HERCULEZ SAVES THE DAY FOR THE USA
On a night when the U.S national team needed three points, it marched into an electric Columbus Crew Stadium on September 11 and walked away with an intense 1-0 win over Jamaica.
Just four days ago, the U.S team put in a terrible performance in a 2-1 loss to Jamaica on Kingston. Their midfield was a mess and the team generally looked void of ideas on how to create chances.
To address this problem, Klinsmann changed the formation from a 4-3-3 to a 4-1-3-2. To make room, he dropped Maurice Edu and Kyle Beckerman from the starting lineups who were both ineffective in Friday's loss. He also removed Jozy Altidore to make room for another midfielder.
In their place, he started Danny Williams in his natural position of central defensive midfield. He also added Graham Zusi and Jose Torres to the midfield along with Jermaine Jones. In the backline, Steve Cherundolo returned after missing Friday's game with a quad injury. The team also welcomed back captain Carlos Bocanegra in central defense.
From the opening whistle, the US team dominated the game. They pressed forward both in the middle and on the flanks with aggressive play from fullbacks Fabian Johnson and Steve Cherundolo.
In the 6th minute, the U.S nearly sent the Columbus crowd into euphoria when Zusi, who enjoyed a strong performance, combined well with Cherundolo and was open inside the box. Zusi struck it well but it slammed off the cross bar and out for a goal kick.
The U.S team's unrelenting attack kept up and in the 12th minute, the team should have been rewarded with a penalty when Herculez Gomez was brought down in the box. The players appealed for a penalty but referee Jose Pineda whistled play on.
Two minutes later, Jermaine Jones hit a header just wide. In the 21st minute a deflected shot from Cherundolo was tipped off the bar by Jamaican keeper Dwayne Miller. Then again in the 30th minute, an inspired Danny Williams fired a laser from 30 meters that appeared to be going it but it the post instead.
At the end of the half, the U.S. had hit three posts and was denied a legitimate penalty but was forced to head to the locker room deadlocked in a scoreless draw.
"The team did really well, especially what you saw for the first 30 minutes was outstanding," said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. "The only thing that was missing was scoring goals. Posts unfortunately don't count. We said at halftime, 'We've got to keep pushing, we've got to force it, at moments you've got to force your luck'"
In the second half, the U.S finally broke the deadlock. In the 54th minute, the US as awarded a free kick from 28 yards out. Gomez elected to take it and he fired a shot that should have been saved by Jamaica's Dwayne Miller but it instead found the back.
Columbus Crew stadium shook in reaction to Gomez's goal and it was an emotional moment for the US team that has struggled to find goals in Klinsmann's 13 month tenure.
The goal took luck but after dominant play, the lead was deserved.
After the goal, the Americans became more conservative and the Jamaica began to apply pressure.
In the end the US team was able to absorb the pressure and walk away with three valuable points.
"We've all played in these types of games before," Cherundolo said. "You can't get frustrated. You have to be patient."
Three points was not the only thing that the U.S team acquired on Tuesday night. Klinsmann also learned a great deal about his player pool.
Graham Zusi enjoyed a stellar performance in midfield in his first performance for the US in a big game. Also Danny Williams was finally given the chance to play in his natural central defensive midfield position and he enjoyed the transition.
"I said I will play wherever the coach wants me to play but I had a couple of talks with the coaches and assistant coaches and I said I think I can help the team the most when I play in this position because I'm used to playing this position," Williams said. "I grew up there in the midfield, and I think the people who saw me today saw why I feel so comfortable in this situation."
"I think when a player doesn't feel comfortable in a position you can see it," the Hoffenheim midfielder added. "When I feel comfortable on the pitch, in my position, then the people can also see it and I can help the team."
For Klinsmann, he knows there is a lot of work to do but he is very happy that the team is in a strong position to qualify for the Hex next mont.
"We are back on track," Jurgen Klinsmann said. "We know it's not done yet. It was obviously very important after that frustrating loss Friday night in Kingston to come back and get back in pole position. We wasted points in Jamaica. It was really important that they get serious and down to business tonight, and they responded well."