Jeremy Horton (@espn700jeremy) October 16, 2013 At about the same time, Costa Rica took a decisive 2-1 lead over Mexico that it would not relinquish. If Panama could hang on, it would get the honor to face New Zealand in a two-leg playoff with a spot in Brazil on the line. Zusi and Johannsson killed that dream past 90 minutes. Brad Davis found Zusithe hero Friday night for the U.S. against Jamaicafor an equalizer in the second minute of added time, and Johannsson followed suit with a strike off an assist from substitute Terrance Boyd. And thus, rumors of the U.S. trying to oust Mexico by throwing the game away were greatly exaggerated. As noted by Football Shirts on Twitter, El Tri owes the U.S. a debt of gratitude: Dear USA, thanks for keeping our World Cup dream alive – Mexico pic.twitter.com/ohPPNiOctd Football Shirts (@FootballShirts) October 16, 2013 Fox Soccer Trax thinks the late-scoring pair are already national heroes in Mexico: Zusi and Johannsson, meanwhile, become national heroes in Mexico. What a strange, strange ending to this hexagonal. FOX Soccer Trax (@FOXSoccerTrax) October 16, 2013 It was a remarkable finish to what’s been an action-packed CONCACAF hexagonal. The United States wins the table, Mexico sneaks into a last-ditch chance, and Panamajust minutes away from a historic berthwill instead be watching from home next summer. And some say soccer is boring. A Gabriel Torres, Panama: A- Torres has been an absolute spark for Panama the past two matches; some might remember that he was the assist man on the Tejada goal that evened things up against Mexico on Friday night. His goal set the tone for Panama, and although the Panamanians couldn’t finish the task, this MLS star looks to have a bright future both in club ball and internationally for quite some time. Graham Zusi, United States:B+ Kyle Rivas/Getty Images What can Zusi do for you?
If the result was ultimately respectable, courtesy of two late goals by Graham Zusi and Jozy Altidore, the performance was nevertheless a far cry from the United States larger body of work during qualifying in terms of both the creation of chances and entertainment. Other than a ball that US defender Brad Evans nearly bundled over his own line before clearing it early and a very late Theo Robinson look, Jamaica forged no real chances. The US, meanwhile, produced a mere handful of only somewhat promising looks, mostly emanating from full debutant Aron Johannsson, before a late offensive burst put the game away. No serious threats to breach Jamaicas goal materialized until Zusi found Alejandro Bedoya up the right in the 77th minute. His low cross was deflected back into Zusis path for the hometown hero to slip past goalkeeper Duwayne Kerr. Some four minutes later, a Jamaican clearance rolled right into the feet of the streaking substitute left back Edgar Castillo, who calmly picked out the wide-open Altidore in front of goal, who doubled the score. That was really all the good news for the Americans on the night though. Bereft of several regulars like wide player Fabian Johnson, central defender Omar Gonzalez and forward Eddie Johnson, not to mention orchestrators Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann had hoped that the drop-off to their replacements would be small. Hed been hammering home the importance of depth and competition for positions for his two years and change in charge, after all. RED, WHITE AND BLUE USA supporters steal the show in win over Jamaica in Kansas City. But Mix Diskerud wasnt able to replicate Bradleys distribution, nor could he establish much of a partnership with Jermaine Jones in central midfield. Ahead of them, Johannsson didnt mesh with a mostly underwhelming Altidore either. With little traffic flowing through Landon Donovan or Bedoya on the wings, the attack lacked the necessary sting to push through an athletic Jamaican side and forge the requisite chances.
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The Americans helped keep that scenario from happening though, pulling off a stunning rally that shook up CONCACAF, and saved their arch-rival from the unspeakable embarrassment of missing out on Brazil. Of far more importance to Jurgen Klinsmann and his players was the determination and heart the U.S. team showed in rallying late to win a match it looked destined to lose. No, it wasn’t a pretty performance, and for long stretches the Americans played badly. That doesn’t change the fact that, with the match on the line and defeat staring them in the face, a group of Americans fighting to make the U.S. World Cup team came together to pull off a comeback. It isn’t the first time the U.S. has won on the road in qualifying, but it is experiences like Tuesday’s when Klinsmann can see his players respond to adversity, that matter and will help mold the full U.S. World Cup team. We saw Brad Davis put his stamp on the match with a pair of assists. We saw Graham Zusi follow up his strong showing against Jamaica with a Mexico-saving header that likely earned him hero status south of the border. We also saw Aron Johannsson score the first of what should be many goals in a U.S. uniform. There is a reason that, by the time the Americans took the field in Panama City, the U.S. lineup was missing nine starters.