Despite dominating possession and restricting Jamaica to no true shots on goal, the United States was forced to sweat a bit before winning 1-0 on a cold night in Chattanooga. Seattle Sounders striker Jordan Morris scored the game’s only goal, but it could be argued that good performances from Benny Feilhaber, Jorge Villafaña, and USMNT debutant Walker Zimmerman were the bigger takeaways.
The USMNT established an intent to press high up the field from kickoff, forcing Jamaica to defend deep and nearly picking off a few nervy passes from the Reggae Boyz in the opening minutes. As was the case against Serbia, the first good look for either team came in the 7th minute. A Benny Feilhaber corner kick found Dax McCarty completely unmarked, but a late challenge did just enough to force the Chicago Fire’s new #6 to nod the service over the bar.
Another set piece from Feilhaber created danger in the 10th minute, with a short, clipped delivery catching Jamaica off guard. Steve Birnbaum nodded the ball down as a crowd of runners crashed the goalmouth - a tactic Birnbaum is very familiar with - but the Jamaican defense did just enough to deflect the ball behind.
The US continued their front-foot play, with Sebastian Lletget muscling past Alvas Powell to pick out Juan Agudelo at the near post in the 19th minute. Agudelo tried to stab the ball past Andre Blake, but his effort flew wide. Another cross from the left, this time from Jorge Villafaña, picked out Chris Pontius at the back post, but Pontius arrived too late and couldn’t snap his header down towards goal.
Jamaica finally mounted an attack in the 33rd minute, and were unfortunate not to score. Atlanta United’s Romario Williams poked the ball away from Graham Zusi, allowing his strike partner Cory Burke to race behind the retreating US back four. Burke nearly lost control of the ball before firing a low cross into the six yard box. Luis Robles blocked the ball down, but conceded a very juicy rebound in the process. Williams, following up on the play, met the ball but could only awkwardly knee the ball wide of goal.
Agudelo, despite being accidentally headbutted in the face on the play, managed to nod Jordan Morris in behind the defense in the 38th minute, but Morris’s finish was imprecise, allowing Blake to save. From the corner kick, a well-worked routine saw Feilhaber pass low to McCarty, who in turn teed Lletget up for a curling shot that just barely missed the far post.
Following some back-and-forth play to start the second half, Birnbaum nearly managed to punch the ball home following a 57th minute scramble. The play started with yet another Feilhaber corner, with Birnbaum first arriving at the back post and heading the ball down into a crowd. He and Agudelo couldn’t initially wrangle the rebound, before Birnbaum’s eventual shot was blocked away.
The breakthrough finally came just two minutes later. A move up the left found McCarty, who pushed play up the gut to Feilhaber. A quick backheel from the impressive Sporting KC playmaker unlocked the Jamaican defense, and Jordan Morris played a 1-2 with him before surging in to slot the ball underneath substitute goalkeeper Ryan Thompson.
Jamaica pushed back a bit after the goal, while the US made subs in the midfield - including removing Feilhaber and deploying Lletget (briefly) and later Bedoya in central midfield - and chances dried up for a spell. Birnbaum again nodded a set piece down into the mixer in the 74th minute, but as with the others the US couldn’t get the vital next touch.
Despite Jamaica making attempts at sending runners forward and pushing their line of pressure higher in pursuit of an equalizer, the game mostly petered out as the US seemed to focus on managing their lead and retaining a shutout. The USMNT have far more vital games coming up next month, with an eagerly awaited roster of call-ups for the World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama likely coming a week or so into March.