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Match recap: United States 1, Jamaica 0

The United States heads into the Hex on a win against a regional rival.

Soccer: International Men's Soccer Friendly-Jamaica at USA Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The United States Men’s National Team edged Jamaica 1-0 on Friday night at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, Tenn. behind a Jordan Morris goal in Bruce Arena’s second friendly.

After dominating possession in the first half, the lone breakthrough came in the 59th minute after a nifty series of passes between Morris and Benny Feilhaber, who was one of the night’s best players.

Despite being just a friendly, the win came at a much-needed time for the USA, who had went winless in its last three matches and is sitting last in the Hexagonal for World Cup Qualifying with crucial matches coming in March against Honduras and Panama. The team also avenged its defeat to Jamaica in the semifinals of the 2015 Gold Cup.

The USA secured their second shutout in as many matches, this one split between Luis Robles and David Bingham. All three MLS keepers have been solid through the January camp, but will need to impress in club play to earn the third GK spot on the March roster over likely choice Wiliam Yarbrough.

The Americans started without Jozy Altidore up top, and deployed a largely untested lineup including two strikers with Morris and Agudelo. Morris played his usual game and his goal should give him confidence heading into the March matches. Agudelo was rather and fired a convertible chance wide of goal in the 20th minute.

Michael Bradley began on the bench in the midfield as Philadelphia Union midfielder Chris Pontius earned his first career international start. Pontius was decent but largely unnoticed, and could see future call-ups if he maintains his club form, with a March appearance unlikely. Pontius was subbed off in the 74th minute for Union teammate Alejandro Bedoya who helped close out the match.

Feilhaiber and Dax McCarty started in the middle with former turning in the best all-around offensive performance of the night. The Sporting KC man was the best creative force on the pitch and dominated the opening 20 minutes with his technical prowess. His combination with Morris for the goal was sublime, but he tired as the match went on. He may not have beaten out Sacha Kljestan for a starting spot but he remains a viable bench option going forward. Darlington Nagbe and Bradley eventually came on for the pair and were solid. Nagbe and Fellhaiber probably benefited the most from the January camp, playing themselves into probable inclusions in the March squad.

Sebastian Lletget was another bright spot, showcasing his ability to play out wide and not just centrally. Lletget set up Agudelo’s first half chance and was poised in possession. The 24-year old remains a long-shot for March but definitely has Bruce Arena’s attention.

The revelation of the night was Walker Zimmerman, the FC Dallas center back who earned his first cap. Zimmerman was a rock in central defense, assured in possession and had FS1 color analysts Landon Donovan and Stuart Holden wondering if he had played his way into a Hex call-up based on his performance. While the two USMNT alumni were a little hyperbolic, considering the strength of John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Omar Gonzalez and others, Zimmerman acquitted himself well on the international stage.

Steve Birnbaum, Jorge Villafana and Graham Zusi all turned in decent displays in the back, contributing to the shutout with the help of subs Brad Evans and Damarcus Beasley. The only real chance of the night for the Reggae Boyz came when Zusi was absolutely burned for pace by Bethlemen Steel man Cory Burke, whose cross was bundled wide by Romario Williams.

Philadelphia Union goalkeepr Andre Blake had a solid performance for Jamaica, with good net presence in the first half. There was not much he could have done on Morris’ goal, although he will not be happy about being beaten to the near post.

Overall, the game lacked quality chances which was reflective of the USA’s control of the game, and their inability to produce in the final third. That remains the biggest question of Arena’s squad, especially as Clint Dempsey remains sidelined during his recovery. The pressure will be back on Christian Pulisic and Jozy Altidore come crunch time, but the MLS contingent of the January camp proved they might be able to tip the offensive scale in Arena’s favor

For now, the focus will be on one thing, and one thing only: taking four points against Honduras and Panama, on March 24 and 28, respectively. Even if the performances against Jamaica and Serbia were uninspiring, a win builds confidence. Arena will now try to breed positivity and hope that his pragmatic approach lifts the USA out of the most critical situation in recent memory.