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Jamaican rematch is massive
by Ridge Mahoney, September 8th, 2012 3:58AM
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TAGS:  men's national team, world cup 2014


In the wake of that disappointing 2-1 loss to Jamaica Friday night, a very good friend of mine repeated the phrase, "If they win Tuesday, all will be fine" several times.

This might apply to the qualification process, since a victory in the Jamaica rematch would give both teams seven points and a share of first place in the group. The USA would then qualify with sufficient points in its last two games regardless of other results.

But it doesn't apply to the team itself, as seldom in the past two decades has an American team looked so confused and error-prone in a CONCACAF qualifier.

(This reference deliberately excludes the run-up to the 1990 World Cup, which included an amazingly stagnant 0-0 tie with El Salvador at the St. Louis Soccer Park in the penultimate game of the final round. That one still takes the cake.)

"The Office," Jamaica's national stadium, isn't a pleasant place to do business even if a visitor is at full strength, which the Americans certainly weren't. The late scratch of right back Steve Cherundolo deprived the Americans of one of their most experienced players, and though Michael Parkhurst did a credible job in his place, a team already missing Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley and Carlos Bocanegra could have used a steady head on the field regardless of his position. A little wide play out of the back would have cleared up some of the congestion.

Simply put, the Americans played poorly after they shockingly took the lead on a Clint Dempsey goal after just 36 seconds. Clogging the middle with three holding mids isn't a terrible tactic, IF those three players can move with and without the ball while also shutting down attacks.

The triumvirate of Maurice Edu, Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman has played together enough to expect cohesion and communication on both sides of the ball, but only seldom did one of them get wide enough to stretch the Jamaicans, and neither outside back seemed confident enough to work the flank. They couldn't win balls with double-teams and committed fouls in relatively straightforward situations.

If Jurgen Klinsmann expected Jamaica to attack through the center of the field, he was correct, but implementing the means to thwart that strategy failed. The speedy Dane Richards stayed on the bench, and Omar Cummings and Darren Mattocks made only late cameo appearances, and still the Americans were scrambling most of the time.

Jermaine Taylor, one of four MLS players to start for Jamaica, captained the team while marshaling his midfield mates Jevaughn Watson, Rodolph Austin and Jason Morrison. With brazen runs and quick flicks they rendered their American counterparts nearly invisible, and they feasted on numerous errors, many of them unforced, and twice exploited free kicks to score.

The first free kick driven low by Austin glanced off the inside right ankle of Beckerman, one of several players in the defensive wall who jumped. Luton Sheldon curved the second one over the ball and off the inside of the post.

The run-up to the rematch is sure to trigger countless suggestions for changes in personnel, tactics and formation. Mindset will be just as important, In these desperate situations, the Americans usually respond well yet Jamaica's victory has exponentially raised its spirits. Game two will be a test of will for both teams.

Before, Jamaicans may have hoped they can advance to the Hexagonal, but now they believe. "Dare to be Massive" is a Crew marketing slogan, and in its stadium the Americans must do just that.

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: September 8, 2012 at 9:24 a.m.
    Ridge, I believe it was you who called the win vs Mexico in a friendly. "HISTORIC". So then why are younot pointing out that they also played without Bradley, Cherundolo and used Donovan very little in that huge win? Why are you not pointing out that Klins did not play many of those players he used vs Mexico in that incredible win like Castillo, Torres, Orozco, Corona? If you always pick Castillo as the worst player how can you ignore the fact that Beckerman is simply not at this level in any aspect of his game? He is slow, has no touch, consistently poor passer and not very smart in where he commits fouls. Jones is better but does more bad than good since he just always seems to give opposing teams tactical advantages with his relentless fouling. How important is it for USA to win on Tuesday? If they lose They will go down to 3rd place and have to beat Guatemala to advance. If they tie then they will probably have to tie with Guatemala. USA had the easiest group of all 3 and is in 2nd place tie with Guatemala in points. I told everyone USA would not have it easy in this group and much less in final stage. Many here said Olympics were not that important and World Cup is all that matters. Mexico had 3-4 Olympic players earning a spot on top team through these very same Olympics and played last note in a big win in Costa Rica. Had they not qualifies for these Olympics they would surely not have played last night and helped Mexico win a tough game. Now we are talking about USA s depth. Do we see the huge importance now in Olympics, U17, U20 competitions?
  1. Thomas Brannan
    commented on: September 8, 2012 at 3:17 p.m.
    Didn't see the game because I don't have access to the channels on my cable, however, a good number of months ago Costa Rica had a friendly with Spain. Costa Rica looked really good. The goals they got only Donovan might be capable of getting. Dribble two defenders then chip Casillas. Mexico will qualify, Costa Rica will qualify the third spot will be a dogfight. It won't be easy. This may be foreshadowing.
  1. Michael Harrington
    commented on: September 8, 2012 at 3:49 p.m.
    The Klinsmann era is inconsistent and not only the results, but the choice of players are hard to support. Granted, many top players are playing overseas, but there surely can be a better MLS presence. Jamaica had what? Four MLS players on the pitch? How many did the US have? Why isn't the most prolific scorer in the last three seasons running in MLS out there? Why no Chris Wondolowski? He's one of several that deserves a shot. People support MLS and would support the National team more with names / players they see and recognize every week. Overly long rant. Get more deserving MLS guys out there, and be more consistent in line ups, tactics, and results.
  1. Ramon Creager
    commented on: September 8, 2012 at 7:18 p.m.
    Agree with Michael. But replacing Altidore with Wondo here wouldn't have helped with no midfield support. MLS players like Zusi and Pontius should get their shot (Zusi was there was he not?) Because what was out there... what chaos.
  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: September 8, 2012 at 10:28 p.m.
    Mexico will easily get first spot. Costa Rica will take 2nd. 3rd and 4th will be a free for all. El Salvador was good enough for spot 3 in my book but were unlucky to get top 2 in same group. Cuba got a first round bye?? Still can't get that.
  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: September 9, 2012 at 11:59 a.m.
    Amici sportivi, u are over analyzing the obvious, no simplicity and efficacy of play, no one stepped up to make things happen, and mental toughness was nowhere to be found...can one expect a solid performance from the obvious?
  1. Howard Wright
    commented on: September 10, 2012 at 1:35 a.m.
    The big problem is just plain and simple. You all seem to think money and size is everything and still underestimate and disrespect smaller and poorer countries even though they have been heavily involved in the game before. Until you stop think that everything is a given and stop talking down to these teams there will not be these surprises. These teams gets much more determined with each disrespect towards them, not necessarily from just the US players but from these writers and commentators. Remember the past 2 World Cups. The very same team against whom you assumed you were guaranteed a victory. History does repeat itself and can again. Stop taking other teams for granted as money and size does not always buy victory for as the saying goes, the ball is round and on a given day even the best can lose to the worst. Stop being a bully.
  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: September 10, 2012 at 10:37 a.m.
    Howard, point taken but as far as I am concerned its not that I disrespect smaller countries. Actually who deserves more respect given their population, economical stresses, etc.? But my point is more us and should be expected from USA in soccer at this point. Teams like Mexico, Argentina, Brazil are expected to win vs justifiably lower competition. We are quick to say we are at Mexico's level when we win a friendly. Some accountability comes with these celebrations. Facts state USA should be a top 2 Concacaf soccer country at the very least and without question. That's is not disrespecting other countries achievements. USA has the bigger population, has an Academy system, organized U8+ club system that no other Concacaf country has. Mexico starts their fuerzas basicas at U14 I believe. Some say and use as an excuse that USA best athletes pick football or basketball first even though there are many ethnicities that pick soccer first in USA, Hispanics being the majority of those and who make up to close to 20% of population. There is and should be no excuse to losing to countries like Jamaica with the many advantages that we have. We should acknowledge the problem and address and demand it gets fixed. Certainly Jamaica deserves more than our respect given their circumstances and shortcomings. USA basketball is expected to blow out everyone else. Why is soccer being given a break in USA?

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