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Despite Everything, U.S. Defeats Jamaica, Wins Hex

It took the team forever to get going, but once the United States men's soccer team established some momentum, it took charge and defeated the Reggae Boyz to clinch first place in the CONCACAF Hexagonal.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
October 11, 2013
11:45 PM
KANSAS CITY, Kan.—It wasn't a glorious performance, but it ended with glory. The United States national team, already qualified for the 2014 World Cup Finals, clinched the top spot in the final round with a 2-0 win against Jamaica on Friday night.

"Obviously, today didn't go as planned, but at the same time we still got the win," DaMarcus Beasley said after the match. "Everybody is always judged on how they performed and the results. The result is that we won tonight. Nobody's going to remember this performance. Everybody's going to remember it was us winning 2-0."

It wasn't exactly a game to remember. Jurgen Klinsmann went to his bench earlier than he typically does, and the replacements—Graham Zusi, Sacha Kljestan, and Edgar Castillo—all injected energy after a listless first half.

The Stars and Stripes sleepwalked through that opening frame with first-time starter Aron Johannsson missing the target on the two best opportunities.

Landon Donovan also missed an opportunity, getting free on the right side of the 18-yard box but losing control. It would be his last significant contribution of the match, with Zusi replacing the U.S.' all-time leading scorer at halftime. Klinsmann said there were several options at the half, but he arrived at what he felt was the best one.

"I mean, the substitution at halftime, we discussed that as a coaching staff, as we always do," Klinsmann said in his post-match news conference. "There were options that we had. We felt like, 'We've got to do something here, we've got to speed it up a little bit.' Landon had problems getting into this game, but he was not the only one."

Donovan said he was surprised to get the hook at the break. He knew it wasn't his best half but, as Klinsmann suggested, he also felt there were several other players who had played poorly. The manager planned to bring Kljestan in later in the second half, so he considered pushing Donovan forward with Altidore. But after seeing Johannsson have scoring opportunities in the first half, the coach elected to stick with that pairing.

"It definitely wasn't our best half," Donovan said. "It certainly wasn't my best half. I think it was frustrating for all of us. In the end, it's about finding a way to win games. A lot of times you play poorly and lose, and this club found a way to win even though it didn't play great."

The replacement worked well for Klinsmann, with Zusi sending home the first goal on a strange sequence that began with a failed attempt by Mix Diskerud to pull off a bit of flair atop the 18. The ball fell fortuitously and was moved to Alejandro Bedoya out wide. Bedoya too struggled to put in a cross but eventually was able to send it to Zusi for the goal.

Once the first goal went in, the second wasn't far behind. Edgar Castillo intercepted a Jamaica pass and surged forward. He was able to cross to Jozy Altidore, who easily redirected it into the back of the net.

It's a win the U.S. will take, especially with regular starters like Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, and Omar Gonzalez missing the match due to injury. With participation in the World Cup already assured, the U.S. will be pleased to have the Hex clinched with one match to go.

In the end, it wasn't a dazzling result, but tonight it didn't have to be.

What did you think of the win? Are you glad Klinsmann yanked Donovan at intermission? Share your thoughts below.

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