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Posted at 02:57 PM ET, 09/12/2012

Soccer Outsider; USA-Jamaica match diary, player ratings


If you haven’t yet reached the point where you’re questioning Juergen Klinsmann’s judgement, then watch this clip and get back to me. This is the man Klinsmann brought in to fire up the team before Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Jamaica: the love child of Tony Robbins and Joey Buttafuoco. The guy — Donnie Moore — talked about the power of positive thinking, and how self-confidence can inspire great things, then he ripped a phone book in half for some reason, then he ruined a perfectly good frying pan, and also Jesus was in there somewhere. He did not, apparently, discuss when a wall should and should not jump on a free kick.

Well, Jesus did not help the Americans tear apart the Jamaican defense like a phone book, presumably because Jesus was too busy gearing up to help Tim Tebow gain 11 yards on five carries against the Bills on Sunday. Although I don’t think Jesus deserves the blame: By all accounts, the United States didn’t play well, and Klinsmann, not Jesus, decided to start three defensive midfielders, two of them in “wide” positions. I was excited when Klinsmann became the coach, but I have become gradually skeptical of his judgement. The first red flag was his odd commitment to Michael Orozco-Fiscal. Then it was his continued passing over of Chris Pontius. And now it’s his decision to call in Fireplug McTracksuit to fire up the team.

Also: He did not roll that frying pan up like a burrito. You need to fold the corners or all the stuff will fall out.

The U.S. lineup for Tuesday night’s World Cup qualifier vs. Jamaica: Howard | Johnson, Bocanegra, Cameron, Cherundolo | Torres, Jones, Williams, Zusi | Dempsey, Gomez. Again: this lineup makes me question Klinsmann’s judgement. Gomez instead of Altidore? I happen to like Gomez, but Altidore (who plays and scores in the Netherlands) is a better player than Gomez (who doesn’t play in Mexico). And after a news conference in which Klinsmann emphasized the importance of width, he is once again starting two central players (Zusi and Torres) in wide positions. And Jermaine Jones is your attacking midfielder. I know that injuries are forcing some strange lineups, but what a mess.

Here’s kickoff from Columbus Crew Stadium. Columbus was chosen because it is “pro-U.S. venue,” i.e. “a place not a lot of Jamaican-Americans want to drive to.”

1’ — I agree that this is a virtual “must win” match. To me, the United States not qualifying for the World Cup is the worst thing that can happen in sports short of someone getting seriously hurt or anything positive happening to the Dallas Cowboys. If the United States loses, I’m going to be nervous until the next round of qualifiers are played in October.

5’ — Zusi with a shot off the bar! Zusi is earning only his third cap in a very important match, but after the way our midfield performed on Friday, I don’t think anyone is questioning his inclusion.

11’ — Gomez takes it down on his chest, and Nosworthy takes down Gomez! Honestly: I don’t think that was a foul. More of a mixup than anything.

12’ — Premiership fans may remember Nyron Nosworthy as a survivor of the 2005-2006 Sunderland team that was relegated with a then-record-low 15 points, which is the soccer equivalent of surviving the Battle of Verdun. That was a horrible, horrible team.

19’ — Off the post! Cherundolo’s shot/cross is deflected, and Miller makes a great save!

20’ — Another great chance, but somehow Jamaica keeps it out! Again, it’s Miller time, except this Miller time is exhilarating and impressive instead of watery and bland.

28’ — Twellman says: “There’s no reason for Jones to get a stupid yellow card here.” Sure there is: because he’s Jermaine Jones. Is that not enough of a reason?

29’ — Williams with a rocket off the post! I haven’t seen a German-born American produce a rocket like that since Wernher Von Braun.

30’ — Dempsey didn’t get to play for Liverpool, but he is playing for a team that is rattling the woodwork but can’t score, which has been Liverpool’s M.O. recently.

37’ — The United States is absolutely dominating this match; its possession is above 75 percent, and most of it is in Jamaica’s half. It’s in possession more than Snoop Dogg.

42’ — What position is Jose Torres playing? Is he commemorating 9/11 by flaunting a ridiculous amount of freedom?

Halftime: 0-0. Bad news: Guatemala beat Antigua and Barbuda, 1-0. And the news gets worse: The goal was scored by Carlos Ruiz. And the news gets worse: Ruiz celebrated the goal by revealing a T-shirt that said “I love BeIn Sport!” Well, that last one isn’t true, but the point remains: The Guatemala match didn’t go the way U.S. fans wanted.

50’ — Ian Darke just called this “a siege,” which is a good way to put it. Maybe the United States should catapult a diseased cow into the Jamaican defense.

53’ — Free kick from 30 yards out (you can tell by the grass lines, which are six yards) . . . and Gomez scores! GOAL USA! 1-0! Well-taken kick by Gomez, but Miller — who has made so many great saves tonight — should have had that one. My non-union Jamaican counterpart will have a tough time giving Miller a rating.

56’ — Miller’s now not taking the goal kicks. Is he injured? Yes: his pride is injured.

66’ — Break Shea comes in for Torres. Shea has writing in a foreign language tattoo’d on his forearm. Google reveals that it says “firebird” in Hindi. At least, that’s what Shea thinks it says. It probably says “look what I tattoo’d on this douchey white guy’s arm!”

75’ — This match has taken a bad turn: The United States isn’t not dominating anymore. Jamaica aren’t too threatening, but the Americans don’t look likely to grab the second, either.

80’ — Edu and Altidore are now in the match, Zusi and Gomez are off. Williams has moved to the right, where he has been about as effective as a half-tablet of children’s Tylenol.

88’ — Still 1-0. This is the kind of excitement I don’t need in my life. This isn’t the fun kind of excitement you get at roller coasters and amusement parks. This is the kind of excitement you get waiting for the results of a pregnancy test.

Full time: 1-0. Thank you Jesus, Donnie Moore and whoever else might be responsible. We’re back on track. The performance was impressive even if the scoreline wasn’t.

Player ratings:
Howard: 6. All he had to do was stand back there and look good, but he succeeded at that.

Johnson: 6.5. Both he and Cherundolo understood: With Jamaica bunkering, fullbacks need to get forward.

Bocanegra: 7. Steady, solid, didn’t look like his form had dipped playing in the Scottish mixed-genders pub league.

Cameron: 7. Is establishing himself as a must-start in central defense.

Cherundolo: 7. Re-elect The Mayor!

Torres: 5.5. This was his best performance in a U.S. shirt in a long time. But what position was he playing? He was all over the place.

Williams: 7. We’ve mostly seen him play out of position and not well on the wing, but he was good enough that I started to wonder if maybe he should be Bradley’s regular partner in midfield.

Zusi: 7. See, Juergen: MLS standouts can succeed with the national team. Now call up Chris Pontius.

Jones: 6. He’s kind of a Sacha Kljestan-type passer: He mixes excellent through balls with inexplicable clunkers.

Dempsey: 5. He ran out of gas in the second half, which should be expected given how little he’s played recently.

Gomez: 7. Sure, the goal should have been saved, but credit to Gomez for putting a hard shot on frame.

Shea: 4.5. He didn’t look sharp. He also looked ridiculous, but that’s because of the hair.

Edu: 5. The midfield was better without him. I think maybe he should be a full-time central defender; I don’t know if he has the passing skills to excel as a midfielder.

Altidore: 4.5. I praised him in my pre-match comments, so of course he came in and had a bit of a clunker.

By Jeff Maurer  |  02:57 PM ET, 09/12/2012

 
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