Audley Boyd, Assistant Editor - Sports
KANSAS CITY, KANSAS:
JAMAICA'S 2014 World Cup Qualifying (WCQ) dream came crashing to a humiliating end as they were blanked 2-0 by the United States at Sporting Park, Kansas City, yesterday evening.
Substitute midfielder Graham Zusi (77th) and striker Jozy Altidore (81st) scored to hand the Americans a win to mark the United States Soccer Federation's 100th anniversary.
The win guaranteed the US top place in the CONCACAF final-round playoffs with 19 points, while the loss ensured Jamaica will finish last in the six-nation qualifiers. They still have four points, with one round of matches to be played on Tuesday.
The Reggae Boyz needed a first-time victory in this Hexagonal phase to give themselves a chance of advancing further in the qualifiers. However, they failed again as they succumbed to their fifth loss in this 10-game stage.
Jamaica made six changes to their starting team, with Winfried Schäfer handing Colorado Rapids striker Deshorn Brown a debut.
The 21-year-old forward Darren Mattocks and Ryan Johnson combined for a MLS frontline triumvirate that hadn't been used in preparation leading up to the game. Nonetheless, they were oftentimes bothersome, especially with Mattocks and Brown going at the defenders from the flanks with their raw talent.
Mattocks, especially, was intent on driving at goal and cut in from the left several times, only to have shots charged down by defenders, earn a foul while going for the shot, and on one occasion forced a save from US goalie Tim Howard, who blocked a low shot from outside the box on the stroke of half-time. Mattocks had another attempt on goal saved, a header off Demar Phillips' cross at the 68th minute.
That moment was to mark a turning point in the match, as playmaker Je-Vaughn Watson, was forced off with an injury.
Watson and captain Rodolph Austin had ensured an organised Jamaica control of the midfield from the start, with composed play, skill and passing, as Joel (Jobi) McAnuff offered support.
Watson was key not only in possession, but also in the way he provided offensive passes.
Austin offered a threat at the 24th minute with a free kick from the edge of the box after Mattocks had been taken down. However, the curling shot dipped just wide of the post.
Much earlier, at the seventh minute, Demar Phillips created a dangerous play for the Boyz with a free kick, but the ball was cleared off the goal line.
The United States also had good chances to score.
Damarcus Beasley stole the ball off Brown and drove into the 18-yard box where his shot from an angle was saved by Kerr, diving to his left.
Aron Johansson got an excellent opportunity from the resulting corner kick, which fell to him just outside the six-yard box unmarked. However, he fired wide of goal.
Johansson also fired wide two minutes later, at the 20th, from the top of the 18-yard box.
The teams created little in the minutes leading up to half-time, but Jamaica played a more settled game. Despite this, they lacked intensity going forward and squandered chances to put the US team under some real pressure.
US coach Klinsmann rang the changes at the half, taking out Landon Donovan, to which the crowd showed disapproval with boos and later inserted Zusi and Castillo who were to make their marks on the match.
US midfielder Zusi had a big impact on the game. As the Jamaica team fell apart when Watson left the game, Zusi brought life to the Americans with some driving plays that eventually saw him scoring the opening goal at the 77th minute.
With Jamaica's defence scrambling all over the shop, a cross was played on the ground from the right flank and Zusi steered the ball one-time into the far side of goal for a 1-0 lead.
A minute later, the Americans almost doubled the lead when Zusi's cross from the right was met with a powerful effort by Sacha Kljestan, but goalkeeper Duwayne Kerr used his leg to save the shot.
With the US running rampant and Jamaica unable to find any answers, Altidore scored again to kill off the contest when he collected Edgar Castillo's cross unchallenged inside the six-yard box to tap into an open goal.
The finish was made easier as Jamaica's defence surrendered, standing and expecting a handball call against Castillo.
With time running off the clock, Jamaica summoned Jermaine 'Tuffy' Anderson from the bench. But the confident Waterhouse striker, who provided a last-minute equaliser against Costa Rica in Jamaica's previous match, never had any chance to pull off any heroics this time.