Graham Zusi is lifted in the air by his teammates after scoring the first goal in the United States’ 2-0 World Cup Qualifying win over visiting Jamaica on October 11, 2013, at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo: John Todd/isiphotos.com)
KANSAS CITY, Kansas -- Second-half substitute Graham Zusi and Jozy Altidore scored four minutes apart late in the game to propel the United States to a 2-0 victory over Jamaica in a World Cup Qualifying match on Friday night at Sporting Park.
The Americans (6-1-2, 19 points), who qualified for Brazil 2014 on the previous matchday, sealed the CONCACAF Hexagonal crown for the third consecutive time. The Reggae Boyz (0-4-5, 4 points) saw their hopes of gaining a playoff berth end as they were eliminated from contention for fourth place.
The U.S. went a perfect 5-0-0 at home in the final round and has not allowed a visitor to score in 535 minutes.
Zusi -- playing in the stadium of his club, Sporting Kansas City -- broke a goalless stalemate in the 77th minute. After Jamaica failed to clear the penalty area, Alejandro Bedoya fed Zusi, who fired home from 15 yards past goalkeeper Duwayne Kerr into the far left corner. He had replaced Landon Donovan at halftime.
Altidore netted in his sixth consecutive start, tapping in an Edgar Castillo pass in the 81st minute for the insurance tally. It was the 23-year-old’s 21st international goal, taking him into a sixth-place tie with Bruce Murray on the USA’s all-time scoring list.
Needing a win, 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, when Demar Phillips sent a right-wing cross into the penalty area that U.S. defender Brad Evans managed to clear off the line.
Playing without two of its top players -- the injured duo of Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey -- the United States was sluggish and sloppy in the first half. DaMarcus Beasley, though, provided a spark by stripping Brown of the ball on the left side, racing into the box and hitting a shot that was deflected by a defender for a corner kick.
Jamaica had a chance in the 38th minute after Evans was called for a foul on Mattocks 25 yards out. Rodolph Austin ripped a free kick that zipped wide right of the goal.
The Reggae Boyz had more close calls than goalkeeper Tim Howard would have expected. The Everton star made a sliding tackle to deny Brown on the right side of the area in the 52nd minute. Mattocks tried to break the scoreless deadlock in the 68th minute, but he headed Phillips' right-wing cross right to Howard.
Both teams will complete qualifying Tuesday. The Americans visit Panama, while the Reggae Boyz host Honduras.
NOTES: The meeting between the U.S. and Jamaica was their fourth in this cycle of qualifying. Jamaica won the first encounter at home, 2-1, on September 7, 2012, but dropped the three decisions that followed.