International friendly recap: USMNT 1–0 Jamaica

The US defeated Jamaica, 1–0 on Friday night, giving the second game of the Bruce Arena 2.0 Era a finer sheen than the first. It wasn’t a superlative performance, but the goal was a beaut’ and the coach will hope to have learned what he needed to from the camp and games he’s had before World Cup Qualifying games resume in March.

First half

The US fielded an almost completely new 11 from the one that drew with Serbia on Friday, with just Steve Birnbaum and Graham Zusi retaining their placees. Zusi captained the side. Walker Zimmerman and Jorge Villafana joined them in back, ahead of Luis Robles. Chris Pontius got a start on the right wing of a 4-1-3-2, alongside Benny Feilhaber and Sebastian Lletget. Juan Agudelo and Jordan Morris ran up top, while for the first time in my memory Michael Bradley was available but did not start. Dax McCarty took his place.

The game was energetic, as one would expect between these two teams, but neither side produced much in the way of scoring chances. The US controlled possession, with Feilhaber’s quick feet and dead ball service causing problems, while Lleget’s speed and trickery down the left dangerous, too. McCarty was quietly on his game, managing the defensive work while still managing to get his head to corner kicks.

But nothing came of anything. Both sides had half- or quarter-chances, but no shots on goal to speak of. Morris had one shot saved by Andre Blake coming off his line, but that was really it.

Second half

The second half started in much the same vein as the first, with little happening for either side. But then, just as it seemed the game might drift away into nothingness, the US scored, nearly out of nothing. In the 59th, a straight ball up the gut from McCarty found the feet of Feilhaber outside the 18. He backheeled the ball deftly to Morris a yard to the right, and Morris returned it. Feilhaber took a touch then played Morris into space inside the box. Morris took a touch and finished below the diving keeper (just FYI: it was not Andre Blake; he’d been subbed at the half).

The cavalry of substitutions entered after that, clearly planned before the goal, with Bradley, Darlington Nagbe, and Brad Evans entering in quick succession. Soon, a good cross from the left found Pontius’s head and drew a save out of Blake, and it seemed the US might up the tempo and actually try to put the game to bed.

That didn’t happen, though I did feel like going to bed long before the final whistle.

US verdict

Well, I gave the last game a C+, and this was better, so B-? The US scored a goal, but it still doesn’t feel like things are clicking. The missing European pieces were definitely missed, and there were some good bits and pieces, like Feihaber and Lletget’s first half, and the goal itself was actually quite wonderful, but so far, the Bruce Arena show hasn’t hit anything like it’s stride.

Final thoughts

The US will be better in March. With the full squad available, the team will be better. With this camp’s performances to review, Arena will have a better idea about what he has.


That’s what we’re going to have to hope, because these two games gave us little to go on. If anything, it gave the Arena boo-birds and Klinsmann apologists ammunition. Outside the lovely moment of the goal, there was never a sense that the US was intentionally building toward anything much, and that has to change. While the US doesn’t need to suddenly transform into Germany or Barcelona to succeed, it does need to execute a plan, and it isn’t doing that yet.

That said, the pitch was a shambles, and Jamaica is a team full of real athletes that can disrupt good plans, and they were definitely up for it tonight.

Onward to the Hex.



  1. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Would Blake have saved the goal? A legitimate question for those who know goalkeeping better than I.
    The other dimension of the game for some PSP readers is that Cory Burke started for Jamaica and burned Graham Zusi for pace badly at least once. Burke is not slow. Neither is he Ayuk or Academy young man Justin LeMaster. Graham Zusi would be vulnerable to serious international level speed were he to ever play there.
    Just as the US’s European league players were absent, so too Jamaica’s Europeans. Romario Williams played USL last year, and I think the second keeper may have Also. It was neither sides A lineup.

    • Zusi did not look good defensively. I’m wondering if Zusi to RB was done to make him a more flexible bench player.

    • I think he would have saved that goal. He did it against Morris in the first half from the same angle with both CBs completely out of the picture. On the goal the keeper honestly did really poorly. Once Morris receives the ball, he really doesn’t have a lay off as an option or the far post either due to the both backs tracking back to cover. That leaves the near post as an option which the keeper doesn’t position himself to cover and Morris takes the opening.

      I’m hoping these two games was enough evidence that Zusi is terrible as a RB. Please. Bruce. Please.

  2. Good writeup. I hope the USMNT can get it together. In the tough spot of having to qualify but not having put together the team and talent to be competitive. Its a coaching nightmare. Really will have to roll the dice here and put together the top “winners” from the pool – and I also fully support continuing to expand the pool to find talent.

    That was good solid play to put in the goal. I saw a very similar goal from Barca within the same week or two. Would love to see some more creativity. Felt like too many “big bodies” up front and less agility.

    Good idea to build a midfield. And rest of the team. Good luck Arena. Hope you can pull this off.

  3. I didn’t see final stats but my feel was a significant edge to U.S. and much of it on the ground in the JAM half. That’s what we
    were looking for wasn’t it?

  4. Things I noticed Zusi is certainly no RB. Pontius put in a hell of an effort, but hasn’t particularly clicked with teammates yet. Blake looked weak and scared coming off his line on corners and crosses (this will be a problem for the Union).

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