Omelettes are served at 'The Office'
RESPECTED football analyst Clyde Jureidini reviews the defeat of the USA by the Reggae Boyz and the prospect of advancing from Group A in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying series.
A new era in the chapter of the Reggae Boyz was written at 'The Office' on Friday, September 7 at 7:00 pm when the 'Master Chef' Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore, who previously proclaimed that he "cannot make omelets without eggs", whipped up some eggs and served a meal fit for Klinsmann's USA.
Captain Luton Shelton licked his lips as his top-class, 62nd-minute, 25-yard drifting free-kick kissed the inside of the upright on its way past the sprawling Tim Howard, to rub salt in the wounded team.
This after the irrepressible Man of the Match Rodolph Austin punched the clock in 'The Office' to claim his pay cheque with a stunning 30-yard grounder that took a wicked deflection off the right leg of offending midfielder Kyle Beckerman, peppering the dreadlocked player to evade the diving Howard, on 23 minutes to restore parity and calm nerves.
There was an early upset stomach after just 36 seconds on the clock by USA standout Clint Dempsey which, as expected, shocked the nation and left the Reggae Boyz bemused.
The team watched in a daze as 12 uninterrupted passes were made from the kick-off before central defender Adrian Mariappa was exposed as Hercules Gomez waltzed by him to shoot at goal.
Gomez's right-footed shot from seven yards was blocked by goalkeeper Dwayne Miller, his follow-up left-footer into the 'patriotic' chest of Nyron Nosworthy, who fell to his knees, then the second rebound fell invitingly to the boot of Dempsey, who stroked it home amongst three retreating defenders from 10 yards. It was the fastest ever goal scored by a USA team in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, bettering the 53-second strike, also from Dempsey, against Barbados.
The Jamaicans had worked adequately by midway the half to repair the initial setback, but still had more to achieve in the last 20 minutes to seize the initiative from a five-man midfield that had been allowed to walk about with consummate ease, stroking passes laterally and back before penetrating preferred attacking areas where they outnumbered our defenders to finish.
Immediately, the office doors were closed to all visitors
Austin marshalled his forces to close the spaces; hurried, hustled and wrested the ball away manfully from each targeted opponent as he pressed for everything. He was joined by a torrid Jason Morrison challenge on Clint Dempsey at centre-field on the half-hour, echoed by Je-Vaughn Watson's robust efforts against Maurice Edu and Kavin Bryan's bracing of Jermaine Jones clearly rattling USA's organisation which now isolated Gomez as Jozy Altidore's holding of limited left-side spaces had already rendered him impotent.
However, Michael Parkhurst ended a late right-side movement by crossing to Dempsey, whose sliding 14-yard shot was well handled by Miller diving low to his right.
Both teams lacked creative midfield leadership due largely to injuries, reducing the spectacle of the game at times to a battle of attrition, commitment and mobility.
Klinsmann's lack of exposure to this Caribbean region's style of combative play, coupled with the absence of the experienced Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley, reduced the injury-hit Zone A leaders to be marked for football death. At half-time the score was locked at 1-1.
The delayed start of the second half saw the Mexican referees group led by Mario Antonio Rodriques Moreno at centre field awaiting both teams as Jamaica promptly ran out, ready for battle ahead of the USA.
Out for blood, the hard-running Reggae Boyz went on the offensive with ball possession, attacking play mixed with shooting as the cautious USA laid back as the tide had now turned in their defensive areas.
Two minutes later, Bryan's speedy advance inside was halted by another Beckerman infringement some 24 yards from goal. Austin's kick struck a defender's face and fell to Morrison, who fired at goal as Howard parried for Jamaica's first corner.
A series of three corners soon resulted as the USA had many questions to answer as good deliveries from Austin and Palmer hit dangerous areas and threatened.
Against the run of play, Jones snapped a cross wide from 20 yards as Miller watched it pass his post some five yards away.
In minute 51, Jermaine Taylor intercepted on the left flank and quickly relayed a 25-yard pass down the flank as Shelton streaked behind a surprised defensive line for the first time, only to see a desperate lounge from Howard 19 yards from goal cleared out of the field.
In the process he hurt his foot as both players collided and required some medical attention.
With the USA now wilting, they made a few blunders as Beckerman again fouled Austin outside the area, only for Austin's attempted chip to prove ineffective. Jones miskicked at the half-line, then fouled Bryan instead, as Beckerman was relieved of his duties by Danny Williams, to give life to Jamaica.
Consulting with his captain, Austin allowed Shelton to guide this floater over the forward creeping wall and scored in minute 62 to lead the celebrations and take control of the top-of-the-table clash.
Coach Whitmore smelled victory. He summoned debutant Darren Mattocks to replace Bryan in going for the kill as the team's confidence soared, evoking the stadium into roars of approval, horns bellowing loudly as black, green and gold flags fluttered furiously in the hands of jubilant and rowdy supporters.
Even the ultra-conservative Nosworthy now broke out with an "air-pile" in front of the Grandstand to stimulate applause.
Under pressure, Klinsmann made two substitutions to completely remodel his lagging midfield, as Brek Shea and Terrence Boyd came in on both flanks. He had surrendered the centre field and tried to win the flanks.
Whitmore responded by asking the speedy Mattocks to back-track on the right to close the added space as Palmer got into each stride of Shea to nullify him. Joel Senior also came in for Shelton on the left.
Dwayne Miller, backed up by stouthearted, committed defending, showed his maturity with three strong punches away from goal in the latter stages as direct long passes and crosses came into the clustered areas.
Mattocks and Senior won almost every ball, started possession sequences and made telling passes forward. Mattocks added some style, speed and flair to the proceedings, while Senior's contribution was retaining possession and running the clock, as Whitmore's tactics to manage the last 20 minutes of the game were spot on.
He closed with a final substitution of Ryan Johnson by returning Columbus Crew player Omar Cummings before the return game at his home stadium next Tuesday in Ohio.
Mexican waves, horns, shouts, cheers, joy and mixed feelings of disbelief engulfed the Stadium as the final whistle sounded on this most historic occasion. Fans can be excused as in the excitement, they flowed onto the field as the players came across to acknowledge their '12th man's' support.
But this will not be sanctioned by FIFA or advised by the JFF, who could be questioned for the lack of security and event management.
After all, we have to keep the office open for our business and pleasure.
With the first leg completed successfully, we must now win the second half by not losing on Tuesday, thus creating another positive result as we take another step forward on a mission.
More Omelettes please, Jamaican style!