Donnelly: US National Team Starts Flat, Relies on Late Zusi Gamewinner to Beat Jamaica

A raucous, red, white, and blue crowd invaded The Legends Friday afternoon for the World Cup Qualifier between the US and Jamaica.  The fans came out early, with many hitting the American Outlaws tailgate party in the parking lot of Community America Ballpark.

By the time the game rolled around, the crowd was ready to sing some songs and urge on their boys.  Inside the stadium, the singing was super loud – the capos led a huge supporter’s section on the south end, aided by some sort of amplification to get everyone in sync.  

As the game started it seemed like the field was holding up much better than it has for the last few Sporting KC games.  I’m not sure what the grounds crew did, but it worked and the turf stayed put for the most part.

About 15 minutes in, the US was definitely on the back foot.  Perhaps the fact that they’d already qualified for Brazil next summer lessened their urgency, but regardless, the effort was lacking.  There was no cohesion, and the veterans weren’t having it.  Landon Donovan gestured wildly for guys to get their heads in the game.  On cue a few seconds later, veteran DaMarcus Beasely rushed an opposing defender, stole the ball clean, and fired a low shot that was deflected for a corner.

Apparently that was what the US needed, because over the next several minutes they were attack dogs, staying in Jamaica’s defensive third and firing multiple decent chances at the goal.

That worked for about three minutes, but then the Jamaicans once again got back on the front foot.  They just looked looser and more intuitive, while the US looked disconnected, and were putting together one of the worst halves of soccer I can remember.

At halftime, Jurgen Klinsmann made several changes, and it paid off right away.  Sporting KC’s Graham Zusi came in favor of Donovan, who was largely ineffective in the first half.  Zusi provided the spark that was missing, opening up the US’s attack and giving his marker fits with darting little runs.  Also getting into the game was Sacha Kljestan, who paired nicely with Zusi as another calm presence in possession.

As the US created more and more havoc, a goal seemed inevitable.  Finally, to the relief of the packed house, Zusi broke through in the 77th minute.  A bouncing ball in the box glanced off a Jamiacan defender and was touched back into Zusi’s path, who one-timed a low shot to the far post that just inched inside the post.

Sporting Park went wild, with almost as much relief as joy.

“This was a nice one to get, especially to do it in front of the home fans,” said Zusi afterwards.  “It made it extra special for me and I’m sure for them as well. I believe Besler (was the first to join the celebration). He made a long run forward to celebrate with me; a special moment for both of us.”

And then, just to make sure, the US notched another goal just a few minutes later.  

After getting in behind the Jamaican back line repeatedly, Jozy Altidore finally got on the end of a low cross and he side-footed the insurance goal into the back of the net.

“The last five minutes, when we scored the second goal and the fans really got into the game, I kind of looked around and took it all in,” said Besler.  “It’s something I will remember forever.”
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2 Responses to Donnelly: US National Team Starts Flat, Relies on Late Zusi Gamewinner to Beat Jamaica

  1. legendaryhog says:

    First half, borderline unwatchable. Wow, talk about phoning it in. The US had nothing on the line and it showed. Someone in the locker room must have jammed a boot up the team’s ass, because the second half was like a different team. Passing was crisper, play was more cohesive. It was great to see Zusi score that first goal. The place went nuts and the beer was flying through the air. It was great.

    I really had hoped to see him replace Mikkel Diskerud or Bedoya though. Although Donovan had a lackluster first half, it really wasn’t his fault. He was simply not targeted on his runs at all and could not get involved in the game. I was looking forward to seeing Zusi and Donovan on both sides of the pitch. I feel like that would be a hard mark for most teams to deal with. You’d kind of have to pick your poison.

    I thought the defense played fairly well. Cameron had a solid game and I’m loving the Evans addition lately. I hope he can keep his spot. Altidore? What was going on? I guess you can’t have a great game every time you go out, but he looked like he had lost his touch. I don’t think I saw him turn the ball once. I guess to be fair, Johannsson wasn’t exactly ripping it up either.

    All in all, nice little win and a fun time. FYI for those who missed out on getting tickets, a sponsor dropped out who had asked for a block of tickets and there were SKC reps giving away some free tickets in the parking lot to whoever showed up without a ticket and was looking to scalp one. Free USMNT World Cup qualifier ticket? Score.

  2. Hot Carl says:

    This is the second qualifier I’ve attended at Sporting Park and it’s a great, great atmosphere. Nice party for the adults and also a perfectly fine place to take the kids. Zusi scoring was icing on the cake.

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