[HEXAGONAL: Matchday 9] Aron Johannsson, the U.S. newcomer from Iceland, disappointed. Veteran Landon Donovan got benched at halftime. But after more than an hour of lackluster play by the Americans, late goals by Graham Zusi and Jozy Altidore gave the USA a 2-0 win over Jamaica that ended the Reggae Boyz’s chances of reaching the 2014 World Cup and clinched first-place in the Hexagonal for the USA with one game to go.
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Zusi’s strike in the 77th minute, assisted by Alejandro Bedoya, and Altidore’s goal four minutes later, from Edgar Castillo’s service, gave a happy ending to a disjointed and mostly dour performance from Jurgen Klinsmann’s men, who had booked their World Cup ticket a month ago.
In the first half and for much of the second, the Brazil-bound squad looked hardly better than its winless, last-place Hexagonal opponents. Not good news for one of the games Klinsmann said would set "the tone for summer of 2014."
MISSED CHANCES. The latest of the foreign products brought into the squad by Klinsmann is Aron Johannsson, who was born in Alabama and moved to Iceland, the home of his parents, at age 3. The 22-year-old has scored 10 goals this season in all competitions for Dutch club AZ Alkmaar. After two U.S. appearances as a sub, Johannsson got the start against Jamaica and went 72 minutes.
In the 18th minute, he shot wide from 15 yards. In the 20th minute, he evaded one Jamaican near the goal area but was robbed by a second before he could pull the trigger. In the 29th minute, he had a prime chance after a corner kick but volleyed wide from eight yards. He shot wide again on his final opportunity in the second half.
“He created himself some chances,” Klinsmann said. “That's what you want to see from a striker. He missed those chances, but they were there. That's good to see. The second half, he ran out of gas a little bit.”
DONOVAN GETS THE HOOK. Donovan, during his long and magnificent career for the USA and his clubs, has often looked mediocre for stretches only to conjure up the brilliant and crucial goal -- most famously against Algeria at the 2010 World Cup. But Klinsmann didn’t have the patience to see if Donovan would hit his stride and pulled him at halftime.
"We thought Landon had problems getting into the game,” Klinsmann said. “It was a simple performance-based decision."
Donovan, while admitting he played poorly, was understandably surprised that he was the only one yanked at halftime when there was plenty of blame to go around for the dismal first 45 minutes from the USA.
Of his postgame chat with Klinsmann, Donovan told MLSSoccer.com, “I’ll keep that private.”
CASTILLO MAKES A DIFFERENCE. That the USA took command in the final 20 minutes was thanks much to Castillo’s entrance in the 66th minute for left back DaMarcus Beasley. Castillo orchestrated attacks down the flank, set up Altidore’s tap-in, and nearly scored in the waning minutes. Castillo’s inability to hold down a spot with the USA since his first cap in 2009 has been blamed on defensive lapses, but his Friday performance should keep him in the running for a spot in Brazil.
PERFECT AT HOME. The USA, which faces Panama on Tuesday, finished its home Hexagonal run with a 5-0-0 record, outscoring its foes 8-0. ... Friday’s win was its 12th straight home victory in all competitions, a streak that began with a 4-3 victory against Germany on June 2 in Washington, D.C. The USA's previous record was 10 straight wins from June 2008 to July 2009.
JOZY’S RUN. Altidore’s strike was his eighth for the USA this year, including four in World Cup qualifiers. He has scored in his last six starts for the USA. It was also the 23-year-old’s 21st U.S. goal, tying him for sixth all-time with Bruce Murray.
Oct. 11 in Kansas City
USA 2 Jamaica 0. Goals: Zusi 77, Altidore 81.
USA -- Howard, Evans, Cameron, Besler, Beasley (Castillo, 66), Bedoya, Diskerud, Jones, Donovan (Zusi, 46), Johannsson (Kljestan, 72), Altidore.
Jamaica -- Kerr, Phillips, Mariappa, Morgan, Doyley, Mattocks, Austin, Watson (Robinson, 73), Brown, McAnuff, Johnson (Anderson, 85).
Yellow cards: USA -- Kljestan 90+1; Jamaica -- Anderson 90+2.
Referee: Elmer Bonilla (El Salvador)