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USMNT beats Jamaica 2-0 in World Cup qualifying, Zardes plays off the bench

The Crew striker helped solidify the U.S.’s first home win of the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign.

United States v Jamaica: Quarterfinals - 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images

The United States Men’s National Team earned its first home win of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying cycle with a 2-0 victory against Jamaica at Q2 Stadium in Austin. The Americans' first game of the October window was the Ricardo Pepi show with the 18-year-old FC Dallas phenom scoring both goals in the second half. Columbus Crew striker Gyasi Zardes came on for Pepi in the 68th minute to play out the rest of the match.

The USMNT entered Thursday night’s match against the Reggae Boyz with five points in the CONCACAF octagonal group. The Americans went 1-0-2 in September and now keep an unbeaten record with the home win in Austin. The lineup was one of the youngest the U.S. has ever started in a World Cup qualifying match with the two youngest players starting playing significant roles in Ricardo Pepi and Yunus Musah.

After a slow first half headlined by two controversial refereeing decisions, the United States jumped on the attack in the second 45 minutes. Young midfielder Yunus Musah penetrated into open space to start a chance with a layoff to Sergino Dest out wide. Dest then found Pepi just outside the six-yard box and the Dallas striker headed the ball in to give the USMNT the lead.

The second goal was a similar play with Brendan Aaronson crossing on the floor to the on-rushing Pepi, who finished with his feet to double the lead. Pepi has now scored three goals in his first two caps for the United States with all three coming in the last two World Cup qualifying games.

Crew striker Gyasi Zardes came on in the second half and had multiple chances to get the Americans' third goal of the game. His first chance was on a fast-paced cross by Timothy Weah, whose ball was too fast for Zardes, failing to get a touch despite a sliding effort. A few moments later, Zardes was open for a header on a corner but it wasn’t strong enough to beat Andre Blake.

Zardes’ best chance came on the 85th minute when the United States generated another strong attacking play. He ran into the penalty box for the tap-in and got a slight touch on the ball but Blake reached out to stop the ball from crossing the line, denying the Black & Gold forward his goal.

The USMNT now has eight points in its first four games to maintain its spot in the top three in the CONCACAF group. The top three teams in the group will qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Next for the United States is a trip to Panama City to play Panama on Sunday. The final match of this October window will be against Costa Rica on Oct. 13 at Field in Columbus, Ohio.