Posted on September 7, 2012
By Michael Lewis
KINGSTON, Jamaica – The United States dug themselves a deep World Cup qualifying hole on Friday night, falling 2-1 to Jamaica at National Stadium.
Striker Luke Shelton snapped a 1-1 tie in the 62nd minute to lift the Reggae Boyz to the historic 2-1 win, Jamaica’s first ever over the USA.
The Jamaicans took over the Group A lead with 2-0-1 record and seven points, ending ended an 18-game winless streak (0-10-8) against the Americans (1-1-1, four) dating back to 1988.
It was the first U.S. loss to a Caribbean team in a qualifier that mattered in more than 43 years, since a 1-0 defeat to Haiti in Port-au-Prince on May 11, 1969. That loss closed out a disappointing qualifying campaign for the 1970 World Cup. The Americans dropped a 2-1 decision at Trinidad & Tobago in 2008, but they already had clinched a spot in the next round.
The Americans face a must-win situation against Jamaica in their next game, in Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday.
The Americans were without two of their best players, the injured Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley, and it hurt them greatly in the midfield in controlling the ball and making the most of the width of the field.
The Jamaicans took advantage of their speed and made life miserable for the visitors on several occasions.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann made one surprising addition and one subtraction from his team’s starting XI. He decided to start Clint Dempsey, who hasn’t played a competitive match since June due to his dispute with Fulham before his transfer to English Premier League side Tottenham last week.
He also sat captain Carlos Bocanegra, who had been playing in the fourth tier in Scotland before his transfer to Racing Santander last week, as Clarence Goodson and Geoff Cameron, one of the heroes of the U.S’s 1-0 historic upset of Mexico in Mexico City last month, were paired at center back.
Klinsmann’s strategy worked well early for the Americans. Maurice Edu, teaming with Kyle Beckerman in central midfield, fed Herculez Gomez. The USA striker fired two consecutive shots, the first one saved by goalkeeper Dwayne Miller, the second one blocked by a defender. The rebound came to Dempsey, who rifled the ball into the net with the game only 35 seconds old.
Dempsey immediately ran to a small cluster of American supporters near the Jamaican net and saluted them, celebrating his eighth career qualifying goal, which boosted him into a fourth-place tie with Eddie Johnson on the all-time U.S. list. It also was the third consecutive qualifier that Dempsey has scored. His fastest qualifying goal was 53 seconds into an 8-0 triumph over Barbados on June 15, 2008.
The Reggae Boyz, however, kept pressing and their persistence paid off in the 24th minute. After a Beckerman giveaway, the midfielder fouled Lovel Palmer 28 yards out. Rodolph Austin then powered a low free kick, that deflected off the inside of Beckerman’s right leg, past Tim Howard to equalize at 1-1.
The goal energized the hosts, who couldn’t take advantage of their speed and the Americans’ lack of it. The USA managed to survive the rest of the half and went into the locker room tied at 1-1.
At times, the USA looked confused and sometimes disorganized, especially in the midfield. The USA almost grabbed the lead on a nice build-up in the 44th minute as right back Michael Parkhurst crossed the ball into Dempsey, who was denied by Miller.
Shelton delivered the match to Jamaica with a 28-yard free kick that went over the U.S. wall and slipped inside the left post past Howard, who was screened.
Categories: Caribbean, Jamaica, North America, U.S.A., World Cup Qualifying