By Ridge Mahoney
Graham Zusi and Edgar Castillo came off the bench to spark a lethargic U.S. squad past Jamaica, 2-0, Friday night at Sporting Park as the Americans won the Hexagonal again and closed out their home schedule with a perfect 5-0-0 record.
Zusi and Castillo replaced veterans Landon Donovanand DaMarcus Beasley, respectively, and Zusi thrilled his hometown crowd by scoring his second international goal. Castillo’s interception and square ball set up Jozy Altidore for the clincher as the subs strengthened their cases for inclusion on the 2014 World Cup squad.
RATING PLAYER (TEAM) GP/G
5 Tim Howard (Everton/ENG) 94/0.Fumble of a Demar Phillips free kick required a desperation clearance by Evans. Handled the routine stuff cleanly and snuffed a one-v-one situation against Deshorn Brown after a giveaway in the U.S. defensive third. After a long inactive spell he thwarted Tuffy Robinson in the final seconds to preserve the shutout.
5 Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders) 14/1. Hacked a ball out of danger after a free kick landed in the U.S. goal area and repelled a Darren Mattocks attempt with a vital tackle. Mattocks and Deshorn Brown exposed him on occasion but in the second half his solid defending helped free up Bedoya to attack more.
5 Matt Besler (Sporting KC) 17/0.Slid from side to side to shut off lanes and denied a few dangerous situations by dropping when Cameron stepped up. Strong tackle stopped Mattocks on the doorstep but he was beaten on the air on a set play that Jamaica put on frame.
6 Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG) 21/1.Overcame some initial confusion playing with Besler to decisively win balls and cut off passes. Hit short passes were accurate but a couple of longer efforts went astray. He stood up tall against Ryan Johnson, Mattocks and Brown bested him a couple of times. In the second half he looked stronger defensively and pushed forward to play a ball that produced a shot.
4 DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla/MEX) 112/17.Brown knifed past him a couple of times to take shots or drive crosses. He was quiet offensively except for once cutting into the penalty area on the dribble to take a shot that deflected wide for a corner. His overlaps otherwise were few and ineffective. Left the game holding his hamstring.
7 Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes/FRA) 22/1.Played a very active game on the right flank to hit a few deep crosses and though he struggled with his deliveries from the byline, he led the attack much of the time. In the second half he leaped majestically to head a Castillo cross right to Diskerud, and recovered from a stumble to cut a ball back for Zusi to drive into the net. He wound up to hammer a powerful shot that hit an opponent in the torso.
5 Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04/GER) 36/2.Seldom unlocked the Jamaican back line despite playing as the more advanced central mid much of the time, and whiffed on a goal-area chance when Altidore prodded the ball in his direction. Matched in the middle against Rudolph Austin and Je-Vaughn Watson, not until the second half did he win the upper hand.
5 Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg/NOR) 13/2. Stifled Jamaica several times with crisp interceptions of through and diagonal balls, yet spent much of his time sorting out responsibilities with Jones and in the second half gave the ball away twice in bad spots. But he improved greatly after the substitutions, cutting several incisive balls that produced chances and trying a shot that was blocked.
4 Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy) 154/57. Created a good chance for Johannsson with a far-post corner kick and used the ball well on a few other occasions, but overall lacked sharpness and energy.
3 Aron Johansson (AZ/NED) 3/0.Fired a shot wide after neatly trapping Donovan’s corner and failed to get off a shot after cutting past Westley Morgan when Adrian Mariappa got in his sliding block. Tried to turn with a ball played to his feet by Diskerud and lost an opportunity to run at the back line. Despite an honest effort he just didn’t come through.
5 Jozy Altidore (Sunderland/ENG) 63/21.Other than his easy goal for much of the game he was ineffective, although he reached a couple of goal kicks to flick balls into good spots. He laid off a nice ball to set up Jones but the shot was blocked. Some touches in the second half were careless giveaways but he persevered and his hard work paid off when he and Zusi notched the U.S. goals.
6 Graham Zusi (Sporting KC) 17/2.Flubbed a great crossfield ball from Diskerud with space to operate, set up a good chance for Johannsson, then energized his home stadium by slotting home a deflected ball from Bedoya.
7 Edgar Castillo (Tijuana) 14/0. Overdribbled a couple of times when an early serve was smarter but several times scorched the Jamaican defense to hit threatening crosses, including one that led to the first U.S. goal. Then he snapped up a sloppy Jamaican pass to set up Altidore for a tap-in and nearly scored in the final seconds.
5 Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht/BEL) 42/4.Linked with teammates several times during combination sequences and got far enough upfield' to smack a low shot that the keeper covered. His pressure helped force the giveaway that resulted in the second U.S. goal.
(Ratings: 1-low; 5-average; 10=high.)