“After three games I don’t think it’s panic mode for anyone in the table,” US coach Gregg Berhalter said Wednesday. Turns out he was right. The Americans will travel to Panama on Sunday with three more points under their belt and the pressure relieved at least for now.
That’s all for tonight. Thanks as always for following along with us and be sure to check back later for a full match report.
FT: USA 2-0 Jamaica
And there’s the final whistle. The US have answered their back-to-back draws to open World Cup qualifying with consecutive wins, tonight’s decided by Ricardo Pepi’s second-half brace. Impressive stuff, particularly after the intermission, from this young American core down a pair of their most visible stars.
90 min+2: Zardes heads a shot toward the goal but it’s out for a goal kick. The US are minutes from going top of this octagonal group with a plus-five goal differential.
85 min: The US nearly get a third when Blake fails to initially corral a Zardes shot only to pull it off the line.
84 min: Jamaica will need to make a chance as Powell goes down with an injury. He will be replaced by Brown. Berhalter also uses the pause in play to make a switch: Kellyn Acosta enters for Adams.
80 min: We’re 35 minutes into this second half and Jamaica have yet to register a shot on goal or really anything resembling a threatening attack.
78 min: An explosive run by Weah, who nearly connects with Zardes for USA’s third goal. Instead it’s out for a goal kick.
76 min: Scary moment as Dest goes down with an apparent injury. He makes it to his feet and limps off the pitch. Shaq Moore comes on to replace him.
71 min: Jamaica make their third switch as East comes on for Reid.
67 min: The US make their first substitutions as Zardes enters for Pepi, who is given a standing ovation and being sung off the field by the Austin crowd. Well deserved! Also Weah for Aaronson. The two-goal lead is particularly crucial given the congested nature of the octagonal: Gregg Berhalter will need to monitor his roster carefully with three games in eight days.
61 min: Aaronson has a go from distance and it’s well over the crossbar for a goal kick. Two subs for Jamaica as Kemar Roofe and Junior Flemmings enter the match for Magee and Lowe.
58 min: Dest attempts a stepover and is taken down right on the edge of the area. Great set piece opportunity forthcoming … and Dest’s attempt on goal clears the wall but is just high of the target.
55 min: A good fact from stat whiz Paul Carr: Ricardo Pepi has becocme the 11th player to score in each of his first two USA apperances and the fifth to do it in the last 80 years. The others were Dom Dwyer, Paul Arriola, Eddie Johnson and Dante Washington.
52 min: Another marauding run down the right side by Musah into the area. He fires a shot on goal by it’s saved by Blake and out for a corner.
GOAL! USA 1-0 Jamaica (Pepi, 49 min)
Musah romps 20 yards down the center of the pitch before slipping a pass rightward to an overlapping Dest, whose cross into the area is headed inside the far post by the Ricardo Pepi! That’s an 18-year-old to a 20-year-old to an 18-year-old for those of you keeping score at home.
HT: USA 0-0 Jamaica
By all accounts Jamaica should be down to nine men after a pair of fouls that each warranted a red. But the 31-year-old referee from Grenada balked in both instances. Instead, the US and Jamaica head to the dressing rooms for half-time both even in numbers and on the scoreboard.
45 min+1: Dest tries to slalom through a gaggle of Jamaica defenders but is dispossessed. That should be the last foray of the half.
45 min: Jamaica win a corner. It’s sent to the center of the area where it finds Nicholson, who flicks it toward the near post with his head only to just miss the target. A real moment of danger for the United States right at the end of the first half. Two minutes of stoppage time from here.
41 min: The Bournemouth man Jamal Lowe finds himself in space in the area and fires a shot toward the far post but it’s turned away by Turner.
36 min: The free kick that follows is deflected out for a corner kick. And the subsequent US corner is easily cleared.
34 min: Aaronson is sprung free, runs onto a through ball and is clear on goal. And he’s taken down from behind by Damion Lowe right on the edge of the area, prompting an eruption from the crowd. A very similar call to the one 20 seconds into the match. Will the referee Reon Radix show red this time? And it’s a yellow card again. Wow.
30 min: McKennie makes a penetrating run right through the area, collects a pass and puts a shot on goal but it’s well saved by Blake, the Jamaica captain. Aaronson takes the ensuing corner but his offering toward the back post is cleared immediately.
28 min: A Jamaica player is down and being tended to by medical staff and the US players have mostly decamped to the touchline for an impromptu hydration break.
26 min: A gorgeous long ball is played from Williams to Nicholson, but Zimmerman busts it up before he can make a run on goal.
25 min: Another long spell of possession for the US in the Jamaica half, but a sudden inability to properly cross or otherwise deliver that final ball has kept them from generating opportunities to score.
21 min: McKennie, making his 26th appearance for country tonight, has a go from distance but his speculative chance bounces wide right of the goal.
18 min: Dest is flagged for offside. Awfully close. Moments later the US are on the attack again. McKennie draws a foul and the Americans will have another free kick from about 20 yards. The US have settled into a 4-3-3 shape with Dest, McKennie and Adams in the midfield and Aaronson, Pepi and Arriola up top.
13 min: Nicholson dribbles down to the goal line and turns a tightly angled shot on target, but it’s easily corralled by Turner.
9 min: The US are winning the possession battle early on but haven’t generated much in the way of concrete chances yet.
And we’d be remiss to not share the news that, due south of Austin, Venezuela are beating Brazil. Bear in mind, the Seleção have never lost in 17 previous World Cup qualifiers against Venezuela (16 wins and one draw).
5 min: The Americans win a free kick just outside the Jamaica area. Aaronson curls it in toward the back post but it’s quickly cleared from danger.
1 min: And we’re off! The United States are in white shirts and blue shorts attacking from right to left, while Jamaica are in gold shirts and black shorts going the other way. And only 20 seconds in, Paul Arreola gets in behind and is torn down from behind by Kemar Lawrence. A clear goal-scoring opportunity and after a brief consultation it’s only a yellow card. Seems to be an obvious red to me, but there’s opportunity to appeal as there’s no VAR implemented for World Cup qualifying in this particular confederation. Peak Concacaf!
Reon Radix of Grenada is the referee for tonight’s match. While he has never served as a center official for a USMNT match, he was the fourth official for last month’s 1-1 draw against Canada and the 1-0 win over Honduras in the Concacaf Nations League semi-final back in June.
Tyler Adams, Miles Robinson, Matt Turner and Ricardo Pepi are the four starters that carry over from the Honduras match. Brenden Aaronson, who expects to play a central role with Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna sidelined, and Antonee Robinson also came off the bench and each scored a goal in the 4-1 win.
Some more US Soccer notes:
• Tonight’s USMNT lineup averages a scant 15 caps. Eight players are age 24 and younger: Robinson and Miles Robinson (24); Weston McKennie (23), Adams (22); Aaronson and Sergiño Dest (20); Yunus Musah and Ricardo Pepi (18).
• With the selections of Musah and Pepi, USA coach Gregg Berhalter will start two 18-year-olds in a World Cup qualifier for the first time in the team’s history.
• Adams, Miles Robinson and Turner are the only three players to feature throughout every minute of World Cup qualifying so far.
• Both Adams and McKennie come into tonight’s match on caution watch. If either player is shown a yellow card against Jamaica, they will be suspended for the USA’s next qualifying match at Panama on Sunday.
• After missing out on the September qualifiers through injury, Paul Arriola makes his first USMNT appearance since captaining the team in the Gold Cup final on 1 August in Las Vegas.
Here’s a look at today’s teams. With an average age of 23 years, 111 days, tonight’s starting lineup for the Americans is the second youngest fielded by the USMNT in World Cup qualifying history after the group that began last month’s 4-1 win over at Honduras.
XI: Turner, Dest, M Robinson, Zimmerman, A Robinson, Adams, McKennie, Musah, Arriola, Pepi, Aaronson
Subs: Steffen, Zardes, Roldan, De La Torre, Richards, Lletget, McKenzie, Hoppe, Weah, Bello, Moore, Acosta
XI: Blake, Powell, Lowe, Mariappa, Lawrence, Williams, Watson, Reid, Magee, Lowe, Nicholson
Subs: Topey, Brown, Roofe, Fisher, Barnes, East, Flemmings, Gray, White
Hello and welcome to tonight’s World Cup qualifier between the United States and Jamaica. It’s early days in the Concacaf’s first-ever octagonal, where eight nations will play 14 matches in seven months – seven home and seven away – to determine three automatic qualifiers for next year’s World Cup in Qatar. But already it feels like a big one for the United States after getting only five points from their first three outings and dropping costly points at home against Canada.
The Americans are also missing star players Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna due to injury, though they welcome back Weston McKennie following his disciplinary flap over a violation of Covid-19 protocols. They will be desperate to get the full three points against a short-handed Jamaica side that enters in last place with only one point in three matches so far.
Kickoff is a touch under 45 minutes from now. We’ll be back with the team sheets directly.
Bryan will be here shortly. In the meantime here’s Tom Bogert’s profile of emerging USA star Brenden Aaronson, who is expected to play a feature during the October international break with stars Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna out of action.