KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Jurgen Klinsmann knew that Graham Zusi wanted to play for the United States in front of his fans, so he told the Sporting Kansas City midfielder at halftime to be ready to enter the fray.
It turned out that Klinsmann also needed a spark after a lackluster half against Jamaica.
Zusi provided it when he entered the game to a roar from the sold-out crowd at Sporting Park on Friday night, and quickly scored the first goal in what would eventually be a 2-0 victory that clinched first place for the Americans in their World Cup qualifying group for the third straight cycle.
Jozy Altidore followed Zusi’s 77th-minute goal with his own four minutes later, sealing the Americans’ fifth straight home shutout in World Cup qualifying.
‘‘When I learned I was going to come out in the second half, I was pretty excited to get in there and try to make a stamp on the game,’’ Zusi said.
Klinsmann said his decision to substitute Zusi for Landon Donovan was ‘‘performance-based.’’
The United States (6-2-1), which clinched its seventh straight World Cup berth last month, has 19 points and a 4-point lead over Costa Rica (4-2-3), which lost, 1-0, at third-place Honduras (4-3-2). The Americans are 25-0-2 in home qualifiers since a 2001 loss to Honduras.
Jamaica (0-5-4), whose only World Cup appearance was in 1998, was eliminated.
‘‘I told my players that the first 60 minutes, 65 minutes we were fantastic,’’ Jamaica coach Winfried Schaefer said. ‘‘We just couldn’t score a goal.’’
Zusi entered the game for Donovan and finally ignited the US attack. He got behind the defense and picked up a crossing pass from Alejandro Bedoya, knocking the shot from about 12 yards past goalkeeper DuWayne Kerr and generating a roar from the crowd of 18,467.
Fans packed into Sporting Park had barely settled back down before Edgar Castillo found Altidore in front of an open net for another goal in the 81st minute.