USMNT beats Jamaica in friendly for first win of Second Bruce Arena Era

Jordan Morris, Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber
Morris ended the USMNT goal drought. (USA TODAY Sports)

It wasn’t a victory for the ages exactly, but the United States men’s national team notched its first win of 2017 with a 1-0 result against Jamaica on Friday, closing out January camp on a high note thanks to Jordan Morris’s second-half goal.

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After the Americans recorded a flat 0-0 draw with an anonymous Serbia side on Sunday in Bruce Arena’s first game back in charge in a decade, the win might be helpful next month. That is, if it boosts morale for the resumption of World Cup qualifying against Honduras on March 24 and Panama on March 28 – when the U.S. will need results following losses in their two opening games of the final round of qualifying – the exercise will have been useful.

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Short of that, these games will have been largely irrelevant. Significant only insofar as they gave the players some semi-competitive minutes to shake loose the offseason rust in their first action since the fall, handed opportunities to same fresh or marginalized faces, and allowed Arena to get a look at his new charges up close.

Because Jamaica, like Serbia, was a fairly feckless team. The American performance, on the other hand, was improved from the first game to the second as an almost entirely new lineup kept positive possession, combined more smoothly and exploited the flanks to provide lots of service to the striker pairing of Morris and Juan Agudelo – even if the bulk of those balls were lacking.

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Seven minutes in, Dax McCarty overcame his minimalist stature and won a header on a Benny Feilhaber corner, but nodded just over.

Early on, Feilhaber, who was long exiled from the national team under Klinsmann, demonstrated a bit of flair. That only served to further inflame the fan base that had been pining for his return for the last few years.

In the only bit of action by either American goalkeeper, Luis Robles, on first-half duty before David Bingham handled the second, reacted well on a sharp cross on Jamaica’s lone breakaway of the game.

A few minutes later, Agudelo knocked down a long ball for Morris, who ran away from the defenders but had his finish parried by Andre Blake, Major League Soccer’s 2016 Goalkeeper of the Year for the Philadelphia Union. On the ensuing corner, McCarty set up Sebastian Lletget for a curler that just missed the far post.

In the second half, the Americans still were slow to craft genuine chances. For a while, only Graham Zusi’s shross – half shot, half cross – came close, zinging by Ryan Thompson’s goal. But in the 59th minute, Feilhaber received the ball high up the field from McCarty. The Brazilian-born playmaker pinged it back and forth with Morris until the latter was one-one with Thompson and beat him to his near post. It was a nice goal, but also one that was born of shaky defending.

The remainder of the game, much like the almost three hours of national team soccer that preceded it in 2017, was uneventful. A slew of substitutions fractured what little rhythm there was by that point.

The win was pleasing in that it was the Americans’ first in five games. But it won’t do much good unless it instills some confidence for the end of next month.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.

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