Late, Late Show Ends Jamaica’s Gold Cup Dream
Reggae Boyz suffer blow of star player Blake injury
Theodore Whitmore described USA’s late winner in Wednesday evening’s Gold Cup final as “a dagger in the heart,” as his Jamaica troops were outgunned 2-1 inside the Levi’s Stadium at Santa Clara, California.
Jamaica head coach Whitmore, who had masterminded his Reggae Boyz to a second successive Gold Cup final, lost his shining star Andre Blake midway through the opening half because of a hand injury.
And without the brilliance of Blake between the sticks, the Boyz had to try to shut up shop against the lively hosts yet showed resilience only to be undone by late goals in each half.
Jozy Altidore bagged the opener on the brink of the half-time whistle, with Je-Vaughn Watson muscling home the equaliser on 50 minutes.
But the impressive Jordan Morris went from US zero to hero, courtesy of his polished strike with two minutes remaining to deny Jamaica an inaugural Gold Cup crown. Making amends for gifting Jamaica’s goal.
Whitmore stuck with his resilient back four of Kemar Lawrence, Damion Lowe, Jermaine Taylor and Alvas Powell to protect 26-year-old shotshopper Blake.
But Whitmore surprisingly added Ladale Richie as a sweeper in his 4-1-3-2 format, which he utilised for the first time in this year’s competition – and this initially threw the US.
Once the hosts found their feet then keeper Blake was called upon to show exactly why he has been the standout player in this Gold Cup, when he made a double save to deny Altidore and Kellyn Acosta on the 20-minute mark.
But the Philadelphia Union no.1 went down in pain with a hand injury, and three minutes later had to be replaced by his understudy Dwayne Miller.
With Swedish-based Miller thrown in at the deep end, he held his nerve but could not be blamed for conceding during first-half injury time.
Altidore rocketed in his seemingly ambitious long-range free-kick off the underside of the crossbar to give the US an overdue lead.
And it was Altidore who was the ace in the US pack, making the transition from being a striker to an attacking midfielder. Often instigating fast breaks involving neat, one-touch moves – usually in triangles to dazzle Jamaica’s trio of midfielders – with Michael Bradley and Darlington Nagbe.
After the turnaround 22-year-old Morris was left flat-footed by Watson from a telling Lawrence corner, and veteran keeper Tim Howard couldn’t spare his team-mate’s blushes as the New England Revolution midfielder Watson snatched an equaliser.
Watson’s volley was the first shot on target by the Boyz, which ended USA’s run of three straight clean sheets in the tournament.
The tie then became a game of cat and mouse with the hosts dominating possession but without really troubling Jamaica’s goalmouth.
And with the clash fast approaching extra time, and the potential of a penalty shoot-out on the horizon, it was a scuffed clearance attempt from Taylor that allowed the US to claim victory.
Clint Dempsey was gifted the ball at his feet, and instinctively rolled it slowly into the path of Morris to smack past stunned Miller.
The 15-yard effort simply flew onto the top corner to hand the US their sixth Gold Cup trophy, which avenged their 2-1 Gold Cup semi-final shock defeat two years ago to the Boyz.
Bruce Arena, the triumphant US head coach, explained: “They are a different kind of Jamaican team than we’ve seen in the past.
“They have a lot of discipline, are very strong defensively and they’re hard to play against – to me it’s not what you typically see out of a Jamaican team.”
Whitmore’s warriors, who recently surrendered their Caribbean Cup crown to minnows Curaçao, played with guile and determination throughout their Gold Cup final and were only beaten by a firecracker of a goal.
Lawrence, a lynchpin of Jamaica’s jaw-dropping solid defence, admitted:” We were trying to hold out to see if we could make extra time, but what a banger of a winner from Morris.”
And Whitmore back at the helm. He has been superb to mastermind his troops to emulate Jamaica’s 2015 Gold Cup counterparts with a run to this year’s final of a competition where they delivered the knockout blow to reigning champions Mexico and bodes well for the future of the Boyz.
JAMAICA: Blake (Miller, 23 mins); Lawrence, Taylor, Powell, Lowe; Richie (Lambert, 87 mins); Watson, Gordon, Fisher (Morris, 53 mins); Williams, Mattocks (Burke, 90 mins). Subs not used: Hyatt, Francis, Nicholson, Harriott, Grandison, Morris, Fisher, Binns, Johnson
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