During the last round of qualifying, we all wanted to get qualification wrapped up so that this game would be meaningless. Well, we got our wish; this game is as meaningless as traffic rules in Boston. Of course, we’ll still play (mostly) our best players, because we want the team to gel and because soccer has this weird ethic in which you’re supposed to play your best players no matter what. In baseball, it’s understood that any team out of the playoff race in September will run out a mix of kids, last-chancers, and ace pitchers throwing with their wrong hand to save their arm, but in soccer you’re supposed to use your best players to uphold the integrity of the competition. Because CONCACAF – which gave us Jack Warner – is all about integrity.
Tonight’s lineup: Howard | Beasley, Besler, Cameron, Evans | Donovan, Jones, Diskerud, Bedoya | Johansson, Altidore. Aaron Johansson gets his first national team start, and Alejandro Bedoya edges out Graham Zusi on the right. Falling further behind is Joe Corona, who is out of favor at Club Tijuana (which is a soccer team, not that place with those girls where they don’t allow photos).
Here’s kickoff from Kansas City, KANSAS, the smaller but infinitely more logical Kansas City…
1’ - This game might be meaningless for us, but Jamaica can still technically qualify. Technically. Like I can technically run a four minute mile – there’s nothing mathematically keeping me from doing it.
10’ - I just learned that in the hexagonal, Jamaica score once every four hours, or as DC United call it: “goals coming in buckets.”
16’ – Beasley with a nice steal and shot – that’s the first actual effort expended in this match. The USA are in full “meh” mode.
17’ – Johansson shoots wide. I’m not worried about Johansson’s finishing. I’ve learned two things from YouTube: 1) Johansson can finish, and 2) Kittens + empty paper bag = adorable.
26’ - It’s obvious that the USA aren’t super-motivated for this match. That’s understandable; the job is done. And they have major commitments to their club teams, who sign their paychecks. Let’s remember that these players are playing basically for free tonight. Let’s just hope that the air traffic controllers who are working for free during the government shutdown are doing a better job.
32’ - Maybe that laid-back Jamaican attitude is rubbing off on the US players. Or maybe they listened to Bob Marley and partook in some mood-enhancement medicine (we’re only one state over from Colorado!) before the match. Because our guys are moving pretty slowly.
37’ - A terrible call gives Jamaica a dangerous free kick. The USA players are going to want to defend this well, because if Jamaica score then we’ll have to start trying.
45’ - Evans is down … possibly from boredom?
Half time: 0-0. Well, we wanted this match to be meaningless, and it is. This is still better than needing a result; I’m sure Mexico would rather have a leisurely run-out than their nail-biting, sphincter-clenching match with Panama.
46’ - Zusi comes in for Donovan. Donovan was underwhelming in the first half, but so was everyone else. I think Klinsmann pulled Donovan to show everyone that they have to perform.
50’ - While we’re waiting for something to happen here, let’s look at what happened in World Cup qualifying elsewhere. News flash: Germany have qualified. So have the Swiss, perennial contenders for most boring team of the tournament. Belgium are in, a team with about 15 world-class players that will still be referred to as a “dark horse.” England got the job done against Montenegro, so you can flip the English Journalistic Hyperbole Switch to “optimism.” Hey: Remember the ‘90s? Colombia does: They’re in. And worth noting: Iceland – home of Aaron Johansson, Bjork, and about 30 other people – are in a good position to make the UEFA playoffs and possibly qualify for their first World Cup ever.
55’ - A banner in the crowd: “Off To Brazil.” Mentally, the team is already there.
60’ - To be clear: I don’t totally blame the guys for playing this match at 80 percent. If there’s one thing Americans understand, it’s not hustling.
65’ - Matt Besler is wearing some jaunty headgear from the Wayne Rooney line. Finally, we have a competitor for the popular Cech model.
70’ - The game has picked up a bit – our guys may be deciding that we might as well win this game.
77’ - Goal USA! There it is: Graham Zusi with the strike! That’s fair because Zusi has been the most active player since coming on, including being the guy who started the move that he eventually finished. Well done, guys: NOW you can relax.
81’ - Goal USA! That seals the match, and also seals the group, since the other team that has qualified – Costa Rica – lost (see: motivation makes a big difference). With that goal, Altidore ties Germantown’s Bruce Murray on the USA goal-scoring list with 21. In fairness to Murray (present!), he played in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, when his teammates were college kids and converted NFL kickers.
83’ - Ian Darke after an errant shot: “He kicked that one into the hot dog store.” I know you don’t have those in England, Ian, but we don’t call them “hot dog stores.” We call them Cylindrical Beefatoriums.
Full time: 2-0 USA, and for the third consecutive cycle, the USA earn first place in the Hexagonal. That earns us +15 Karma Points, exchangeable for exactly one hot mug full of jack squat at the World Cup.
This is easy: Everyone who started the match: 4.5-5.
Everyone who came on as a sub (Zusi, Kljestan, Castillo): 6. Each starter just lost a tiny bit of ground to his backup tonight.