What We Learned from Team USA's Embarrassing Loss to Jamaica
Jamaica 2, United States 1
Part of me didn't even want to do a postgame analysis, talking points, rant, etc.
The simplest thing would have been to simple run a list of what Twitter had to say about Jermaine Jones following the match, which was some variation of the following (via Twitter):
Jerry Hinnen - "I hope Jermaine Jones never wears a U.S. jersey again. A disgrace, and not even a useful disgrace."
Chip Sanders - "Jermaine Jones' touch is fucking shocking for a player of his "caliber" #donkey"
Warren Abao - "Jermaine Jones' ball skills tonight remind me of Frankie Hejduk in his MLS rookie year. Horrifying."
Long story short, the German-American didn't endear himself to anyone who found a way to watch the game on the nascent would-be broadcasting power that is beIN Sports. Was it all his fault? No. But when a team plays as wretchedly as the U.S. did on Friday night, people are going to get angry and look for scapegoats and excuses.
In a weird way, American soccer won one victory Friday night at "The Office" in Kingston: nobody saw it save a small, savvy, bunch of hardcore soccer nerds. If you actually watched the listless, directionless play by the U.S. following the goal 36-seconds into the match by Clint Dempsey you'd probably come away feeling much, MUCH, worse than if you simply read match reports from people who were in Kingston, or people who read other people's match reports without watching the games themselves and tried to spin it into a Doomsday scenario in order to garner more pageviews for its site.
To quote Ron Burgundy, "It was grim. Reeeeeeal grim."
Realistically you'd have to wonder why the U.S. appears to have taken a step back, even with the wins at Mexico or Italy in friendlies.
Before the few takeaways, a note on Jamaica. Coach Theodore Whitmore deserves credit for fielding a cohesive starting XI that didn't rattle after falling down a goal less than a minute into the match. The Reggae Boyz passed and possessed and exposed the U.S.'s crippling limitations in the midfield. For all the bows Whitmore can take Saturday morning, let's not forget both of his team's goal came from very well taken free kicks, first on a deflection by Rodolph Austin to tie it in the first half, the second on a great bender by Luton Shelton. Aside from the kicks it wasn't like Jamaica was constantly peppering Tim Howard's goal.
The one worry about Jamaica coming into the game is that unlike the bulk of CONCACAF the U.S. didn't have a superior athleticism and stamina advantage like it does most matches. Jamaica's speed left the much-derided "three-headed defensive midfielder monster" of Jones, Kyle Beckerman and Maurice Edu hacking at shadows and making clumsy, rash and reckless challenges all night. A dumb foul by Beckerman set up the first goal, the second by Edu.
Teams need grit in the midfield, but they also need smarts. You'd think at halftime Klinsmann would have stressed not to make silly fouls in dangerous spots. It happens. You probably don't need three (limited) players with the same skill set, either.
Would playing Jose Torres have been like manna from heaven, transforming the game on a dime? Probably not, but you have to start trying some new things, or at least not setting yourself up for failure as Klinsmann did.
Credit Whitmore again for watching Jones' gametape and realizing that he's a ticking time bomb. Jamaica went right at him, fouling him to turn the tables and taking him completely out of the match.
On a Friday night, if you sacrificed whatever plans you might had to sit and watch this match you no doubt were depressed by the final whistle. The U.S. attacking gameplan -- if there was one -- was hideous. Stringing together more than two passes, a chore. Finding a way to get the ball to either Jozy Altidore or Herculez Gomez, an afterthought. No movement, no passing triangles, not even a dangerous hoofed long ball or two. It looked like a team that had been hurriedly assembled using players from nine different global leagues without any unity or direction with minimal training time together.
Sure, if Landon Donovan or Michael Bradley play maybe this doesn't happen, but injuries are part of the game and as Robbie Earle quickly said during the beIN broadcast as Phil Schoen and (ugh) Marcelo Balboa tried to use the missing players as an excuse, the American player pool should be deep enough to overcome those losses.
More than that, the players out there should have been able to at least muster one or two threats on the Jamaica goal in the final 20 minutes, which never happened.
Here are my two big takeaways from the match, before panic sets in for the game on Tuesday in Columbus.
1. Klinsmann has to take some heat for starting two players (Dempsey, Edu) in a hot, humid environment considering neither had played any significant club soccer in months due to protracted transfers away from Fulham and Rangers. Dempsey you have to probably start because of who he is, but there wasn't a reason to include Edu, who's been nothing but inconsistent as a U.S. player. By the same token Carlos Bocanegra allegedly didn't start because of his summer, first playing for Rangers in the third Scottish division then moving to the second division in Spain. (But hey, the U.S. defense actually looked pretty good!)
2. One talking point in the broadcast by beIN was the U.S. looking for a true "No. 10 shirt." One of the worst things you can do in sports is force-feed players into positions they can't play. The U.S., currently doesn't have a Tab Ramos game orchestrator, so at some point you have to adapt to playing another way, be it fast wing players, lumping long balls, defensive cohensive and spring on the counter. Friday the U.S. had zero plant, 10 shirt or not. Maybe Bradley is that guy when he's healthy, but who knows.
The sky isn't falling for the U.S. despite the loss, yet.
Beat Jamaica Tuesday and Gautemala at home in October and the next round of qualifying happens. There the U.S. can struggle and still have a soft landing on their way to Brazil.
Odds are, barely three days later and with much less depth than the U.S. that Jamaica doesn't replicate its performance from Kingston. The Americans can be that bad again, either.
And, let's be honest, if you can't beat Jamaica, you really don't deserve to play in the World Cup.
The scary thought is, in games that count Klinsmann is a mere 1-1-1. The lack of any plan, or even some of the trademark Bob Bradley spirit in Kingston was alarming.
Klismann can keep saying all the right things, downplaying results, whatever he wants ... but he's backed himself into a corner of a must-win match barely a year into his tenure.