For no reason in particular, I found myself watching "D3: The Mighty Ducks" yesterday right before I went to watch the United States qualifier. Yes, D3 is easily the worst movie in the series, so bear with me here for a second while I tell a story. You see, at the end of D3, Charlie Conway passes the puck back to Goldberg to score the game winner on a 5-on-3 shorthanded breakaway. The reaction from Dean Portman and Kenny Wu from the penalty box goes something like this:
"GOLDBERG!" (celebration), Goldberg? (confusion as to how Goldberg is the hero), GOLDBERG!!! (back to celebrating)."
That's basically my reaction to Brad Evans' game winner against Jamaica. It came out of nowhere, just minutes after the USA continued its run of late game collapses. Evans, with a little space, back to goal, with about half of the Jamaican team lined up on the top of the six yard box, fires off an off-balance shot that curls into the side netting.
"GOAL, BRAD EVANS!, (celebration)...wait, Brad Evans? (confusion)...BRAD EVANS!!! (oh, who cares we got all three points)."
Yes, I am very happy the USMNT won late last night. However this trend giving up goals late in games is going to cost the U.S. down the road. I won't say the U.S. didn't deserve all three points because generally they played well, but Jamaica absolutely deserved at least a point from this game and probably should have scored in the first half if it weren't for some timely defense by the U.S., a Tim Howard save and shoddy finishing in the box.
And another unfair point for Jamaica: because their match vs. Mexico was moved up to June 4th to accommodate El Tri's Confederations Cup schedule, the Reggae Boys (along with Mexico) will play three qualifiers in 8 days. The other four teams in The Hex will play their three matches in 12 days, with a whole week off between the final two games. So if Jamaica doesn't win on Tuesday, they'll likely be playing spoilers from the basement for the rest of The Hex since they only have two points in their first five games.
Now for the bad news: Jermaine Jones left the game in the second half with an apparent concussion and I do not know his status for the remaining qualifiers. Graham Zusi picked up a late yellow card (on the foul that led to the free kick that led to Jamaica's short-lived equalizer) and that means he'll miss the game vs. Panama due to an accumulation suspension. This means the USA will have to make a lineup change after Klinsmann used the same lineup in back-to-back games for the first time ever (against Germany and Jamaica). If Klinsmann wants to stick with the 4-2-3-1/4-4-1-1 with Jones out, Geoff Cameron did pretty well in relief of Jones in the second half. If the USA decides to go back to a more "traditional" 4-4-2, the real question is where everyone lines up and who pairs with Bradley in the center midfield.
We're going to do the ratings a little differently this time, everyone is going to get a grade but the recaps are going to be by groups (defenders, midfielders, subs etc.) and I'm doing this from memory of a game I watched on a satellite feed that was routinely interrupted by the remnants of Tropical Storm Andrea or whatever that monsoon was yesterday.
GOALKEEPER - Tim Howard (6) - I am not going to knock Howard for not coming off his line on the Jamaica equalizer on an other wise uneventful night for the US keeper. That's a perfect ball right on top of the six to an unmarked (and possibly offside) attacker. I will knock who ever thought it was a good idea to play that free kick with such a high line, it should have been played like a corner with a man on the post.
DEFENDERS - DaMarcus Beasley (5), Omar Gonzalez (6), Matt Belser (6), Brad Evans (6.5) - I think the defense did very well overall, especially since the outside backs seemed to struggle with the pace of the Jamaican attack in the first half. Gonzalez and Belser do have a great understanding with each other and they scramble well dealing with loose balls and shutting down counters. Gonzalez can improve his distribution though, everything doesn't need to just be cleared downfield.
MIDFIELDERS - Fabian Johnson (5), Jermaine Jones (6), Michael Bradley (6), Graham Zusi (6.5) - Aside from the assists from Zusi and Bradley, there was just a lot of average play in the midfield. I think Bradley did really well to step into a more higher position that was left after Jones was forced off with an injury after he struggled defensively (like most of the U.S.) in the first half. Graham Zusi still needs to realize that he's a midfielder and not a winger. I said it last week against Germany and I'm forced to say it again: he needs to prove he can play two-ways if we wants to keep his starting spot from Landon Donovan.
FORWARDS - Jozy Altidore (7), Clint Dempsey, (5.5) - Yes, Jozy is scoring again for the USA, but let's not forget his hold up, possession and passing are also playing a key part in the U.S. attack. Dempsey didn't have a great day on the ball and spent a lot of time in the midfield to help release some of the pressure Jamaica put on the US. The near post run on Jozy's goal took two of the three defenders away from the play.
SUBSTITUTES - Geoff Cameron (6), Edgar Castillo (5), Eddie Johnson (4) - A lot of credit needs to go to Cameron in this game. His presence in the deep midfield allowed Bradley forward and the US didn't skip a beat with him in that role. Castillo did some nice things in the attacking half against Germany and his stint at LM continued that. EJ needs to stay with his mark, regardless of if he's offsides.
HEAD COACH - Jurgen Klinsmann (6) - I don't know if this is true, but I think Klinsmann is getting a better sense of the individual strengths of his players. There was no hesitation when Jones came off injured that Cameron, his embattled right back, was going in at a CDM position to help hold down the fort. I think there were some subtle adjustments made at halftime to help deal with the Jamaican attack as the entire team seemed much more comfortable tactically.