April 24, 2014

Herculez Gomez, USMNT Beat Jamaica in World Cup Qualifier

(Note: I promise you I’m not a fair-weather fan. I didn’t write about the USMNT losing in Jamaica because I was busy with a brand new addition to my family last week. I don’t only write about wins.)

The United States Men’s National soccer team fed off of an energetic Columbus crowd last night to help keep their World Cup dreams alive. After losing in Kingston Jamaica on Friday September 7th 2-1 and things were looking bleak in the standings for the USMNT. It really amped up the pressure on them for the second leg of the home-and-home right here in Ohio.

It probably didn’t have to be this scary, if not for injuries. Landon Donovan didn’t play in either match due to a hamstring. Michael Bradley didn’t play either due to a quad injury. Lastly Clint Dempsey did play, but he was hardly in prime game shape after sitting out during his complicated team transfer situation in Europe moving from Fulham to Tottenham. Regardless though, it was up to Jürgen Klinsmann and his available squad to get the job done. They didn’t on the 7th, but they did last night.

The first half ended in a 0-0 tie, but the United States absolutely dominated the action. The United States held possession for about 80% of the first half which is about as one-sided a possession number as you’re ever going to see. The U.S. also outshot Jamaica 8-0 including three shots that hit parts of the goal, but just wouldn’t find the net. The most dangerous of these shots was a ridiculously long strike from Danny Williams that rocketed about 20+ feet to the inside portion of the top of the upright before ricocheting out of the goal mouth.

Meanwhile Jamaica got some pretty good goalkeeping from Dwayne Miller in the first half to go along with the unfortunate luck of U.S. strikers. That wasn’t necessarily the case in the second half on what turned out to be the game-winner. Herculez Gomez hit a free kick over the wall, off the keeper’s gloves and into the back of the net for what appeared to be a pretty soft goal, at least compared to the chances that “just missed” in the first half.

The United States seemed to gas late in the second half after playing with such intensity in the first half, but they managed to hold on. It was a relatively trouble-free day for U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, which I am sure he was elated to see. If there was any downside for the United States it would seem to be the lack of quality play they got from their subs in the second half. Jürgen Klinsmann brought in Brek Shea, Jozy Altidore and Maurice Edu, and all seemed sluggish and pretty sloppy when the U.S. could have used a boost of energy in closing the game out.

Either way, this is how the group looks today now that the U.S. won. They are tied for first with Guatemala.

GROUP A
Team MP W D L GF GA Pts
Guatemala 4 2 1 1 6 4 7
USA 4 2 1 1 6 4 7
Jamaica 4 2 1 1 4 3 7
Antigua and Barbuda 4 0 1 3 2 7 1

In this group, the United States have two more matches. They travel to Antugua and Barbuda for a match on 10/12/12 at 7:00 PM before wrapping up this group against Guatemala in Kansas City on October 16th. Hopefully the KC crowd is just as energetic and good as the Columbus crowd. That stadium was amped all night last night. Made me proud as an Ohioan.

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    Sluggish and sloppy are kinder words for the subs than I was using last night. Edu has never wowed me much, but seeing that level of focus from Altidore and Shea was especially frustrating, as Altidore has shown flashes of being the consistent scoring threat this team so needs, and Shea has served as the high energy/hustle guy before. No real excuse for either to look so bad.
    Loved the games Cherundolo, Williams, and Zusi had. Zusi showed a quick shot when spaces presents, and Williams blast off the back post was as unlucky as it gets–99 times out of 100, that ball deflects inward, not outward. Cherundolo was just steady and stable, as he generally is on the flank. Didn’t think much of Gomez outside of the goal (which wasn’t the greatest effort, but I’ll take it), and Torres has yet to really show much in my opinion, but Klinsmann seems to be giving him chances of late.
    If we could consistently get the USMNT of the first 60 minutes of this match, I’d be thrilled. Dominating possession (loved the midfield control in particular), looking dangerous on the attack, smart marking…they showed it all. Unfortunately, the USMNT of the last 30 minutes shows up far too frequently, and we end up fighting ourselves to hold on. Need a 2-0 or even 3-0 effort against Antigua and Barbuda, because Guatemala is going to give us all we can handle in KC.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    As awesome as the team’s effort was through the first half and up until the goal, it was equally awful/frustrating after the goal. If you want to sit back and protect deep for 30 minutes, I think that might be a little too long of a stretch to do that, but more power to you. But you still have to try to capitalize on the chances that you get to push forward. Goal differential is important in group play and can mean the difference between moving on or going home. The best example I can remember of this garbage mentality is when Clint Dempsey managed to draw the keeper out of his box over to the sideline where he maintained possession for about five seconds before he was forced to give it up by the defenders. During this time, no US player came over to the sideline to give him an outlet… everybody sat back. It was a great chance for one of our guys to have an open look at the net, but everybody sat back according to the coach’s scheme. If there was ever a time to push a couple guys forward to get another goal, that was it.

    With that said, I really like some of the components on our team. Fabian Johnson has been a revelation at left back (finally someone is locking up that spot)! Geoff Cameron has shown really well at center back. Herc Gomez is exactly what we need at striker… someone to push the back line for 70 minutes, hit quality set pieces, and poach goals. Graham Zusi and Danny Williams both had good games in the position where they should always be played (hate seeing Williams out on the wing… that is not his game). Brek Shea and Jozy Altidore both make great subs. I think I will like this team quite a bit when Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan get back.

  • http://www.cinpleweb.com/ stin4u

    That game last night terrified me. The possession numbers were great but only because Jamaica were packing 9 or 10 players around the 18 every time the US had the ball. Clearly playing for the tie, and how can you blame them. Shea and Altidore were miles from impressive. Trying to do way too much when just continuing to possess the ball was all they needed to do.

    Not a quality performance, but they got the three points they needed. Once Landon, Bradley, and Clint are a 100% I would suspect the play will look a lot better. Also, I thought Williams looked pretty good, I would love to see more of him.

  • JK

    I think Jurgen pulled the reigns back a little in the 2nd half.. I hope anyway, that’s the only justification I could put on it. Everything was different in the 2nd half and as mentioned the subs looked disinterested to say the least. I have confidence in Jozy & Shea also Zusi was a nice surprise.

  • saggy

    my kids were crying. i missed the first 83 minutes of the affair. I saw the goal, though, and it was soft. USA are in great position now.

  • saggy

    great point on possession. it’s such a misleading and, in my opinion, overused/misused stat. Jamaica would have had one foot in Brazil with a tie, so of course they were happy to counter. actually, they like to counter anyways, so last night was just even more of the same.

  • saggy

    Great point about effort and goal differential. I really would have liked to see a little more forward momentum – going for the kill – at the end. JK even made a point of it in his post-game comments:

    “I’ve been through qualifiers myself,” said U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who appeared for West Germany and Germany in three World Cups. “When we won the World Cup in 1990, we almost didn’t qualify. It was down to the last game, which we won 2-1, and the opponent—Wales at that time—Mark Hughes missed a 100 percent chance in the 88th minute. And Germany wouldn’t have gone to the World Cup. That’s how close it can get.

  • saggy

    wow – i agree. i think you’re spot on. I also think you have to give props to the captain, Boca. He really organized not only the defense but the entire team. Also, Cameron was excellent and Danny Williams was really great.

  • Steve

    Another frustrating performance by Klinsmann. I know, there was no Donovan or Bradley, but Klinsmann’s teams here have been remarkably incompetent at moving the ball forward against all but inferior competition, even with those guys. Getting just one goal and then sitting back against a less-than-mediocre Jamaica team that wasn’t even trying to hold on to the ball, all while in a very favorable environment, is not a strong effort. They got 3 points, good, but it would be nice if they put together some performances that suggested they might be able to hang with the real competition. They should be smacking CONCACAF teams around like Mexico has done, without having to run an out of shape Dempsey out there for 90 minutes.

  • bridgecrosser

    I was there and sat upper level right at midfield. Good crowd. Very good crowd. Not great.

    For the tactics, Klinsmann had a solid plan. They miss Bradley. It’s still a decent but 2nd rate roster largely without a dominant world class midfielder. You will never work over low tier opponents with just solid soccer. Just eke out the wins. Jamacia had terrible tactics. Tried to play too many forward players then watched them never get possession or work the ball downfield. The USA dominated Jamacia. The score didn’t reflect that but we worked them over in every facet of the game.

    Any criticism I think isn’t realistic of the talent. He has turned a lot of youth into the team and maybe some aren’t honest where we were with future talent the day after we lost to Ghana. My two cents.

  • bridgecrosser

    I would agree Maurice Edu is terrible and it’s sad he’s even on our roster. He was the worst USA player on the field last night without doubt.

  • bridgecrosser

    Also, it was a real shame that Danny Williams strike didn’t find paydirt. That was from DOWN TOWN.

  • bridgecrosser

    Shea was right in front of me. It was clear he was given direction to be smart and not lead to an error and a desperate Jamaica counter. They missed him on a few runs. He did exactly what was needed. I read a few critical comments on his time and do not agree at all.

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    Absolutely right on Bocanegra–his usual steadying presence in the back. Loved the moment the cameras caught of him late in the match signaling to Cameron to settle down as things got tense: as Twellman mentioned in the moment, it was a great leadership move: no need to blow up at the guys, justget them to relax and refocus. Great to have a guy like that, especially with some inexperienced players back there.

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    Yes, possession can be misinterpreted. But it does mean something when it leads to the sort of pressure we were creating in their defensive third. Possession without creating chances is an empty stat.

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    The conditions on the road in CONCACAF cannot be ignored though. Hostile crowds, poor pitch conditions…they provide a degree of balancing. And frankly we aren’t a talented enough squad to be expected to just run through the competition match after match regardless. We lack consistency and killer instinct.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I was happy to see Danny Williams in what I think is a more natural position for him. I never understood Klinsmann’s fascination with putting him out wide on the right. He can’t cross the ball to save his life and he doesn’t really have the dribbling skills to take guys on one-on-one. As a defensive center-mid, he was dominant… great tackling and good distribution out of the back, and he made some very timely runs forward like on his downtown effort. He also didn’t try anything too fancy with his passes (like Jermaine Jones likes to do), which often leaves your back line out to dry when the pass results in a turnover.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    I was there as well, and I have to wonder what you consider a great crowd?

    “Columbus, Ohio: I have never given a rating to a venue or a crowd, but Tuesday’s is worth noting. On Sept. 11 and with the U.S. team needing a win, Columbus put together maybe the best crowd ever for the national team. The atmosphere was electric and it clearly gave the team a boost of energy.Rating: 10″ – http://goal.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/12/player-ratings-u-s-1-vs-jamaica-0/?smid=fb-share

    “4. Columbus does the nation proud Columbus Crew Stadium is an unimposing structure on the downtown periphery of the city, yet the USMNT keep coming here, and it is not hard to see why. The U.S. are now 6-0-3 in Columbus Crew Stadium, outscoring opponents 13-1. From “The Star-Spangled Banner” onward, the atmosphere was unrelentingly rowdy and occasionally emotional. From the 9th minute to the 11th, the 23,881 in attendance stood on their feet and cheered in remembrance of 9/11. The U.S. team responded in kind. In the crucial first 15 minutes that set the tone for the rest of the game, the stats were 80 percent possession and 100 percent adrenaline. ” –
    http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/relegationzone/id/213?cc=5901

  • Matt

    Although I also have never been impressed with Edu, I think the subs should be cut a little slack. Klinnsman did not put them in the best position to succeed. Pulling off Shea for Torres instead of an obviously fatigued and out of form Dempsey was shocking to me. Torres isn’t great but he can possess the ball and calm things down. What exactly was Shea’s role supposed to be? He just makes the game more frantic because he is not a defensive player and is best when playing at a fast pace. The Edu substitution for Zusi further reduced our ability to possess the ball, continued to leave Dempsey on the field, and completed the transition to “just hold on for half an hour and hope for the best”. Altidore was simply bad, but I’m not sure that he has gotten a fair shake under Klinnsman as I think that the service has been poor in every game that he has played i.

  • Nick

    I was there for the tailgate and in the stadium for the game…ive been a hardcore USMNT for about 6 years but never attended a match, and this was something special. The players noted it was one of the best atmospheres they have played in for the USMNT. Well done Columbus!

  • Nick

    What a strike that was. Good to see Danny given a chance to play at his normal CDM role instead of out wide, thought he did well

  • Al DiFranco

    I had a blast at the American Outlaws tailgate and at the match. I know I’m more of a hard core USMNT fan, but you can’t deny that soccer in the US is growing in popularity. The US certainly dominated play on Tuesday, just were unlucky with a couple shots off the crossbar and post or we could have had a 3 or 4 goal victory.
    Great work as always, Craig!

    Check out my soccer blog! http://starsandstripessoccer.blogspot.com/

  • Steve

    Plenty of good teams go on the road and run roughshod over these mediocre-even-for-CONCACAF teams.

    Maybe we aren’t as talented as the teams that went to the final 16 of the WC, but we’re more talented than having to squeak out ugly 1-0 wins at home to bad teams.

    “Consistency” and “killer instinct”? I absolutely hate vague talk like that. What does that even mean? As has been so for a while, we have to expect Donovan and Dempsey to do above and beyond their share as we don’t have any great finishers up front. But now, we can’t link up the defenders to attackers as well. That’s a serious decline, and the inept tactics and regression falls squarely on the shoulders of the manager.

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    Well an honest debate can be had as to just how talented our national team players are in relation to other CONCACAF teams, that’s for certain. And as I mentioned, it’s not a matter of sheer talent level in deciding any match.

    As for the “vague talk” you hate so much: I’m not entirely sure how those qualities I cited are so “vague”. If you mean in terms of being quantifiable statistical measures, something we can plug into an equation and get a result from or perform a computer simulation with, then sure, I suppose these traits are “vague”. But I think anyone watching who understands the fundamentals of the game (any game–american football, baseball, golf, tennis–take your pick) can watch an athlete/team perform and see these qualities emerge. Consistency is pretty simple to me: over the course of multiple contests in a given period of time, do we see similar qualities/tendencies emerge? One example of consistency is the performance of Tim Howard in goal. He may give up 2 goals one match and produce a clean sheet the next, but over the course of many matches, we see that he is consistently strong in goal. An American inconsistency is controlling the midfield: as great as it looked in this most recent match, it doesn’t take much to see that, over a series of matches, this is something we don’t do well. Does Messi score in every match? No. Does Spain win every match they play? No. But those are consistent performers over time. We know that by watching.

    Killer instinct probably needs defining, but that doesn’t immediately make it “vague”. When I use that term, I mean, Do we regularly take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves? Do we settle for going up a goal and packing it in and just holding on, or do we press for another score to drive that last nail in the opposition’s coffin? It’s pretty clear that this American squad doesn’t really have this trait. It’s like the pro football team that goes up late, then drops into the prevent instead of getting that sack or forcing the turnover that removes any doubt from the result. Can that work? Yes. But passive play just begs for defeat, regardless of sport.

    So, while they may sound “vague” (and I take responsibility insofar as I failed to clarify what I meant by those terms), I don’t believe they ultimately are. If your issue is with the fact that there’s no “sabermetric” for them, I was just remind you that history offers us many examples of things beyond numbers making the difference between wins and losses.