Jamaica shocked the United States by scoring two first-half goals. And then they held on for dear life.
In a shocking upset in the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals Wednesday, the Jamaicans knocked the Americans out of the tournament, winning 2-1 to reach the Gold Cup final for the first time in the country’s history.
Darren Mattocks and Giles Barnes were the goalscorers for Jamaica, while Michael Bradley notched the lone tally for the United States. Despite controlling 60 percent of possession, outshooting Jamaica 20-10 (10-3 on goal) and earning 11 corners on the evening, the United States came up short. In the end, the young American defense did the team in, Ives Galarcep of Soccer by Ives suggested:
Klinsmann kept sticking w/his young defenders, and that young defense put his team in an early hole. USA wound up paying the price.
— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) July 22, 2015
The defeat ended quite a few streaks for the United States, including a few streaks at home, according to Paul Carr of ESPN:
The only other time the #USMNT lost at home to a Caribbean nation was 1969 vs Haiti.
— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) July 23, 2015
This is also the Yanks’ most disappointing result at the Gold Cup since 2003, per Bleacher Report:
It didn’t look early on as though the Americans would suffer an upset, as the team absolutely dominated the first 30 minutes. Six minutes later, however, the U.S. was trailing 2-0.
The first goal came completely against the run of play, as Jamaica’s Kemar Lawrence lofted a throw into the box. Mattocks made perfect contact with the ball, nodding his header up and over ‘keeper Brad Guzan, who helplessly watched as the ball hit one post and rolled across the goal line and behind the other post for the score.
Just a few minutes later, Guzan was called for a handball after he extended the ball past the outside of the box as he looked to start the States on a counter. That gave Jamaica a free kick right on the edge of the box, and Barnes converted by absolutely ripping his shot past the helpless Guzan.
According to Arlo White of NBC Sports, Barnes didn’t exactly need pure precision to score on his effort:
Barnes offered the freedom of 2/3 of the goal from 18.5 yards, and he takes it. Wasn’t in the corner was it? Stunning few mins from Jamaica.
— Arlo White (@arlowhite) July 22, 2015
Things nearly were much different, however. In the 28th minute, Jamaican goalkeeper Ryan Thompson tried to dribble past Aron Johannsson to no avail, as the striker stuck out a leg and poked the ball toward goal, only to see it maddeningly hit the outside of the post. Outside of a Fabian Johnson screamer that Thompson saved just a minute later, Johannsson’s effort was the United States’ best chance in the first half. They didn’t want for opportunities, however, holding 59 percent of possession and earning five corners in the first 45. Still, Jamaica went into the half smiling with a two-goal advantage. Despite the United States’ strong play early on, the halftime score wasn’t all that harsh on them, Grant Wahl of SI.com suggested:
HT USA 0:2 JAM. Jamaicans deserving of the lead. US struggling to defend set-pieces. Playing Copa América has given JAM great chemistry. — Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) July 22, 2015
Just three minutes into the second half, the United States got one back.
Johannsson received the ball with his back to goal, quickly spun outside of the box and ripped a shot toward goal that went directly into the path of Thompson, though the keeper fumbled it. Clint Dempsey spoiled his attempt to regain it, making contact with the ball before Thompson could secure it. Dempsey spun the ball free, which allowed Bradley to run onto the rebound. From there, Bradley needed only to tap the ball into the empty net.
The United States continued to press, earning a free kick at the edge of the box in the 50th minute. Johnson’s shot was right at Thompson, but the keeper again fumbled the rebound. Johannsson was first to the loose ball, but his header went over the bar.
In the 56th minute, Bradley absolutely smashed a swerving effort on the break at Thompson. The shot completely befuddled the rattled keeper, who managed to get his chest on the ball, deflecting it dangerously off of the left post.
The Americans then nearly got their much-needed goal on a throw in the 70th minute, but Thompson scooped up John Brooks’ headed effort.
Despite a flurry of action in the final 15 minutes, the United States simply couldn’t break down a resolute Jamaican defense, leaving the Americans scratching their heads at the shocking 2-1 upset.
Outside of Johnson, who once again played well, it’s hard to give too many United States players credit for a job well done in this one. Kyle Beckerman looked slow the entire game, the centre-backs played poorly, Johannsson was dreadful in the first half, Guzan didn’t have his best showing and even Bradley didn’t really start playing well until the second half.
Even when the United States played well, they made little errors or didn’t convert chances. They gave the ball away too frequently and made too many poor decisions in the attack when they had numbers going forward. Overall, it was a pretty poor effort that would have easily been a much better one had the team been a bit sharper and clinical.
If the United States wants to be considered a legitimate player on the world stage, these types of games simply can’t occur.
Mattocks and Barnes should share Man of the Match honors, as each scored a fantastic goal in this one. While they didn’t do much beyond the tallies, they gave the U.S. back line plenty to deal with.
Thompson certainly had an interesting game. He was called on to make a ton of saves and, in general, his positioning was quite good. On the other hand, he had a stretch in the second half when he seemed to fumble everything in front of him, giving up a goal after mishandling a rebound and nearly giving up two more on a poor deflection off of a free kick and a misjudge of Bradley’s shot that he parried with his chest off the post.
In the end, however, he did enough to thwart the United States’ constant advances on his goal. For that, he deserves credit.
United States manager Jurgen Klinsmann tried to put the loss in perspective, per Fox Soccer on Twitter:
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 23, 2015
Despite the first goal clearly resulting from his centre-backs’ poor defending, he also resisted the opportunity to second-guess his central defensive pair, per Wahl:
Klinsmann asked if he has any regrets about using Brooks/Alvarado as centerbacks. Says he doesn’t. — Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) July 23, 2015
Of course, if you are wondering if the Jamaican team or their manager are surprised by this victory, don’t count on it, based on this anecdote from soccer writer Juan Arango:
I chuckled a bit when Winnie Schäfer told me his team was going to the final. This was back in March.
— Juan Arango (@JuanG_Arango) July 23, 2015
That turned out to be quite prophetic, indeed.
Jamaica awaits the winner of the Panama vs. Mexico semifinal for the championship game Sunday, while the United States will face the loser of that contest Saturday in the consolation game.