By Official Florida FC
The United States men’s national team remains on top of the CONCACAF octagonal following Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Jamaica in Kingston.
Though the Florida connections to the match were in the Reggae Boyz starting XI — Miami FC midfielder Devon Williams went the full 90 while his teammate for club and country, Lamar Walker was substituted in the 68th minute — we’re going to focus on the American unexceptionalism on display.
Pretty result, pedestrian performance
The Americans (4-1-3) have 15 points through eight matches. But, once again an observer could wonder whether the Americans deserved the points they trudged off the field with.
Yes, the team is (1-1-2) away from home. Five points from four road qualifiers sounds like an impressive haul, especially considering the USMNT earned five points in eight road qualifiers during the failed 2018 World Cup qualifying cycle; however, Jamaica really should have won.
Jamaica equalized in the 22nd minute through a long-range missile from Michail Antonio. The goal was reminiscent of the golazo that eliminated the USMNT from consideration of the 2018 World Cup — an attacker was allowed to dribble at the American defense and given time to pick his shot.
If tracking back was non-existent on the goal, the second half was worse.Jamaica vaporized the USMNT midfield to the point that Gianluca Busio was anonymous for the first hour.
Somehow, Jamaica’s Bobby Reid missed a sitter from four yards away in the 53rd minute. As shocking as the miss was, just as inexplicable was the first touch of USMNT defender Antonee Robinson that allowed the ball to fall in Reid’s path.
Robinson’s first touch may have been suspect at times, but he and fullback DeAndre Yedlin did not allow space behind them. In the USMNT’s 1-0 win over Jamaica in the Gold Cup, the Reggae Boyz routinely exploited the space behind the fullbacks while attacking.
Offensively, the Americans didn’t create much, even after the introduction of Christian Pulisic in the 66th minute. The USMNT only put two shots on goal all evening long.
Tim Weah has been a difference maker for the USMNT every time he has stepped onto the field in World Cup qualifying. The 21-year-old missed the first three matches of the qualifying campaign through an unfortunately timed thigh injury. But, he has proven to be an impact player since getting his opportunity.
Weah’s 11th minute goal Tuesday was the third straight game he produced either a goal or an assist for the USMNT. His one-touch interplay with forward Ricardo Pepi is the type of connection that could take place for the next decade if both stay healthy.
What has thus far separated Weah from wide attackers like Gio Reyna, Brenden Aaronson, Paul Arriola and Pulisic is his knack for dribbling at defenses and attacking defenses before they can reorganize.
Weah forced Costa Rica into an own goal because he took his shot with his first touch. His assist on Pulisic’s opener against Mexico on Friday was due to direct running against a fullback in a one-on-one situation. Tuesday’s goal was taken from an acute angle, but that’s what it takes to beat the best goalkeeper in CONCACAF.
Is Steffen the No. 1
Zack Steffen didn’t have much to do Tuesday night. Statistically, he made one save, but he did concede a goal from 31 yards away.
Prior to the match, head coach Gregg Berhalter said it would be fair to infer that Steffen is atop the American depth chart. The Manchester City man did make a stellar stop to deny Mexico on Friday night; but, Antonio’s goal was the second time in the three World Cup Qualifiers that Steffen has started where questions have been asked about whether he could have done better for a goal the USMNT conceded.
That may not be much of an issue now. But, those questions have never been asked of Matt Turner in any of his 12 caps.
Turner has already turned in strong performances against Canada and Mexico this year on American soil. As the Americans head into the home stretch of World Cup qualifying next year, he deserves the opportunity to showcase those skills on the road against CONCACAF’s top two teams.