Rare USA golazo inspires some hope

By Mike Woitalla

One swallow doesn't make a summer, but the USA delivered something impressive with its goal in a 1-0 win over Jamaica.

Jordan Morris’ strike broke a 280-minute scoring drought that dated back to November’s 2-1 loss to Mexico. After that came the 4-0 loss to Costa Rica that prompted the firing of Jurgen Klinsmann and the hiring of Bruce Arena.

In Arena’s first game at the helm, the USA played a young Serbia team whose starters included only two players with national team caps -- one each -- and Serb keeper Filip Manojlovic had to make just one save. Just like Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas was called on for just one save.

Not only has the USA been short of goals, it's failed entertain its fans or give them anything to cheer about. Certainly those in attendance for Serbia game in San Diego wouldn't have considered the product worth the price of admission.

Like Serbia, Jamaica fielded an inexperienced squad that bunkered in for most of the game. Against Serbia, the USA failed to find a way through the crowded defense. That takes creativity, unpredictable moves, slick passing. It can require patience -- keeping possession long enough to find a crack in the defense. And you need a finisher.

The USA’s goal against Jamaica in the 58th minute had all that.

It started with left back Jorge Villafana getting the ball deep in the U.S. half. He exchanged passes with Walker Zimmerman and relayed the ball to defensive midfielder Dax McCarty, who sent it to Chris Pontius on the right flank.

Pontius, not seeing a good option on his side of the field, passed back to central defender Steve Birnbaum and the ball returned to Villafana via McCarty. Villafana sent it to Sebastian Lletget, who returned it swiftly with a nifty back-heel to Villafana. When McCarty got the ball back, he sent a low pass to attacking midfielder Benny Feilhaber, who had paired up with forward Morris.

Feilhaber provided the creative brilliance by spinning around his marker and back-heeling the ball to Morris, whose return pass to Feilhaber shed another defender.

Feihaber took one touch before stroking the ball back to Morris, who after a perfect first touch struck low past keeper Andre Blake.

One goal in two games isn’t satisfactory. But at least the Americans showed they do have the capacity to pull off something brilliant. Now if they can do so more frequently, you’d feel better about their World Cup qualifying chances and they’d be a lot more fun to watch.

26 comments about "Rare USA golazo inspires some hope".
  1. Miguel Dedo, February 4, 2017 at 5:46 p.m.

    Thanks for the beautiful description of the goal.

  2. Barry Ulrich, February 4, 2017 at 5:47 p.m.

    Safe to say that for both Arena games, the US fielded its B team, as well. I enjoyed their ball control/retention and willingness to work out of tight situations without booting the ball upfield. Passes to places where no teammate dwelled not only showed a lack of familiarity with one another, but also players' inability to read where the next area of action could occur.

  3. I w Nowozeniuk, February 4, 2017 at 6:16 p.m.

    Anyone see how poorly the Jamaican squad played...giveaways galore with little pressure...people actually paid to watch this game?

  4. Allan Lindh, February 4, 2017 at 6:26 p.m.

    B team my kazoo. I'll take Feilhaber, McCarty and Morris in attacking end before the usual crowd. Hope Arena agrees.

  5. Wooden Ships replied, February 5, 2017 at 11:26 a.m.

    Agreed Alan. While a number of starters weren't there, I do prefer the 3 you mentioned.

  6. Derek Liecty, February 4, 2017 at 6:34 p.m.

    At last! Some creativity in the forward line. Go Bruce - Go USA!

  7. # 12, February 4, 2017 at 6:44 p.m.

    Michael Bradley cannot deliver the class that Feilhaber has. He is pedestrian at best in comparison to Benny. Let him run the midfield.

  8. :: SilverRey :: replied, February 4, 2017 at 6:58 p.m.

    I think you're going to see either Sacha or Benny in front of Lleget & Bradley in March.

  9. Brent Crossland, February 4, 2017 at 7:33 p.m.

    Whether this was a US 'B' team or not doesn't change the fact that we faced a rebuilding Jamaican team that didn't qualify for the Hex. On home soil. THE goal was nice but 60 seconds of nice play out of 180 minutes at home still does not fill me with confidence that we will qualify.

  10. Wooden Ships replied, February 5, 2017 at 11:35 a.m.

    I'm with you Brent. As a former striker, it has been worrisome for awhile now that we depend too much on defending and our Keeper. Yes, defending, shape and guys win championships, but the goal scoring has to live up to their responsibilities. We must get players out there that have the skill to keep it in the final third and constant movement to unbalance and find the moment to finish. We have the players. Honduras and Panama will score, will we?

  11. I w Nowozeniuk replied, February 6, 2017 at 11:28 a.m.

    Mr. Crossland, why is it that he get the big picture and most don't?

  12. Paul Estrada, February 4, 2017 at 8:46 p.m.

    Hardly a golazo. Play is so slow to watch, and the Jamaicans were hardly presenting much of a test.

  13. Bob Ashpole, February 5, 2017 at 2:20 a.m.

    I taped the broadcast, but haven't had time to watch it yet. Scoring a goal is good news, but, despite the drought of goals recently, not why I am going to watch the match. How did the fullbacks play? I am much more interested in that. I saw the comment on SA that Zusi might be too slow for an international fullback. Well, he is also just as slow as a winger and he doesn't appear to be any slower than Chandler. Speed is important to recovery from mistakes. If you don't have a speed advantage, you can still be successful by not making any mistakes. The coaches are certainly aware of how fast the different players are before they call them into camp. While many coaches put their fast flank players at full back, the issue is where will the fastest players make the strongest team against a particular opponent on a particular day, not who is the fastest fullback in a footrace.

  14. Bob Ashpole replied, February 5, 2017 at 2:32 a.m.

    Zusi is not slow. He is just slow for an international winger or fullback. I want to add that the one time I saw Zusi play at CM for the MNT, I was very impressed. I think it was an 8 role when Jones was absent. His speed was not a factor as he didn't have to chase the play; the play was coming to him. He was tenacious and smart at controlling the space and did well on the ball. I thought he might even function well in the 10 role. I was disappointed that he wasn't given more chances in the center. I always thought that given his relative lack of speed there had to be better roles for him at the international level than winger.

  15. Wooden Ships replied, February 5, 2017 at 12:31 p.m.

    I get what you're saying Bob and I remember Zuzi inside in that game and yes he was respectable. But, he's neither quick or fast and you need to be at least one. He's a better than decent MLS player, IMO. On occasion he serves a nice cross and he can strike the ball well. However, IMO, his feet are heavy, touch too often betrays him. At best I see him being a 3 deep player and not making the 23 next month, again my take.

  16. Bob Ashpole replied, February 6, 2017 at 1:55 a.m.

    I understand WS. Did he do well enough at RB to be a selection this March to play there behind Johnson? By the way I heard Dempsey played 20 minutes in a pre-season match yesterday. Best wishes to him for continued progress on the road back.

  17. Bob Ashpole replied, February 6, 2017 at 1:58 a.m.

    WS: I am remembering how Steve Cherundolo supported Donovan so well.

  18. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, February 6, 2017 at 9:52 a.m.

    Safe to say that when you do watch the match, you won't confuse Zusi for Cherundolo. Experimenting is what these games are for but I think we've seen enough of that experiment for now. If Zusi gets more games at RB for KC then maybe they can try it again for the USMNT.

  19. Bob Ashpole replied, February 6, 2017 at 11:10 a.m.

    Who would ever have thought there would come a time when the US MNT was scrambling around looking for keepers and backs instead of attacking players. If it were me, I would be confident in giving the starting job to Nick Rimando.

  20. Wooden Ships replied, February 6, 2017 at 6:34 p.m.

    Bob, it is ironic that backs and Keepers are a question next month. Cherundelo was real quality so I'll agree with Fire on this. You mention Fabian on the right and that could happen if we go with Villafana or Garza on the left, but I would still prefer Fabian in mid. We have to gets goals. If you had to choose between GZ or BE at right back, would it be a toss up? This won't be popular but, would Chandler perform better with Arena? As of now, I believe he has a better game all around than the two I just mentioned. He is a more dangerous back and yes, maybe infamous too. However, won't Yedlin be starting at right back? I'm still a Horvath guy, and while Rimando has been the ultimate journeyman he is more beatable high. In the Jamaca match, he had several uncharacteristic distributions that were off. Again, he's very solid and accomplished, but I'll be surprised if Guzan doesn't start. I'm not really a Guzan fan, I don't think he sees enough and commands enough.

  21. Wooden Ships replied, February 6, 2017 at 6:44 p.m.

    I misread Bob, Zuzi playing behind Johnson. I don't see it yet and maybe at all. I really respect his effort, he leaves it on the pitch every time he puts on the Red, White and Blue. Also, I've got Fabian on the left and Christian on the right. I did hear the Deuce is getting minutes. That's fantastic and I'm wanting to believe he has a total clean bill of health. Can he still provide some important minutes, moments for us, yes, but not close to his normal dangerousness. I want to see him grow old and show up here and there, more than seeing him on an international stage.

  22. Bob Ashpole replied, February 7, 2017 at 12:50 p.m.

    I watched the match through Zusi's substitution. I was pleased with his performance, as much as I could see of it--I hate watching matches on US narrow-view broadcasts. Is he ready for RB at the international level? No. Is he our best selection right now at RB? No. Can he step up and play RB if we need him? Definitely yes. Does he have future potential at the position? Yes.

  23. I w Nowozeniuk, February 5, 2017 at 12:42 p.m.

    Creativity on the lone goal? As stated, it's a rare moment; inconsistency continues to dominate.

  24. I w Nowozeniuk, February 6, 2017 at 11:29 a.m.

    Bob A., I agree that Rimando is a solid keeper and above all a terrific distributor of the ball, be it long or short.

  25. Eric Dibella, February 8, 2017 at 11:09 a.m.

    Won't inconsistency dominate when there is no consistency in the lineup? We are two games in with a new coach.

  26. Bob Ashpole replied, February 8, 2017 at 5:33 p.m.

    Eric, lineup inconsistency is a hallmark of international soccer. That is why depth of the pool is so important. At the finals, quality of the bench is critical to the winners. Consistency would be an advantage, if it could be obtained, but between suspensions, players loosing starting positions or contracts even, and injuries the available players change often.

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