Clint Dempsey FIFA World Cup 2014

Set Piece Woes

1:24 AMAleks Vee


An early goal, an infamous official, those pesky vuvuzelas - it's like the 2010 World Cup in miniature form. Tottenham Hotspur's newest midfielder Clint Dempsey put the U.S. in the lead just 38 seconds into the match after two attempts from Herculez Gomez that were saved by Jamaica keeper Dwayne Miller. The latter failed to take the ball after Gomez's second shot, and Dempsey picked it up on the ricochet. The U.S. defense did a great job at restricting the home team's activities, forcing them to test the net from a distance. Jamaica's Rodolph Austin displayed his goal-scoring thirst early on with a free kick that went over the bar. His efforts payed off, as he netted the equalizer and his fourth goal for Jamaica. The U.S. wall jumped, and the ball went underneath, deflecting off of Kyle Beckerman's leg past a helpless Tim Howard. Austin is not the most accurate player when it comes to shots on goal, but he had a whole lot of fuel in him and was great at finding space to test Howard's net. Though the U.S. had an early momentum while Jamaica was far from being the most technically brilliant team, the guests cooled off a bit after conceding from the set piece. Nevertheless, only a great defensive combination and Miller's saves prevented Klinsmann's team from getting ahead.  

Clint Dempsey's goal.
To say that the game lost its initial flair in the second half would be an understatement. Austin had a shot at scoring from another set piece, but this time, the guest team's wall was solid, and the rebound was saved by Tim Howard. The Jamaicans eventually got their last hurrah, although it came much earlier than the end of regulation time. Jamaica captain Luton Shelton shared the spotlight with his teammate after his free kick delivery put his team in the lead over the U.S. By now the guest team's Achilles' heel was hard to miss. The oddly humble Rodriguez gave out the second yellow of the match to Costa Rica's Jevaughn Watson (club: Houston Dynamo) for a reckless challenge on Jermaine Jones. The third yellow was given to Jermaine Jones. The frustrated U.S. player got into a verbal dispute with several Jamaica players, including captain Shelton, and we all know what settles an argument best. It's fair to say that Jamaica spent most of the second half wasting time and rolling the ball around. The guest team did not spend their time wisely, either, giving away counters in the last ten minutes of the match. Klinsmann's substitutions were invisible on the pitch. No one was there to distribute the ball for the guests since Jamaica retained the better end of possession. 

The match was a crucial win for Jamaica, as the team now leads Group A with 7 points after 3 games. The historic win had fans pouring out onto the pitch after the final whistle, a celebration of a growing chance to make it to the biggest stage, football's greatest tournament. 

The U.S. will have the chance to get back at the team on home soil next Tuesday. 

As an added pièce de résistance, Marco Antonio "Count Dracula" Rodriguez's refereeing was pretty good. He was easy on the cautions today; perhaps he finally decided to step out of his comfort zone.

Why the U.S. Lost - An Afterthought

A problem that usually surfaces in clubs seems to have infected Klinsmann's team as well. It's "score now, concede later", and if what we've seen of its symptoms in clubs holds true for National Teams as well, it's not going away any time soon. Although it's difficult to pinpoint the source of the problem here, as the U.S. defense and keeper are a solid crew, one can speculate that the team would benefit from more EPL and La Liga-based players. While the MLS has its slew of talented goalscorers (Beckham, Keane and Wondolowski, to name a few), how many of them play for the NT? Landon Donovan's absence from the squad certainly took its toll, but so did the lack of players from abroad. Aside from Tim Howard, only 3 EPL players were on the pitch today - Maurice Edu, Geoff Cameron, and Clint Dempsey. Since Edu only recently transferred from Scottish Third Division's Rangers to Stoke, that leaves two EPL players. Only one player, Carlos Bocanegra, plays in Spain, and not for La Liga either. There's no question that the USMNT's best players come from the EPL and the Bundesliga. MLS players, if anything, have had a negative impact on today's game (see Kyle Beckerman incident, Brek Shea's idleness). Perhaps the irony of it all is that several of Jamaica's players are from the MLS. 

Players can have an outstanding level of physical fitness in two ways - by playing in an island nation, or by playing abroad for either one of the best leagues in the world. The latter is more advantageous in that the players would also have a significantly higher skill level. The bottom line is that teams that play every four days will always be above teams that play once a week, regardless of their skill and individual abilities. The U.S. can only hope to rely on homegrown talent with the improvement of its academy programs and league system.


2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil - Qualifiers
Friday, September 7, 2012, 8:00PM ET
Group A - Round 3
Jamaica vs. USA - 2:1 (1:1)
Referee: Marco Antonio Rodriguez (Mexico)
Arena: National Stadium (Kingston, Jamaica)
Goals
0:1 Clint Dempsey ('1) 
1:1 Rodolph Austin ('24) 
2:1 Luton Shelton ('62) 

Group A standings:
Jamaica: 2-1-0, 7 pts
USA: 1-1-1, 4 pts
Guatemala: 0-1-1, 1 pt
Antigua and Barbuda: 0-1-1, 1 pt

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