Jurgen Klismann vowed the United States men’s national soccer team would build its way through the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup and peak at the right time. Some Team USA believers are feeling downright betrayed right about now.
The U.S. fell to Jamaica 2-1 on Wednesday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga., in the Gold Cup semifinal. On its own, Team USA’s loss represents one of those days when things just didn’t go its way (and the reverse is true for Jamaica). If the teams played 10 times, the U.S. would win most of those outings. However, the ramifications of the actual result are historic.
Jamaica is the lowest-ranked team to win a competitive road game against the United States: http://t.co/cv2C56w5b0—
ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 23, 2015
Firstly, kudos go to Jamaica for making history. The Reggae Boyz’s win was no mere fluke. They absorbed the United States’ pressure and made the most of their opportunities, as all Davids are wont to do in the faces of the Goliaths of the soccer world. Daren Mattocks’ and Giles Barnes’ goals are nothing short of shots heard round the soccer world.
Gold Cup 2015 (@GoldCup) July 23, 2015
Gold Cup 2015 (@GoldCup) July 23, 2015
Now we turn our gaze toward Team USA. Criticism and scrutiny accompany any defeat, but this once-in-a-generation upset must produce greater fallout and more questions about head coach Klinsmann’s methods and the direction the team is taking under his leadership than other results. Such is the nature of the sport.
The Gold Cup is the event that matters most for Team USA in 2015, and it only will end in failure. The U.S. was expected to at least reach the final for a matchup against fellow regional heavyweight Mexico. Failure. A one-game playoff for CONCACAF’s spot in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup now looms for the United States.
Klinsmann gambled throughout the tournament by using almost every player at his disposal. Klinsmann said his steady rotation would allow his players to remain fresh throughout the three-week, six-game tournament, but his constant changes robbed his team of consistency, rhythm and perhaps harmony.
Team USA’s superior level of talent helped its group and brush past an exhausted and depleted Cuba, but it wasn’t enough to have the same effect against a determined and sharp Jamaica. The U.S. never hit fifth gear against the Reggae Boyz, who managed to punish the defensive mistakes of their gracious hosts twice within a span of five minutes in the first half. Team USA’s substitutes looked more like gambles rather than dependable, game-changing options.
The United States was fit but no more-so than a Jamaica team that has spent the summer together — first at the 2015 COMNEBOL Copa America and now at the Gold Cup. The U.S. was tactically ordinary, and its approach didn’t catch the well-drilled Reggae Boyz off guard.
Team USA’s main deficiencies were in the technical and mental aspects of the game. The Americans created a number of scoring chances against Jamaica but missed most of them. Defensive miscues led to conceded goals.
Gyasi Zardes, 23, and Aron Johannsson, 24, will rue the sitters they failed to convert into goals for months, maybe years. Neither center backs John Brooks and Ventura Alvarado, both 22, emerged with any more credit than they had entering the tournament. Both are unconvincing at the highest level.
International soccer is all about the here and now. Klinsmann’s decision to use the post-World Cup exhibition games and the Gold Cup as platforms for his young players to build their national-team careers was a bad call. Klinsmann’s contract runs through the 2018 FIFA World Cup gives him enough security to allow some players to learn on the job.
Jamaica laid bare the potential pitfalls of doing so in front of 71,000-plus and millions more watching at home.
Thumbnail photo via Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports Images