On a cool night in Columbus, Ohio, the US Men’s National Soccer Team took on the Jamaican side that defeated them 2-1 last Friday. With the 11th anniversary of the attacks on 9/11 on everyone’s minds, the USA looked to redeem themselves in front of nearly 24,000 fans as well as to secure a place in the next stage of World Cup qualifying games. The USA took little time to get things working, with Clint Dempsey playing up top alongside Hercules Gomez who led the attack in a 4-1-3-2 formation.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann acknowledged the stellar performance by his side throughout the entire first half. With nearly 80% possession and a 91% pass completion rate. The US did everything but score. With great pressure from this new formation, the US was able to make plenty of space with Graham Zusi and Jose Torres. With 3 strikes off the post in the first half, it was clear the US had the right chemistry of creativity, possession and pressure.
Between the 9th and 11th minutes of the match, the crowd rose to their feet and echoed support for their team and their country, waving thousands of flags in remembrance of the tragedy 11 years earlier. The players seemed to thrive on it, as the recent addition Danny Williams noted, “I have played before emotional fans in Germany, but never anything like this — 24,000 fans felt like 50 or 60 thousand in here. They made it a special night for us.”
When the half time whistle blew, the score was still nil-nil, but the momentum was clearly in favor of the United States. Herculez Gomez’s goal off a set piece in the 55th minute seemed inevitable. A decent bender around the wall from about 26′ was enough to put the USA ahead, ironically in the same fashion that Jamaica relied upon to win last Friday. From that point on, the USA seemed to lack the same vitality as they exhibited in the first half.
Maybe it was sitting on the lead, or maybe it was the exhaustion of players like Clint Dempsey who played a full 90 minutes last Friday. Anyhow, the second half seemed to be a fundamentally different team. If you discount the goal by Gomez, which most critics agree should have been saved, the second half performance by the US was all together not enough to compete on the world stage.
Graham Zusi’s strike off the post from the corner of the box in the 6th minute is a perfect example of the potential of this young roster.
That being said, coach Klinsmann acknowledged the first half performance was what the USA needed to get it’s direction back on track. With stars Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley absent from the roster, it was important to see younger players not only fill the void, but display such versatility across positions and formations.
Graham Zusi’s strike off the post from the corner of the box in the 6th minute is a perfect example of the potential of this young roster. Unlike the world renowned sides like Brazil and Spain that work to mechanically create opportunities, the young US side has nothing to lose and is willing to strike from the perimeter. The other thing we noticed was that the USA adapted to the lack of pressure from the Jamaican backfield and was able to force a lot of saves from their keeper. When you do that, it’s only a matter of time to your first goal.
Where we’d like to see the USA improve is closing out the tight games. Jamaica really stepped up their game across the entire field in the second half, while the US showed no adjustments to their strategy. Having qualified for every world cup since 1990, the USA needs to use every opportunity before the big games to develop cohesion and fine tune their agility in adapting to opponents.
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