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Dempsey, United States stunned by Jamaica in World Cup qualifier

KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Three thoughts on the United States' 2-1 loss against Jamaica in a World Cup qualifier on Friday:

The U.S.'s lack of width and possession were killers. The Americans were always going to have to deal with the injury-related absences of Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan, but their inability to possess the ball meant that some degree of width in the attack was necessary, and that width wasn't there. The U.S. lineup had four central midfielders, no true wingers and a Kingston trio of defensive-minded mids that included Maurice Edu, Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman. None are especially possession-minded, which raised questions over why we didn't see José Torres and an earlier appearance from Brek Shea. (Some of this loss, as a result, has to go on coach Jurgen Klinsmann.) A bit more defensive organization also might have prevented the lunging tackles by Beckerman and Edu that set up Jamaica's scoring free kicks. But give credit to speedy Jamaica, which rebounded from a first-minute Clint Dempsey goal to get three crucial points.

Dempsey is always money at some point. For a guy who hadn't played a game in nearly three months, Dempsey was ready from the kickoff in a game that few observers (including me) expected he would start. Some good early work after the opening whistle put the ball on the foot of Hérculez Gómez, who was active in the first half, and Dempsey slotted a rebound of Gómez's shot into the net after just 35 seconds -- the fastest goal in U.S. World Cup qualifying history. But the U.S. provided few dangerous scoring chances after that as the hosts gained confidence and momentum. Keep in mind, this was the first time Jamaica has ever beaten the U.S. in 19 games going back to 1988. For a Reggae Boyz team that wants to reach the World Cup for the first time since '98, it was a red-letter day.

The U.S. really needs a win on Tuesday. Losing to Jamaica puts the U.S. in a situation that isn't exactly must-win on Tuesday against the Jamaicans in Columbus, Ohio, but it won't be far from that. If Guatemala sweeps Antigua and Barbuda this week, a U.S. win on Tuesday would put the U.S., Jamaica and Guatemala all on seven points with two games remaining in the group. Only the top two teams advance to the final round of World Cup qualifying next year. The U.S. has the scheduling advantage in the two final games next month -- a home date against Guatemala and a road game at Antigua -- but you don't want to leave it too close in qualifying when one bad call or bad bounce can send you out of the World Cup. Friday's loss in Jamaica makes will make things uncomfortable for Klinsmann's Americans.

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