photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The U.S. men's national team got back on track in their road to the 2014 World Cup on Tuesday night and they did so with one of their more dominating performances under U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
Four days after suffering a disappointing World Cup qualifying loss to Jamaica in Kingston, the United States rebounded by defeating the Reggae Boyz, 1-0, in in front of a sold-out crowd of 23,881 at Columbus Crew Stadium. The win gave the Americans seven points through their first four matches of the third round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, pulling them level with Guatemala and ahead of Jamaica by goal differential.
Herculez Gomez scored the winning goal in the match played on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, hitting a free kick in the 55th minute past Jamaica goalkeeper Dwayne Miller to end the U.S.'s run of bad luck. The Americans were the dominant side for much of the 90 minutes but hit the posts and crossbar a combined three times in a scoreless first half.
"The team did really well, especially what you saw (in) the first 30 minutes was outstanding," said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. "The only thing that was missing was scoring goals. Posts unfortunately don't count. We said at halftime, 'We've got to keep pushing, we've got to force it, at moments you've got to force your luck' and it came with a beautiful free kick from Herculez.
"It was very important after that frustrating loss there Friday night in Kingston to come back and get in pole position."
Klinsmann not only changed the 4-4-2 diamond midfield formation from Friday's defeat to a 4-1-3-2, but he also made a few personnel moves that paid dividends for the Americans. The German-born coach played Danny Williams as a defensive midfielder and he also inserted Graham Zusi and Jose Torres on the outside of the midfield, which helped with possession and allowed for fullbacks Steve Cherundolo and Fabian Johnson to overlap and get involved in the attack.
That resulted in the U.S. seeing much of the ball from the opening whistle and they were able to get numbers forward and create several quality looks on goal. Unfortunately for the Americans, they were either denied by Miller or by the posts and crossbar.
Cherundolo, Zusi and Williams all had shots smack off the woodwork and the Americans were unable to find the back of the net despite having eight shots in the first half.
"You live through that," said Klinsmann. "I just wanted to make sure that we keep on pushing it, that they always kind of go for the next occasion. It was really important in my whole career as a striker, you can't get frustrated. You've got to stay hungry for the next one that comes and that's what I told them at halftime. Not even one negative thought you can have after missing or hitting the post or the crossbar.
"You've got to stay positive and force it and we had that sense from the team (that) they were very determined to do really well on a very special night. They really deserved it."
The breakthrough came 10 minutes after halftime. Clint Dempsey was fouled by Rodolph Austin from about 28 yards out and Gomez took full advantage of the opportunity by hitting a curling free kick that Miller got a hand to but could not push clear.
"It was unlucky for him but after all we did in the first half and hitting the posts and what not, we deserved a bit of luck," said Gomez. "In the first half I was taking free kicks and I was feeling confident with the way the ball was moving and how it was going for me so I was excited to pull the trigger there."
The Americans continued to push for another goal but Jamaica found some life as they broke out of their defensive shell and tried to win more possession. Tim Howard had to come up big on one play to deny Austin in the 80th minute, but aside from that the U.S. was not troubled much by the Reggae Boyz.
"Obviously we're back on track, we know it's not done yet, we know it's down to the wire. That's what World Cup qualifiers are all about," said Klinsmann. "We're going to be very, very sharp and focused going into Antigua and then at home in Kansas City playing Guatemala."
The United States is now tied on seven points with Jamaica and Guatemala in Group A. Guatemala topped Antigua and Barbuda, 1-0, in the other match on Tuesday.
The U.S. will round out group play with a pair of matches in October. The Americans visit Antigua and Barbuda on October 12 before playing Guatemala at home at Livestrong Sporting Park four days later.
What do you think of the U.S.'s 1-0 win over Jamaica? Who impressed you? Impressed by the pro-U.S. crowd at Columbus Crew Stadium?
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