COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The task seems pretty straight forward for the United States on Tuesday night:
Defeat Jamaica and forge a tie for the CONCACAF Group A lead in World Cup semifinal round qualifying.
If they lose the Americans could very well wind up chasing a spot in next year's hexagonal in the final two group matches next month.
The U.S. enters the game tied with Guatemala for second-place with Guatemala with 1-1-1 records and four points apiece (the Guatemalans play at Antigua and Barbuda). On the strength of their 2-1 home win Friday over the U.S., the Reggae Boyz (2 wins, 1 draw, 0 losses) are atop the group. A victory would bring them closer to the final round.
The U.S. must rediscover that winning feeling, said goalkeeper Tim Howard, who noticed that hundreds of fans rushed onto the field immediately after the match to celebrate Friday's historic win, the first time Jamaica had beaten the U.S. in 19 tries.
"It was like they won the World Cup," he said. "You saw what it meant to them. Sometimes when you are on top for a long period of time, you forget that feeling what it's like to win a game and for it to it to mean so much. We'll get back to those winning ways. And we've got to do it quickly."
The Americans cannot afford to give away any more points if they have designs on qualifying.
"It's not doom and gloom," Howard said. "I don't think we'll come out and play any worse than that on Tuesday. It's up to us to respond. I think we will. We've always responded before."
But it could become doom and gloom quickly enough if the Americans continue to make mistakes.
"We need the points," midfielder-forward Clint Dempsey said. "If you start giving away points, you could find yourself not qualifying."
U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann said that the U.S. had to fix things and he started in that direction by announcing that two veterans who did not play Friday would be starting on Tuesday -- team captain and central defender Carlos Bocanegra and injured right back Steve Cherundolo.
Bocanegra, who started the season with Scottish Third Division side Rangers, recently transferred to Racing Santander (Spain). Klinsmann said he decided to keep Bocanegra out of Friday's game because he did not have his playing rhythm.
"He totally understood our decision," Klinsmann told reporters at a Monday press conference. "It had to do with his last couple of weeks as well as with our Mexico game where we tried out new things. We were very pleased with what we saw in Mexico. But he is back in the team, Steve is back in the team fortunately."
Klinsmann reiterated what led to the U.S. defeat -- a pair of free kick goals -- by Rodolph Austin (23rd minute) and Luton Shelton (66th minute), both just outside the penalty area.
"We gave away cheap free kicks and lost the game based on that," Klinsmann said. "You can't blame the backline for it. You can't blame tactical reasons or whatever. You weren't sharp enough there to avoid free kicks and you paid the price for it."
Indeed they did, which is something Klinsmann did not want to see duplicated at Columbus Crew Stadium on Tuesday.
"Step one, you don't want to give [free kicks] away," he said. "Step two, a little bit more organization in the wall. Every time you analyze a free kick, you read the wall. Who jumps up how? Who's really tense? Good body tension has this kind of hunger to block the shot. You see people jumping up. You see people don't jump up. You can have a whole half-hour discussion about a wall."
The U.S. has 90 minutes to make sure that doesn't happen again.