The US men’s national team secured manager Bruce Arena’s first victory back in charge of the Stars and Stripes on Friday night in a 1-0 victory over Jamaica. Seattle Sounders striker Jordan Morris scored the match-winner in the 59th minute, the second international goal of his young career.
After a 0-0 stalemate against Serbia last weekend, Arena will be pleased with the performances of several players in the line-up. The first half began slowly, with chilly temperatures and the turf of Finley Stadium in Tennessee playing a major factor.
The US dominated possession (70%-30%) and enjoyed accurate passing in the midfield. New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles got the start for the US and played well overall. Not tested often throughout, Robles was almost caught on a quick counter-attack by the Reggae Boyz.
The second half saw the US press forward in the attack in a more efficient manner, and they were rewarded for their efforts with a wonderful sequence that lead to Morris’ strike.
An excellent pass from Dax McCarty for Benny Feilhaber just outside the penalty area sprung the US into action. Feilhaber turned, quickly headed towards goal and worked a sensational passing combination with Morris. The 2016 MLS Rookie of the Year created enough space to move to his right and put the ball just under the reach of Jamaica goalkeeper Ryan Thompson.
The USA now sets its sights on resuming their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, hosting Honduras on March 24th in San Jose (10:30 PM EST – FS1/Univision).
Defense makes a statement
Arena will be pleased with much of his defensive back-line, with solid outings for most of the roster. FC Dallas center-back Walker Zimmerman enjoyed a promising evening, displaying great positioning and a quality touch on the ball.
The full-backs were a positive as well, with both Jorge Villafana and Graham Zusi keeping the match in front of them and joining higher up the field when needed.
All three players have given Bruce Arena much to think about when constructing his qualifying roster next month.
The USMNT earning seven corner-kicks on the evening was a good demonstration of their control, but it was what they were able to do with the opportunities that were the most impressive.
Two fabulous set-piece plays came close to resulting in goals early on. Dax McCarty did well to create space for a looping header, and then set up a curling effort for LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget that just missed opening the scoring.
The ability to utilize set-piece situations and find goals from corner-kicks will be an essential aspect of the US attack.
An important goal
At the start of the second half, the Yanks had played 135 minutes under Arena without a goal. Morris’ tally won the match but also eased the pressure heading towards March 24th.
Two consecutive games not finding the back of the net could have affected both confidence and form moving ahead.
But now with a win under their belt, Bruce Arena and the USMNT have their sights firmly set on San Jose next month. The march towards Russia next summer returns at Avaya Stadium in California against Los Catrachos.