The United States of America men’s national soccer team took a step in the right direction in terms of its World Cup qualification standings with a 2-1 victory over Jamaica today in Kingston. Earning three points with a win in the match puts the USA in a much better position to make the World Cup in 2014 as we begin to near the end of qualifying.
Defense looked far improved from the past two performances for the United States. In their past two matches the team allowed seven goals, far too many for a team that made it into the elimination rounds of the last World Cup in 2010. Fans were beginning to think that the defense would be the Achilles Heel, plaguing the hopes for bettering their previous performance in soccer’s biggest tournament.
However the team stepped up big today, allowing only one goal from a set piece to Jamaica. In particular, center backs Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler answered their critics with a solid performance in today’s match. The set piece goal that tied the game for the Jamaicans was the type of equalizing goal that has eliminated far too many leads for the team recently, however the fact that they were able to recover and earn a win showed the resilience this team possesses.
James Beckford scored the equalizer in the 89th minute of play, taking away the lead the United States had established on Jose Altidore’s goal early in the contest.
After surrendering the lead, the game looked as if it would end in a draw. However Brad Evans was able to come up huge and earn his team a victory with a strong shot in stoppage time. The play developed after a near perfect through pass from Michael Bradley left Evans wide open in space. Donovan Ricketts, Jamaica’s goal keeper, was helpless to stop the shot while left all alone to do so.
By beating Jamaica today, the USA men’s soccer team earns a boost and is now in a three way tie with Costa Rica and Mexico in the CONCACAF region of qualifying. Costa Rica has a higher goal differential, giving them the tie breaker over the field, while Mexico has played one more game than the United States. Panama trails the three teams by just one point, while Honduras has four. Jamaica is all but eliminated after today with just two points. Three teams automatically qualify for the World Cup from the region.
This victory was the exact opposite outcome from the last time the two teams met, when the US lost to Jamaica 2-1 and appeared to have succumb to the heat just nine months ago.
The USA has some momentum on its side heading into the future, after beating Germany in its last international friendly, and now beating Jamaica to move up in the World Cup Standings today.
Next up after beating Jamaica is Panama, which the US will take on in a World Cup qualifying match on Tuesday in Seattle. Their other qualifying match in June will be against Honduras in Salt Lake City on June 18.
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieGille
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express