After a comprehensive 6-0 win against Cuba on Saturday, July 18, 2015, the USMNT went into the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup Semifinals against Jamaica today with all the momentum and expectations to beat The Reggae Boyz. The reigning Gold Cup Champions had been to five straight Gold Cup finals, winning three of the last five, but came up short at the Georgia Dome against a compact and hungry Jamaican team.
Jurgen Klinsmann once again tweaked the starting lineup – starting John Brooks over Omar Gonzalez at center back and Brad Evans over Timothy Chandler at right back – and switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation instead of a 4-4-2. Instead of having captain Michael Bradley in a more attacking position linking up with forwards Clint Dempsey and Aron Johannsson in the first half, Bradley was positioned alongside Kyle Beckerman as a holding central midfielder.
Although the U.S. enjoyed 59 percent possession in the first half, The Reggae Boyz bossed the first half with their pace and tenacity. Klinsmann continued to shout positive reinforcements to his players on the pitch, but the U.S. had only a few bright spots going forward. The team was out of sync with too many errant passes and committed too many fouls (nine in the first half).
Jamaica scored their first goal in the 31st minute off a long throw by Kemar Lawrence in which Darren Mattocks soared over U.S. defenders Ventura Alvarado and John Brooks – who seemed confused by the long throw and were barely marking the striker – and placed a beautiful header into the top right corner over Brad Guzan’s out-stretched diving arm.
Brad Guzan was then caught in the 34th minute by the assistant referee for releasing the ball over the 18-yard box which led to a free kick on the edge of the box. Giles Barnes stepped up in the 36th minute and curled the free kick over the U.S. wall past the diving Guzan.
Following Jamaica’s second goal, Klinsmann who was shouting out positive reinforcements in the beginning of the game, went completely silent.
The U.S. started the second half with much more purpose and seemed to switch to a 4-4-2 allowing Bradley to venture further forward to link up with the team’s strikers. In the 48th minute Jamaican goalkeeper Ryan Thompson bobbled Johannsson’s long-range effort which Bradley slotted in the back of the net to bring the score to 2-1. Bradley is now the fourth U.S. Men’s National Team Member with 15 goals and 15 assists.
In the 50th minute, Johannsson won a free kick on the top of Jamaica’s box which Fabian Johnson shot straight at Thompson, but the goalkeeper let another loose rebound fall right to Johannsson’s head. With the goal wide open, Johannsson’s header from only a few feet away skied over the bar.
The U.S. nearly scored two goals of their own off of long throw-ins by Brad Davis in the 59th minute and 70th minute. The former reached Dempsey’s foot, but his shot was deflected for a corner, while the latter connected with Brooks’ header right to the awaiting arms of goalkeeper Ryan Thompson.
The U.S. kept the pressure on The Reggae Boyz throughout second half with 20 total shots throughout the game, but failed to put the ball in the back of the net.
Second half substitutes Mix Diskerud for Kyle Beckerman in the 68th minute, Alan Gordon for Aron Johannsson in the 73rd minute and DeAndre Yedlin for Alejandro Bedoya in the 78th minute were brought to add offensive flair to the attack but failed to have any meaningful impact. Diskerud and Yedlin had no impact whatsoever in the attack but Gordon did have a few nice knockdown headers, which went awry.
The 2-1 win gives Jamaica their first entrance into the CONCACAF Gold Cup Finals. They now await the winners of the Panama vs. Mexico match later this afternoon to find out who their opponents will be on Sunday, July 26, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Philadelphia in the final.
The U.S. will play the third-place match against the loser of Panama vs. Mexico and will also have a one game playoff this Fall with the winner of the Gold Cup to see who will represent CONCACAF in the 2017 Confederations Cup.