That big win at Mexico sure doesn't feel all that big today.
The United States Men's National Team were on the wrong side of a historic result on Friday evening, losing to Jamaica for the first time in 19 contests. The 2-1 defeat could, in the long run, prove to be much more significant for US Soccer than was the victory at Estadio Azteca last month. It should be pointed out that no USMNT supporters should be panicking following one poor result. With that said, there are several lessons to be learned from Friday's game. It's now up to head coach Jurgen Klinsmann to make note of those lessons to ensure that such a defeat doesn't happen again during 2014 World Cup qualifying.
"The United States missed (the injured) Michael Bradley" was a popular thought voiced by many fans via Facebook and Twitter immediately following the match. While that statement is certainly true, I have to put this loss on the team's head coach. You don't have to be a tactical genius to realize that a starting eleven that featured Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones and Maurice Edu was going to struggle creating much of anything in the midfield. In the coach's defense, his midfielders did him zero favors against Jamaica after Clint Dempsey opened the scoring in the first minute of play. Still, Klinsmann has some serious thinking to do between now and this coming Tuesday when the US play hosts to Jamaica.
There will be plenty of time to discuss the roster Klinsmann called up for these two qualifiers following Tuesday's game. The team he has now is, simply put, the team he has. There's nothing that can be done about that. What Klinsmann can do next Tuesday, though, is insert Brek Shea and/or Jose Torres into his starting lineup. Even one such change could make all the difference.
Jamaica 2-1 United States: No blame
One idea I've seen floated out by some fans and analysts is that the duo of Herculez Gomez and Jozy Altidore didn't click up top for the US on Friday. I'm not sure how anybody could make that statement considering neither man was given much of anything with which to work during the match. Klinsmann's formation coupled with the flow of the game landed Gomez out of position throughout both halves, and Altidore was stranded on an island, so much so that he took a "Thierry Henry with New York Red Bulls" approach to the game, dropping way back multiple times. At one point, Altidore found himself causing a turnover on the outskirts of the US penalty area.
That's never a good sign for player or team.
Jamaica 2-1 United States: What fitness concerns?
One right move made by Klinsmann was starting Clint Dempsey, who hasn't yet played a league contest during the 2012-13 season due to his very public exit from Fulham to Tottenham Hotspur. Dempsey made no mistake when a rebound fell at his feet 35 seconds into the match, and he was the team's best overall player throughout the first half. As one would expect, Dempsey did slow down a bit as time went on, but his lack of production during the final hour of the contest could be blamed on his teammates producing next to nothing as much as on any lack of form or fitness.
Klinsmann undeniably took a risk starting Dempsey. How the new Spurs player responds could be either good or bad for a US team that may need Dempsey's services on Tuesday. Like it or not, that contest has now become a must-win game for the Americans.
Jamaica 2-1 United States: Conclusion
The US qualifying for the 2014 World Cup was never going to be a cakewalk. Friday's loss doesn't change this one important fact: The United States are still in the driver's seat when it comes to upcoming matches. They host Jamaica on Tuesday before traveling to Antigua & Barbuda on October 12 for a game that United States should win. The USMNT then host Guatemala in Kansas City on October 16 in what could be a "playoff game" for both sides.
There are times when a loss proves to be a positive thing for a team. See the '07 New York Giants against New England and '11 Giants against Green Bay for more on this. Friday night could be a humbling experience for both players and coach, a defeat that points the US in the right direction moving forward. It's now up to Klinsmann and the team's veterans to make sure that's exactly what happens.