Photo by ISIphotos.com
KINGSTON, Jamaica — Just three weeks after making history by winning in Mexico for the first time, the U.S. team made history again, only it was the kind they definitely didn't want to make.
Jurgen Klinsmann had to know his U.S. team would be in for a tough night without a handful of key veterans, but he also has to know that his teams chances of leaving Jamaica with a point or three were going to hinge on his roster and lineup selections.
The squad Klinsmann came up with delivered an uninspired, forgettable and worrisome performance in dropping a 2-1 loss to Jamaica. A team that had never once beaten the United States in 18 previous meetings bossed the underwhelming Americans for much of the night.
"We created chances, but in between those moments we made things far too complicated, " Klinsmann said. "Then you give away free kicks in areas where we knew that the Jamaican team has their strength in set pieces, we knew that, so it was not a good idea.
"After that equalizer they rose to the occasion. They had a tremendous amount of energy and they gave everything they had and at the end of the day they deserve that win."They were hungrier and they were more determined."
The U.S. performance was a far cry from the effort put on by many of the same players that beat Mexico last month. The thing about that historic win was that, as much as finally winning in Mexico matters, the result overshadowed what wasn't really a beautiful game for the Americans.
What the U.S. had on that night in Mexico, but lacked on Friday against Jamaica, was the defensive discipline, organization and attitude necessary to win without the likes of Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, Steve Cherundolo and with Clint Dempsey not being 100 percent.
"We got a good result in Mexico with some inexperienced guys," Howard said. "There was no reason to think we couldn't do that again tonight
"Any time you miss your big players, Michael (Bradley) course is a key cog for us and Landon makes things happen for us, but I don't think those are excuses," Howard said. "I just think we lacked concentration in some areas and we weren't nearly as resilient as we should have been."
"The guys that stepped on the field, they're in charge of it," Klinsmann said. "They are responsible for giving everything they have, they are responsible for the outcome.
"I think we have a good group here together that is able to beat Jamaica," Klinsmann said. "We were just doing too many mistakes after we were leading."
Klinsmann can certainly carry some blame for a lackluster showing because he ultimately made the decision to start three defensive midfielders, which led to a serious disconnect between the forwards and the rest of the team.
Both Herculez Gomez and Jozy Altidore were rendered invisible by a lack of service, something Gomez wasn't shy about pointing out.
"We need to definitely come together and sort this out," Gomez said of the floundering U.S. attack. "Guys like me and Jozy, and even Terrence (Boyd), we depend heavily on creativity and service so we definitely need to figure out a way to get more of that.
"I think Clint did as much as he could for us today," Gomez said. "He always gives his all. He's a great player, but we need more of that. We need more players like that."
There wasn't much Klinsmann could do about Donovan being injured, or about Dempsey's prolonged transfer saga keeping him sidelined and costing him match sharpness.
What Klinsmann could control was the cultivation of options, like Sacha Kljestan, who remains an afterthought in Klinsmann's set-up despite being the only American consistently playing in an attacking midfield role in Europe. There are other attacking options in midfield that Klinsmann has yet to see, such as Alejandro Bedoya.
Instead of developing some attacking depth, we have seen Jose Torres given chances to be an attacking option despite seeing repeatedly that he isn't suited for the role. And we have been treated to repeated helpings of Danny Williams as quite possible the least offensive wide midfielder in U.S. history (Here's a secret. Williams isn't a winger).
It is no secret that the United States still doesn't have great depth, and that's not something he can be entirely blamed for. But when bypasses clear-cut options to build depth in areas that sorely need it, and he continues to trot out ultra-defensive lineups, Klinsmann has to shoulder some of the blame.
Klinsmann and the U.S. won't have long to dwell on Fridays disappointment. They head into Tuesday's qualifier against Jamaica in Columbus knowing anything short of a win could put their World Cup qualifying hopes in serious jeopardy.
"Wins like Italy and wins like Mexico don't mean anything If we can't apply them on this type of environment," Gomez said. "We're upset but we're not defeated. The great thing is we have another opportunity on Tuesday and everybody's champing at the bit."
The sense among the U.S. players on Friday was that they realized and acknowledged that they just didn't play well enough. They know they must do better to win on Tuesday.
Klinsmann also has to know he will need to do a better job of fielding a team capable of not just winning, but playing at a level that can show us all that the U.S. national team is making progress.