New England Soccer Today

U.S. Shows Improvement Against Jamaica

The United States Men’s National Team capped off their January camp with a dominating 1-0 win against Jamaica in Chattanooga, Tenn. This second game had a different feel to it than the previous one. Head coach Bruce Arena decided to change not only personnel but also go with an attacking formation. He switched to a 4-1-3-2 a more balanced formation focusing on offense, which allowed the US to score their first goal in the last 271 minutes of play.

The US controlled the ball far more than in their previous game. Jorge Villafana, Walker Zimmerman, Steve Birnbaum and Graham Zusi spent much of the first half passing the ball around the back four and taking calculated passes forward. This worked well because Jamaica didn’t have an answer to the passing. The US also upped pressure in the midfield and when dispossessed Sebastian Lletget, Pontius and Benny Feilhaber stepped up.

The attack from the US was much better and consistent in this match. They worked the ball down the side on the ground. Zusi played some early balls over the top, but the turf made them skip too fast and run long. Jordan Morris and Juan Agudelo matched together well up front. With two strikers they had the ability to turn and take on the defense. Jozy Altidore up top in the first game spent most of his time holding the ball up and waiting for backup.

Morris had an excellent goal for the US in the 59th minute. He received a pass around the top of the box and used Feilhaber for a 1-2 pass that left him on the right side of the goal. He passed it around the keeper and in, atoning for an earlier weak effort on a dangerous opportunity that was easily saved. Morris made several dangerous runs and had a few chances tonight. He was strong on the ball and had plenty of pace to beat the defense.

This was leaps and bounds ahead of their Serbia match but there’s still room for improvement. Zusi was a mixed bag tonight, his crosses had pace and he played the ball up the line to Pontius and Agudelo well. But he also got caught high on two occasions. Evans his replacement had more speed and was better defensively. The other thing the US needs to do take more chances in front of net. Feilhaber had a free kick about 25 yards out in front of the goal in the first half where elected to chip the ball to allow the US to make a play on it rather than attempt a shot. The US was better in the air tonight on most occasions but that’s shooting range. Feilhaber later took a shot from the same spot on a live ball and it went out for a corner kick. You’re not going to score if you don’t shoot.

There were three players who stood out in this match. Lletget was crossing well, and he created plenty of offense for the US. His speed on the left helped leave Morris open to receive passes. He needs to be better prepared to receive crosses but that’s going to come with reps with the team. Feilhaber had an excellent assist in the match, went up with the offense and did a good job distributing touches to both the inside and outside player. He looked like he belongs in the high center mid position. Morris was great tonight. This may be his first USMNT goal in a while, but he’s giving the US something up top that they don’t have without him, speed. He made runs in behind, took several chances on goal and worked hard for the 90 minutes without any loss of pace. He’s a healthy forward and that’s one less substitute that Bruce Arena would have to worry about in March.

Streeter’s Verdict: I give the US a grade of a B+ in this match. They dominated possession, allowed fewer chances and had more energy than the last match. But they’ve still got some work to do on offense if they want to alleviate the negative goal difference that has them in last place in World Cup qualifying. The next USA match is March 24th against Honduras.

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