Jamaica shocked the world as it defeated the United States 2-1 in a 2015 Gold Cup semifinal game. For the first time ever, the U.S. lost a Gold Cup match to a CONCACAF team other than Mexico (the U.S. lost to Brazil in 1996, 2003 and Colombia in 2000, when CONCACAF still invited teams outside the region to the Gold Cup).
The early portion of the match was a back and forth affair, as both teams struggled to maintain possession. Careless turnovers by both teams made for a sloppy opening ten minutes.
Due to the constant changes in possession, neither team was able to create any dangerous chances in the early going. Finally, in the 24th minute the U.S. had its first clear cut scoring chance. Winger Gyasi Zardes skied a shot over the bar from about 15 yards out.
In the 28th minute, the USMNT had another good opportunity that it failed to take advantage of. A poor back pass by a Jamaican defender put goalkeeper Ryan Thompson in a awkward situation.
Aron Johannsson pressured Thompson, who tried to dribble around Johannsson. Johannsson won the ball from Thompson with a slide tackle that sent the ball just wide of the left post.
The Georgia Dome was silenced in the 31st minute as Jamaica took the lead. Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls) sent a long throw-in to Darren Mattocks (Vancouver Whitecaps) who ran in between John Anthony Brooks and Ventura Alvarado and headed the ball into the post. The ball bounced off the post and trickled over the goal line giving Jamaica the lead.
The Jamaicans started to take control after their first goal. In the 33rd minute, Kyle Beckerman was booked after a clumsy challenge a few yards outside the USMNT"s eighteen. Jamaica failed to convert off of the free kick but soon doubled its lead.
The Jamaicans were presented with a great opportunity in the 35th minute when Brad Guzan was whistled for an infraction. Guzan had a lapse in concentration and released the ball when his hand and the ball were clearly outside of the eighteen (handling the ball outside of the eighteen).
Giles Barnes (Houston Dynamo) stepped up and from just outside the eighteen, slightly right of center, he sent a perfect free kick over the wall into the back of the net.
The U.S. was clearly rattled, but managed to carve out a great opportunity in first half stoppage time. Clint Dempsey sent a shot straight at Ryan Thompson, who made the save from point-blank range. The half ended shortly after Dempsey's shot.
A dejected USMNT went into halftime down 2-0, needing an incredible comeback to advance.
The U.S. came out of the locker room with a new found intensity and quickly started on a comeback. In the 47th minute, Aron Johannsson turned at the top of the eighteen and fired a shot right at Ryan Thompson.
Thompson spilled the rebound, Dempsey just touched the rebound away from Thompson, then Michael Bradley came in and fired the ball into the goal.
Thompson looked shell-shocked after the goal and the U.S. pressed for an equalizer. In the 50th minute, a Michael Bradley free kick was spilled by Thompson and the bouncing ball fell to Aron Johannsson who headed over from inside the six.
In the 57th minute, Jamaica brought in former San Jose Earthquake Simon Dawkins for Darren Mattocks. Seconds later Michael Bradley hit a wicked bending shot that deflected off the Jamaican keeper's chest and onto the post.
In the 67th minute Jurgen Klinsmann subbed off Kyle Beckerman, who committed numerous turnovers and unnecessary fouls, for Mix Diskerud. Then in the 73rd minute, Alan Gordon came on for Aron Johannsson. The Jamaicans sensed the Americans' desperation and began to bunker to try and preserve the lead.
As the game drew closer to an end, USMNT players started firing hopeful long balls towards target forward Alan Gordon. In the 77th minute, Gordon headed a long ball down to Bradley who fired a shot that was parried wide of the net.
The U.S. failed to capitalize on the ensuing corner and things were looking bleak. In the 78th minute, Klinsmann took off Alejandro Bedoya for the speedy DeAndre Yedlin. In the 81st minute, the U.S. created another chance. Alan Gordon headed the ball to Dempsey whose shot was tipped out of bounds by Ryan Thompson.
In the 85th minute, Jamaican goal scorer Giles Barnes was replaced by Chris Humphrey. A minute later, DeAndre Yedlin was booked for committing a foul while trying to prevent a counter attack. The USMNT failed to create any truly dangerous chances after Yedlin's booking and could only watch as Jamaica killed off the game.
Jamaica pulled off a historic upset and won 2-1 to advance to the 2015 Gold Cup Final. For the first time ever a Caribbean nation will take play in the Gold Cup final.
Jamaica will face the winner of Mexico v. Panama in the final and the U.S. will face the loser of that match in the third place game.
This is a Red Bulls blog and Kemar Lawrence did have a good match so he deserves some praise. While the U.S. was highly disappointing, Red Bulls left-back Kemar Lawrence impressed.
Lawrence struggled in the opening few minutes but eventually found his feet. He dominated Alejandro Bedoya, stopping many of Bedoya's attempted crosses. Lawrence never allowed Bedoya to create any truly dangerous chances. Bedoya's unimpressive night ended when he was subbed off for DeAndre Yedlin.
Lawrence's stock has surely risen through the roof after an impressive Copa America and Gold Cup. Good luck to him in the final, as Jamaica attempts to bring home its first ever Gold Cup.
Tim Howard, Tim Howard, Tim Howard
Brad Guzan made many excellent saves in this match. There was nothing he could have done to prevent the first goal. The blame for that firmly rests on the shoulders of John Anthony Brooks and Ventura Alvarado. Guzan really only made one error.
But that one error cost the U.S. the game. Guzan was penalized for handling the ball outside of the box (his hand and the ball were over the line as he threw the ball out to start an attack). While goalkeepers often release the ball just outside of the box they are rarely penalized for it.
Some would say its one of those things (like encroachment on penalty kicks) referees generally ignore. However that isn't an excuse for Guzan's blunder.
The referee clearly made the right call and Giles Barnes buried the ensuing free kick. This mental lapse from Guzan is inexcusable and ultimately it cost the U.S. the game. Guzan has to be better, he is a thirty year old veteran not an inexperienced rookie.
Tim Howard is a better goalkeeper than Brad Guzan. Tim Howard did not get benched as his club team entered a crucial relegation battle, Guzan did.
Tim Howard cemented his status as a legend with his 2014 World Cup performance against Belgium. Howard is an experienced veteran and I doubt he would have made such a fatal error. Howard's return in September will create an intriguing goalkeeper battle that I expect him to win.
Ventura Alvarado and John Anthony Brooks did not have good performances. While they only were responsible for the first goal, both players were very shaky throughout the match.
Alvarado continues to look uncomfortable in distribution and Brooks simply does not win enough tackles. Minutes into the match, Brooks slipped and failed to clear the ball deep in his own end. Instead he sent a weak pass right to the feet of Darren Mattocks. Brooks continued to struggle throughout the game.
There were several tackles where 6'4'' Brooks was overpowered by smaller Jamaican attackers. This simply cannot happen. It is understandable if Brooks is beaten for speed, but good starting caliber international center backs are rarely beaten for strength.
Alvarado and Brooks also struggle with positioning. On Jamaica's first goal off a throw in, Brooks and Alvarado allowed Darren Mattocks to run in between them and score off a header. Either Brooks or Alvarado should have been much tighter to Mattocks when marking him, this was a simple and inexcusable error.
Brooks and Alvarado are young promising players, both of whom will be involved in the national team setup going forward, but they need to be better in order for the U.S. to be successful.
Jamaica Deserves Credit, It's a Good Team
While the U.S. was awful, Jamaica won the game because it's a good side. Jamaica did not start the game by parking the bus and hoping to go to a penalty shootout like many "weaker" teams normally do. Instead the Jamaicans came out firing.
Unlike the U.S., Jamaica is fast and dynamic when attacking. The Jamaicans are deadly on the counter attack and know how to win without much possession.
Tonight they only had 40% possession, but they made the most of it. Giles Barnes and Darren Mattocks caused a headache for the U.S. defense all night long.
The U.S. simply could not deal with Jamaica's pace and athleticism. Towards the end of the game Jamaica parked the bus and smothered the U.S. attack. It allowed the U.S. few chances in the last ten minutes and showed its defensive strength.