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October 11, 2013
US blanks Jamaica 2-0 in WCQ

Graham Zusi opened the US scoring against Jamaica on Friday.
Graham Zusi opened the US scoring against Jamaica on Friday.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
KANSAS CITY, Kansas -- Even when the United States doesn't play at full strength or up to its potential, the Americans still can be a successful side.

Take, for example, what transpired at Sporting Park on Friday night.

Second-half substitute Graham Zusi and Jozy Altidore scored four minutes apart late in the game to lift the Americans to a 2-0 triumph over Jamaica in a World Cup qualifying match.

The win clinched the CONCACAF hexagonal crown for the Americans (6-2-1, 19 points), who already had booked a berth in Brazil next year. for the third consecutive time. The Reggze Boyz (0-5-4, four) saw their slim hopes of gaining a playoff berth go down the drain as they were eliminated from contention for fourth place.

The Americans also extended their home qualifying scoreless streak to 535 minutes. The last time an opponent scored on the USA in WCQ was by Guatemala during the semifinal round last year.

Zusi, who plays for Sporting Kansas City and who lives only minutes from Sporting Park here, broke a scoreless deadlock in the 77th minute. After Jamaica failed to clear the penalty area, Alejandro Bedoya fed Zusi, who fired home a 15-yard shot past goalkeeper Duwayne Kerr into the far left corner. He had replaced Landon Donovan at halftime.

Altidore scored in his sixth consecutive start, tapping in an Edgar Castillo feed in the 81st minute for the insurance goal. Atidore's 21st international goal lifted the Sunderland player into a sixth-place tie with Bruce Murray on the USA career scoring list.

Needing wins in their final two matches to remain alive for a fourth-place playoff spot, the Jamaicans started an attack-minded lineup with three players up top from Major League Soccer -- Ryan Johnson (Portland Timbers), Deshorn Brown (Colorado Rapids) and Darren Mattocks (Vancouver Whitecaps).

That move almost paid off in the seventh minute as an overlapping defender Demar Phillips sent a right-wing cross into the penalty area that USA defender Brad Evans managed to clear off the goal line.

Playing without two of their best players -- the injured Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey -- the Americans were sluggish and sloppy in the opening 45 minutes.

In fact, the hosts had trouble moving the ball forward until left back DaMarcus Beasley sparked the USA by stripping Brown of the ball on the left side, racing into the box and firing a shot that was deflected by a defender for a corner kick. On the ensuing dead ball situation, forward Aron Johannsson, making his first international start, fired a 10-yard attempt wide left of its intended target.

Johannson had another opportunity in the 29th minute, but his volley off a left-wing cross within the box went well wide right of the net.

Jamaica had a chance to take the lead in the 38th minute after Evans was called for a foul on Mattocks some 25 yards out. Rudolph Austin ripped a free kick that zipped just wide right of the goal.

The Reggae Boyz had more close calls than USA captain and goalkeeper Tim Howard bargained for as he was forced to use a sliding tackle to deny Brown on the right side of the penalty area in the 52nd minute.

Mattocks tried to break the scoreless deadlock in the 68th minute, but he headed Phillips' right right-wing cross right to Howard.

Both teams will complete their qualifying run on Tuesday. The Americans visit Panama while the Reggae Boyz host Honduras.

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