If there has been any common thread in Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure as manager of the US Men’s National Team it has been his golden touch with substitutions. Friday night was no different as the USMNT struggled through a rough first 70 minutes. With the introduction of Graham Zusi, Edgar Castillo and Sasha Kljestan into the game everything changed.
At this point in qualification, there is little left to be gained as a group, but everything to be gained by the individuals sporting the crest. There was little to take away from the first half, other than some promising glimpses into the striker that Aron Johannsson could become. The team looked disconnected and even Landon Donovan’s touch looked missing. Even Tim Howard had his own momentary lapse as he attempted to punch a ball clear, but only managed to swing and miss. Luckily the ball landed at the feet of Brad Evans who cleared the area.
The last 20 minutes of Friday’s match turned into the attacking brand of soccer that many expect out of Klinsmann. The goal that would break the deadlock came from what seemed like a broken play. Zusi collected a loose ball when Altidore was brought down at the top of the 18, played Bedoya down the right wing, before receiving a deflected cross at the penalty spot and finishing with a perfectly placed first timed shot. It was only fitting that the game winning goal be scored by the Sporting Kansas City star in front of his hometown crowd.
The attacking play didn’t stop there. Zusi almost became the provider as he played an inch perfect cross to Kljestan in the 78th minute. The midfielder was left unmarked and hit a full volley on net that was only kept out by a great kick save by the Jamaican keeper. The second goal came from Castillo’s advanced positioning as he intercepted a Jamaican pass out of the back and played a squared pass along the ground to a wide open Jozy Altidore, who continued his scoring streak.
Just as the roles nearly reversed for Zusi, Castillo nearly had a goal of his own soon after. A give and go was chipped in to Castillo just outside the 6 yard box. Castillo’s attempted chip missed it’s mark, however a squared ball like before would have meant a brace for Altidore and a 3-0 USMNT victory. The missed opportunity to increase the lead would not matter in the end as the match ended 2-0.
Earlier on Friday a Costa Rica loss to Honduras meant that the top spot in the Hex was secured for the USMNT for the third straight qualification. Klinsmann will know that these results have very little impact on how he is judged come next summer, but it has to be noted that the German has brought success to the USMNT in every aspect. He’s won friendlies on European soil and in Azteca. He won the group in both the 3rd round and Hexagonal round of qualifying. He won the Gold Cup with mostly a second team. Here’s hoping that this continues in the games ahead and into Brazil!