THE DAY REPLAYED – USA pulled off a dramatic win in Jamaica to shoot to the top of the CONCACAF qualifying Hexagonal, where they are now tangled on seven points with both Costa Rica and Mexico (who have played a game extra). The Mexicans had to battle for their point in Panama, who are proving worthy of their spot just one point behind the leading trio, while Costa Rica barely edged out neighbours Honduras in a tetchy affair in San Jose.
Join FIFA.com for a round-up of all the Friday night action from the New World.
The big game
Jamaica 1-2 USA
Jurgen Klinsmann’s USA travelled to Kingston hoping for a better result than the 2-1 loss they suffered last time they played a qualifier at The Office. Jozy Altidore provided the game’s first goal, nodding home expertly on the half-hour mark. The strike may have settled Klinsmann’s nerves, but the German tactician was pulling his hair out two minutes from time when Jermaine Beckford, totally unmarked, drew Jamaica level with an easy header from a lofted free-kick. It’s the third time in two trips to Kingston that the US have conceded from set-pieces. “You simply can’t afford to concede goals like that on the road,” Klinsmann told FIFA.com after the defeat there last September. But he was saved from having to repeat himself this time around as fill-in defender Brad Evans scored from close-range during injury time to seal a slim win for the States.
In other action
Mexico began their contest in Panama on the attack, at least on paper. Andres Guardado, Javier Chicharito Hernandez and Gio dos Santos were all on from the start. The Panamanians, much improved from previous years, were not in a generous mood, however. Spurred by a passionate Estadio Rommel Fernandez and the defensive stewardship of captain Felipe Baloy, the Canaleros were well worth their 0-0 draw. In fact, the Mexicans were fortunate to escape with a share of the spoils as they came under sustained pressure in the second half. Panama, impressing many, remain undefeated at home in Brazil 2014 qualifying.
There was a Central American clasico in San Jose as Costa Rica hosted Honduras. The game was played at a ferocious pace, but lacked subtlety. The only goal of the contest, from Roy Miller in the 24th minute, summed up the affair best. Honduran keeper Noel Valladares fumbled an easy free-kick and the New York Red Bulls defender followed up, forcing a mishit effort over the line. While Costa Rica move up to a share of first, the Hondurans – struggling on the road – are adrift of the pack in fifth.
Player of the day – Jesus Corona (MEX)
Hero of Mexico’s golden Olympic campaign in London, the Cruz Azul goalkeeper is in sparkling form. He was key to Mexico’s nervy 1-0 win over Jamaica in Kingston earlier this week, and he repeated the heroics against Panama in hostile territory. Called upon to make a number of tricky saves, especially a low diving effort to deny Blas Perez early in the second half, Corona showed exactly why coach Jose Manuel Chepo de la Torre prefers him to long-time starter and France-based fan favourite Memo Ochoa.
Goal of the day – Jozy Altidore (USA)
Fresh off a man-of-the-match performance in the USA’s historic friendly win over Germany, the big American striker was in fine fettle again in Kingston. With 30 minutes gone, Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi ghosted past his marker on the right side and crossed dangerously into the area. Altidore – top-scorer this term for Dutch side AZ Alkmaar with 23 goals in 33 games – made the perfect run into the six-yard box, where he leaped highest to nod home his second goal in as many matches. Not bad for a player who’d gone nearly two full years without scoring from open play for the Stars and Stripes.
1 – USA’s 2-1 win over Jamaica in Kingston was a historic result, as they had never previously won a qualifier at the stadium known far and wide as The Office. The number is also relevant for the struggling islanders. Languishing in last place, the Reggae Boyz have scored only once in their five Hexagonal games. “We have what it takes to score,” coach Theodore Whitmore said before the game. “But goals are always the last thing to come.” Whatever goals do come for the Jamaicans in their remaining games will likely be too late, as they now lag way behind the leading pack with only two points.
What they said
“It was a very difficult game. We knew it was going to be this way before the game started and we got exactly what we expected. We’ve been working hard to change our approach so that we can get better results, but we’re still missing something.” Mexico veteran Carlos Salcido tries to soothe fans after a disappointing draw in Panama City.
CONCACAF final round Hexagonal, matchday 4
Panama 0-0 Mexico
Jamaica 1-2 USA
Costa Rica 1-0 Honduras