Theodore Whitmore suffered a third successive CONCACAF Gold Cup defeat as Jamaica head coach to the United States after his Reggae Boyz fell 1-0 in an entertaining quarter-final at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas last night (25 July).
Whitmore was unable to expel his bad memories against their bitter rivals, having lost the 2017 Gold Cup final and their hyped up 2019 Gold Cup semi-final showdown, with a late Matthew Hoppe goal enough to divide the sides.
Jamaica, seeking to register just their fourth ever victory over the United States, had reached three Gold Cup semi-finals on the bounce coming into this year’s edition. So this reversal was their earliest exit since their 2011 quarter-final 2-0 defeat to the United States — although the Boyz failed to even qualify for the 2013 tournament.
The match, the fourth successive meeting between the sides in the knockout stages of the regional showpiece tournament, was not expected to be a high quality contest taking into account the group stages with neither Jamaica nor US producing fluid performances.
However that was accounted for by the fact that the forthcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers are priority. The US have rested a number of their European stars at the event, and brought in an astonishing 14 new faces for the tournament. While it is remains unclear whether Jamaica were deliberately choosing to let some of their recent English-based recruits have a breather.
Yet the United States were one of just two nations (along with Costa Rica) to win all three group games. They kicked off with a narrow 1-0 success over Haiti, destroyed Martinique 6-1 and struggled 1-0 past ever-improving Canada courtesy of Shaquell Moore’s strike within the opening minute. Stalwart defender Walker Zimmerman left the pitch against Canada with a hamstring injury, which ruled him out of the rest of the tournament.
Jamaica have been toothless throughout the Gold Cup. They relied on two strikes within the opening half-hour before they stuttered past Suriname 2-0, they then edged past Guadeloupe 2-1 with a last-gasp goal.
During the 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica the Boyz bossed the game despite making with eight changes from the previous match. Even when the opposition ‘keeper was sent off, midway through the second half, Whitmore’s tactics were questionable and Jamaica’s attacking prowess woeful.
With the US FIFA-ranked 25 places higher than world no.45 Jamaica, this was a very different ball game to March’s farce of an exhibition match when the Boyz were trounced 4-1 as they fielded a virtually unrecognisable side due to a long-term contract dispute.
Inside the 80,000-capacity AT&T Stadium it was always going to be a tense affair. Bobby Decordova-Reid, returning to the starting line-up following enforced absences after testing positive for Covid-19, was denied by the offside flag after just 15 seconds as Jamaica set out their stall to attack.
Fellow striker Cory Burke brilliantly held up the ball, picked out on-rushing Alvas Powell only for his 18-yard effort to be sidefooted into the arms of ‘keeper Matt Turner on 14 minutes. And five minutes later Junior Flemmings’ shot from the edge of the area narrowly missed the target as the Boyz piled on the pressure and dominated.
Andre Blake, who only had one first-half save to make, turned away Hoppe’s left-footed volley
for a corner midway through the half.
Timely tackles and blocking any shots were the order of the day as Jamaica showed their defensive strengths to avert any goalscoring danger, and it seemed smooth sailing during the opening half.
It was at the other end that there was most likely to be a breakthrough. After Decordova-Reid’s tame shot was easily saved, following a dazzling run and pass from Kemar Lawrence, it took a spectacular diving save from Turner to prevent Flemmings from scoring on 39 minutes.
Straight after the turnaround the host country upped the ante. The ever industrious Hoppe tested Blake and on 66 minutes newly-introduced forward Gyasi Zardes unleashed an effort that saw the Jamaican shotstopper make a breathtaking aerobatic save to parry the ball to safety.
With Jamaica playing second fiddle during the second half, Whitmore made a 74th-minute double substitution by bringing on his tall strikers Andre Gray and Shamar Nicholson for Burke and Blair Turgott respectively.
His ploy almost paid immediate dividends when Nicholson got perilously close to connecting with a floated free-kick. But like their previous three Gold Cup games, the determination and finishing was lacking after the turnaround.
Whitmore had put his troops through their paces during their training sessions with finishing high on the agenda, although that appeared to have all been in vain.
Yet the Jamaica head coach had also been drilling his squad with the importance spot-kicks, and it appeared that additional time — perhaps even penalties — may be required to determine the semi-finalist.
However, Jamaica’s dreams were dashed in the 84th minute when Hoppe outjumped the defenders to head home Cristian Roldan’s cross. The stadium erupted as the 20-year-old Schalke 04 forward bagged his first international goal in just his second game.
The Boyz were clearly deflated and had absolutely no response, with the US booking their 11th successive Gold Cup semi-final despite fielding an experimental squad.
The United States tackle Qatar for a place in the final at Las Vegas on 1 August, with Canada — 2-0 victors over Costa Rica last night — playing Mexico in the other semi-final.
Jamaica will face a much stronger US side in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers on 8 October and 16 November respectively. Whitmore, who will no doubt feel crestfallen, needs to urgency resolve the goalscoring problem otherwise the reality is that there will be no involvement at Qatar 2022 for the Boyz.
JAMAICA: Blake – Lawrence, Moore, Lowe, Powell (Fisher, 28 minutes) – Johnson, Williams, Turgott (Nicholson, 74) – Flemmings (Magee, 86) – Decordova-Reid, Burke (Gray, 74). Subs: Barnes, Taylor, Bell, Hector, Mariappa, Bailey, Magee, Walker
USA: Turner – Vines, Robinson, Sands, Moore (Cannon, 84) – Busio, Lletget (Roldan, 63), Acosta, Ariola – Hoppe (Gioacchini, 84), Dike (Zardes, 63). Subs not used: Johnson, Guzman, Yueill, Lewis, Williamson, Bello, Kessler.
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)
Mexico 3 Honduras 0
Qatar 3 El Salvador 2
25 July | Arlington, Texas (quarter–finals)
Costa Rica 0 Canada 2
USA 1 Jamaica 0
29 July | Texas (semi–finals)*
SF1 Qatar v USA, Q2 Stadium, Austin (7.30pm)
SF2 Mexico v Canada, NRG Stadium, Houston (10pm)
1 August | Las Vegas, Nevada (Final)
Final Winner SF1 v Winner SF2, Allegiant Stadium
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