photo by Jason Getz/USA Today Sports
By FRANCO PANIZO
The U.S. Men’s National Team had repeatedly gotten away with slow starts in this CONCACAF Gold Cup, overcoming its number of mistakes and finding timely goals to grab results.
Not this time.
The U.S. was eliminated from the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Wednesday night, as two first-half goals from Jamaica paved the way for a stunning 2-1 defeat of the Americans. Jurgen Klinsmann’s side nearly pulled off a ferocious rally in the second half in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, but the Reggae Boyz held on to move to Sunday’s tournament final.
Darren Mattocks and Giles Barnes scored five minutes apart in the first half off of set pieces to give Jamaica a 2-0 lead going into halftime before U.S. captain Michael Bradley pulled one back three minutes into the second stanza. The Americans pushed on and continued to create chances, but ultimately failed to find the equalizer that would have kept their Gold Cup title defense alive.
The result not only gave the Jamaicans their second win over the U.S. all-time, but moved them to the Gold Cup final for the first time in the history of the tournament. Jamaica will face the winner of Wednesday’s other semifinals match between Mexico and Panama in Sunday’s championship game.
The Americans, meanwhile, will play in the third-placed game on Saturday against the loser of that other semifinals bout.
Another poor start proved costly for the U.S. on Wednesday, as Darren Mattocks punished the defense with his opener in the 31st minute.
After Kemar Lawrence launched a long throw-in from the left into the penalty area, Mattocks put himself in position to beat John Brooks to the spot and perfectly flicked the ball to the far-top corner over the outstretched Brad Guzan.
Disbelief turned into pure shock in the 36th minute, as Barnes hit a driven free kick into the back of the net. Guzan was whistled for having extended his throwing arm past the 18-yard box while trying to distribute the ball, gifting Jamaica a free kick just outside the penalty area that Barnes rifled past a wall of U.S. defenders that stayed rooted to the ground.
Clint Dempsey nearly pulled one back for the U.S. in a minute before halftime when he dribbled inside of a pair of defenders on the left side of the penalty area, but his ensuing low shot was stopped by Jamaica goalkeeper Ryan Thompson’s legs.
Energized after the break, the U.S. came out flying in the second half and it took them just three minutes to find a goal.
Aron Johannsson smacked a low, stinging effort from outside the penalty area that Thompson spilled in front of his net. Dempsey tried bundling the rebound home, but it was Bradley who pounced on the loose ball for an easy 48th-minute finish in front of n open goal.
The Americans had multiple chances to pull level from there. They just were not sharp or lucky enough to find the back of the net again vs. the athletic back line of the Reggae Boyz.
Thompson almost gave up an equalizer midway through the second half, as a shot from Bradley caromed off the Jamaican goalkeeper before ricocheting off the post.
Another U.S. chance to tie the game came in the 51st minute when left back Fabian Johnson hit a free kick that Thompson failed to hold onto. Johannsson raced to the rebound before hitting a header wide of the mark.
Dempsey forced Thompson into another save in the 81st minute, as the U.S. veteran acrobatically flicked a shot on goal that deflected off a defender before Thompson pushed it wide for a corner.
Thompson also came up with a big save earlier in the match when it was scoreless, denying Johnson’s 28th-minute effort from 19 yards out to open the door for Mattocks’ opener and Barnes’ winner.
What do you think about the USMNT’s 2-1 loss to Jamaica? What went wrong for the Americans? How big of a failure is this for Klinsmann and Co.?
Share your thoughts below.