Jamaica’s spotless record at the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup was halted by their toothless 1-0 reversal to Costa Rica, who finished with keeper Leonel Moreira being sent off after 72 minutes, as the Reggae Boyz lacked the finishing touch at Orlando’s Exploria Stadium last night (20 July).
The much-changed Boyz fell to a second-half header from Los Ricos’ skipper Bryan Ruiz. And by failing to grab Group C honours, when they should have exploited facing 10 players, they will tackle the United States in the quarter-finals.
Jamaica’s head coach Theodore Whitmore, who had blasted his Boyz for last Friday’s “lacklustre” 2-1 success over gutsy Guadeloupe, will now be forced to turn his attention to facing the hosts at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Yet Whitmore will have bad memories against the USA having lost the final of the 2017 Gold Cup final against their bitter rivals, and suffered defeat in their hyped up 2019 Gold Cup semi-final showdown.
However, the US are resting a number of their star players for the regional showpiece tournament as their priority is to concentrate on the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, which kick off in September.
Whitmore cautiously rested players for this do-or-die clash against Costa Rica, seeking to give midfield maestro Leon Bailey some time on the bench following his recent toe injury and two poor performances at the tournament.
Those on yellow cards were also relegated to the bench. Captain Andre Blake, who fell awkwardly when making a save against Guadeloupe to end up with bruising around the ribs, made way for Dillon Barnes to take his place between the sticks.
With the high stakes for the group winner to swerve the United States next, although face rejuvenated Canada, it was surprising to see Whitmore opt for a 4-2-3-1 line-up with Andre Gray as the lone target man.
The Boyz had overcome stubborn Suriname in their opening match, courtesy of two goals in the opening half-hour, and left it late with a fabulous Junior Flemming strike to see off Guadeloupe. So Whitmore tried new tactics against the South Americans to breath much-needed life into the Jamaicans.
Whitmore, who gave his squad the entire weekend off to rest, had an additional two hours to fine-tune his tactics as this match was delayed because of stormy weather conditions.
On the quarter-of-an-hour mark the Boyz started to stamp their authority. But Kemar Lawrence was unable to convert Blair Turgott’s cross, Tyreek Magee’s left-footed effort from the left side of the penalty area was blocked and then Daniel Johnson was caught offside by Damion Lowe’s neat throughball.
Ten minutes later Magee wasted his direct free-kick, whistling the ball over the target following Keysher Fuller’s handball. And on 35 minutes Magee turned provider to set up Turgott, only for the English-born winger to hit his effort high and wide of the gaping goalmouth.
The Boyz were suddenly jolted into action after Joel Campbell came the closest to opening the scoring for Costa Rica, who like the US are resting their star players yet also have many involved in the Olympic Games, five minutes before half-time.
On the brink of the half-time whistle there was a mad urgency to score by the Boyz. However, Moreira twice pulled off tremendous saves to prevent from Gray slotting the ball into the bottom right corner, and he also denied Flemming’s effort that seemed destined for the bottom left.
It proved to be an explosive start to the second half. Allan Cruz’s left-footed long-range shot thundered to the right of Barnes and at the other end the Boyz were unfortunate not to score when Gray’s thunderous blast bounced back off the right post.
But then came the only goal of the game. Ariel Lassiter’s telling cross into the centre of the penalty area picked out Ruiz, who made no mistake to head past helpless Barnes and into the top left corner to break the deadlock on 53 minutes against the run of play.
There was a further blow for Whitmore on the hour-mark when Lawrence had to be replaced by Amari’i Bell because of injury. This inspired a 70-second purple patch from the Boyz as they chased an equaliser, but Moreira was equal to shots from Johnson and Flemmings followed by a woeful header from Lowe.
Goal hero Ruiz was hauled off to save his legs for the next match with veteran striker Johan Venegas given some minutes. This triggered Whitmore into a double substitution on 66 minutes with the introduction of Shamar Nicholson and Cory Burke in place of Turgott and Gray respectively.
Disaster struck for Costa Rica on 72 minutes when their keeper Moreira was shown a straight red card by referee Mario Escobar for handball outside the area. He foolishly used his hand to block away the ball in a one-to-one with Burke.
Surprisingly, Jamaica failed to capitalise on the extra player so Whitmore rolled the dice with a a strange double substitution on 81 minutes by bringing on Liam Moore and Lamar Walker for the lively pair Johnson and Magee respectively.
Walker won a free-kick but powered it over the top right corner in the closing minutes with Flemmings off target in added time and Nicholson’s effort blocked as Jamaica came up short.
Whitmore will need to rejig his squad and scrap his tactics implemented so far at this Gold Cup if in his 21st Gold Cup game as coach Jamaica are going to give the United States a run for their money in Texas at the weekend.
JAMAICA: Barnes – Lawrence (Bell, 60mins), Mariappa, Lowe, Fisher – Johnson (Moore, 81), Williams – Flemmings, Magee (Walker, 81), Turgott (Nicholson, 66) – Gray (Burke, 66). Subs: Blake, Taylor, Hector, Powell, Bailey
CONCACAF GOLD CUP SCHEDULE
(*Listed in ET)
10 July | Dallas Metropolitan Area (Group A)
El Salvador 2 Guatemala 0
Mexico 0 Trinidad & Tobago 0
11 July | Kansas City, Kansas (Group B)
Canada 4 Martinique 1
USA 1 Haiti 0
12 July | Orlando, Florida (Group C)
Costa Rica 3 Guadeloupe 1
Jamaica 2 Suriname 0
13 July | Houston, Texas (Group D)
Honduras 4 Grenada 0
Qatar 3 Panama 3
14 July | Dallas Metropolitan Area (Group A)
Guatemala 0 Mexico 3
Trinidad & Tobago 0 El Salvador 2
15 July | Kansas City, Kansas (Group B)
Haiti 1 Canada 4
Martinique 1 USA 6
16 July | Orlando, Florida (Group C)
Guadeloupe 1 Jamaica 2
Suriname 1 Costa Rica 2
17 July | Houston, Texas (Group D)
Grenada 0 Qatar 4
Panama 2 Honduras 3
18 July | Dallas Metropolitan Area (Group A)
Guatemala 1 Trinidad & Tobago 1
Mexico 1 El Salvador 0
18 July | Kansas City, Kansas (Group B)
Martinique 1 Haiti 2 (Group B)
USA 1 Canada 0 (Group B)
20 July | Orlando, Florida (Group C)
Costa Rica 1 Jamaica 0
Suriname 2 Guadeloupe 1
20 July | Houston, Texas (Group D)
Honduras 0 Qatar 2
Panama 3 Grenada 1
24 July | Glendale, Arizona (quarter–finals)
QF1 Qatar v El Salvador, State Farm Stadium (7.30pm)
QF2 Mexico v Honduras, State Farm Stadium (10pm)
25 July | Arlington, Texas (quarter–finals)
QF3 Costa Rica v Canada, AT&T Stadium (7pm)
QF4 USA v Jamaica, AT&T Stadium (9.30pm)
29 July | Texas (semi–finals)*
SF1 Winner QF1 (1D or 2A) v Winner QF4 (1B or 2C), Q2 Stadium, Austin (7.30pm)
SF2 Winner QF2 (1A or 2D) v Winner QF3 (1C or 2B), NRG Stadium, Houston (10pm)
1 August | Las Vegas, Nevada (Final)
Final Winner SF1 v Winner SF2, Allegiant Stadium
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