KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Three thoughts concerning the U.S.’s somewhat sluggish 2-0 victory against Jamaica in a World Cup qualifier on Friday:
1. That was a nice late breakthrough. All week long U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann tried to create the sense that there were some stakes to this game, even though the U.S. already qualified for the World Cup last month. And so Klinsmann brought in his best team possible. He talked about this being the start of preparations for Brazil and a chance to create more competition at every position on the field. But until the U.S.’s two-goal outburst in the final minutes this game still felt like it didn't count for much, which might have been a reasonable human response from the U.S. starters but wouldn’t go over well with Klinsmann. The fact that the U.S. perked up after the insertion of second-half subs -- Graham Zusi, Edgar Castillo and Sacha Kljestan—will give the coaching staff some ammo to motivate the team for another (meaningless in the big picture) qualifier at Panama on Tuesday. It won’t necessarily get the U.S. anything, but clinching first place in the CONCACAF Hexagonal and finishing perfect at home are also nice achievements.
2. Several players had missed opportunities. The U.S. was missing Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson and Omar González, which provided a real chance for guys with something to prove, including Aron Jóhannsson, Mix Diskerud and Alejandro Bedoya. But none grabbed it with both hands. Jóhannsson had some promising movement and got a couple chances, but he seemed to lose his nerve in front of goal. Diskerud never got totally comfortable and showed why Bradley is indispensable. And Bedoya struggled for much of the night after winning the start ahead of Zusi. None of these guys should be written off, but this game will be viewed as a missed opportunity for them. As for Landon Donovan, he got yanked at halftime after a fairly anonymous first half. Was Klinsmann sending a message?
3. Kansas City is a great soccer town. Seattle became the gold standard for U.S. Soccer crowds with its huge support for the win over Panama in June, but Kansas City is right up there when it comes to passion and a pro-U.S. crowd. Before the game I was talking with Joe-Max Moore, who was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame on Friday afternoon with Peter Vermes. Moore, who played for New England in the early years of MLS, marveled not just at the amazing $200 million soccer stadium but also at the support that now exists for the game here. These fans didn’t disappoint, creating a thunderous atmosphere and continuing to make noise until the attacking floodgates opened late. That’s not something to ever take for granted.