SEAN WILLIAMS In Columbus, Ohio, for the WORLD CUP QUALIFIER WORLD CUP QUALIFIER Jamaica Vs USA
COLUMBUS, Ohio — On a cool Ohio night and in a hotly contested game of great importance, Jamaica's Reggae Boyz put in a gutsy display that saw them lose by the thinnest of margins, going down 0-1 to a dominant USA in their return-round CONCACAF World Cup qualifier at the Columbus Crew Stadium here last night.
Herculez Gomez got the all-important goal in the 55th minute.
With Guatemala clipping Antigua and Barbuda 1-0 in St John's yesterday, the Central Americans, Jamaica and the USA are all locked on seven points each atop Group A.
Antigua and Barbuda are at the bottom with one point.
Only the top-two finishers in the group will advance to the CONCACAF Finals, from which three teams will automatically advance to Brazil 2014 World Cup. The fourth-place team will engage the winners from Oceana for the other spot.
But in last night's match here, in front of 23,884 partisan supporters, the Americans were in full control as they brought their A game to deny any hopes of Jamaica handing them another defeat after Friday night's historic 2-1 win in Kingston.
Taking no chances, USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann made five changes to his starting line-up from that which answered the referee's whistle in Kingston, bringing in captain Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Danny Williams, Jose Torres, and Graham Zusi.
Jamaica were more modest, swopping only Omar Cummings for Kavin Bryan.
The hosts started the game very business-like and used the width of the field to their advantage and delivered their test to the Jamaican defence in the sixth minute. After a series of passes, Graham Zusi finished off the move with a right-footed blast on the edge of the 18-yard box, which skimmed the crossbar on the way over.
From early indications, the game looked set to unfold into a slug fest, and so it was for the first 15 minutes or so. The battles in midfield were the most exuberant with Jamaica's Rodolph Austin, Jason Morrison and Je-Vaughn Watson exchanging blows with their rivals.
Nonetheless, the Americans looked more clinical when they got their offensive train rolling and came dreadfully close to picking the lock twice in quick succession.
In the 20th minute, a dangerous looking Gomez got himself in a good shooting position, and did just that. But it was a deflection off a backtracking Adrian Mariappa that created the real danger that sent goalkeeper Dwayne Miller flying.
A minute later, Zusi threatened down the right, but Miller soared once again to steer the ball behind for a corner.
And the Americans, with plundering on their minds, came forward in their attacking frenzy once again, with the omnipresent Zusi well placed to add to Miller's workload on a busy evening for the Jamaican goalkeeper, but this time the final shot flew marginally high.
In the next threatening American move, Danny Williams got into goal-rush fever with a 25-yard scorcher that crashed onto the woodwork.
Miller, tested from every angle and faced every shot from the football handbook, hardly had time to breathe when he was called into action again. In the 39th minute, he was poetic when he pulled off an elaborate save from a header ploughed into the ground by Gomez.
With the unrelenting US bombardment and the Jamaicans defending stoutly against a giant out for revenge, relief finally came when Honduran referee Jose Pineda called a truce with his half-time whistle.
After presenting himself as bad news for the Jamaicans all of the first half, Gomez finally got his reward when he beat Miller with a 25-yard free kick after the visitors, in defensive mode, conceded a free kick from a foul.
For the first time in the match, Jamaica looked purposeful going forward after conceding the goal. Their passing game suddenly started to take shape and they were successful in masterminding their way into the Americans' 'no-fly' zone.
But the most promising move for the Boyz in that period of enterprise came in the 70th minute when defender Nyron Nosworthy galloped forward, claiming acres of space on the trail before delightfully laying off for Omar Cummings, whose chip to Ryan Johnson looked good, but the latter was bundled over in the box.