Possession spurs USA in must-win

Facing a near must-win in World Cup Qualifying, the United States topped Jamaica 1-0 in Columbus, where the Americans have never lost (6-0-3).

The United States, Guatemala and Jamaica are now tied atop Group A with seven points each. According to ESPN’s Soccer Power Index, the United States has the best chances of advancing at 86.2 percent.

That’s because the Americans have the easiest remaining road game of the trio (at Antigua & Barbuda), and they face Guatemala at home, where USA will be about a 70 percent favorite to win.

Though this game was scoreless at halftime, the United States dominated play with 80 percent of the possession and more than six times as many passes completed as Jamaica (338 to 52) in the first half.

Group A Standings

The game changed after Herculez Gomez scored in the 55th minute, as evidenced by USA’s possession dropping to 57 percent in the second half. Jamaica’s passing was also much better after intermission, jumping from 59 percent in the opening 45 minutes to 76 percent in the second half.

Part of the reason for Jamaica’s resurgence may have been the American substitutes. Surprise starters Graham Zusi and Jose Torres were both replaced in the final half hour, and those two were among the top four Americans in pass completion percentage. Danny Williams led all starters by completing 95.7 percent of his passes.

Right back Steve Cherundolo added much-needed width to the United States attack. He was active at both ends of the field, leading all players with five interceptions, six crosses and 101 touches.

As an indication of the United States domination, eight different Americans had more touches than Jason Morrison, who was the top Jamaican with 58 touches.

The United States’ next qualifier is October 12 at Antigua and Barbuda, where USA will be a 57 percent favorite to win, with a 24 percent chance of drawing.