were Klinsmann's lack of attacking options, or his lack of faith in the options he did have, that Dempsey was forced to play the entire 90 months.
Michael Parkhurst, a central defender by trade, has played some on the outside at FC Nordsjaelland in recent years and did an OK job at right back in place of the injured Cherundolo, but the situation begged for Timmy Chandler to return to the fold. Wishful thinking?
OVERRUN IN MIDFIELD. Klinsmann has placed tons of emphasis on fitness, but Jamaica beat the USA at his own game.
Despite employing three holding midfielders -- Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones and Maurice Edu -- the USA could not contain Austin in midfield, and twice the Reggae Boyz converted on free kicks.
First, Beckerman fouled Austin, whose free kick deflected off Beckerman and wrong-footed keeper Tim Howard to even the score, and then the recent Leeds United signing from Norway was dragged down again as he ran through midfield, setting the stage for Luton Shelton to beat Howard with a brilliant free kick that he bent over the wall.
But the late charge that has been the hallmark of so many U.S. games on the road in Concacaf qualifying never materialized. Even when it was dominated on the road, the USA has almost always been good for one or two flurries.
That burst never came on Friday -- and the most worrying thing is that it never looked like coming either.
NO MLS PRESENCE. The USA looked in trouble when Beckerman, a Klinsmann favorite, left the game before the hour mark.
Of note, Beckerman's exit left the USA without a single MLS player on the field in a FIFA international match for the first time since the league's launch in 1996.
Brek Shea came on 13 minutes later to restore an MLS presence to the U.S. XI, but Klinsmann's inability to find help from the domestic league in a series that would require him to dig deep into his player pool is telling of the challenge that lies ahead.
Jamaica, of course, does not have that problem. MLS can take heart from the fact that the winning team finished the game with six MLS players on the field.