July 22, 2015
By Michael Lewis
Reggae Boyz eliminate USA from Gold Cup with stunning 2-1 semifinal win
ATLANTA -- The United States paid dearly for five minutes of poor defense in the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals and found itself crashing out of the tournament in a 2-1 defeat to Jamaica Wednesday night.
|Michael Bradley scored for the USA in the 48th minute.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Major League Soccer players Darren Mattocks and Giles Barnes did the damage for the Reggae Boyz late in the first half at the Georgia Dome. Michael Bradley tallied for the USA.
The shocked Americans failed to reach the final for only the third time in 13 attempts, joining the 1996, 2000 and 2003 squads.
The Jamaicans will play the winner of the Mexico-Panama match, the second game of doubleheader, in Philadelphia on Sunday.
The USA will be relegated to the third place match in Chester, Pa. on Saturday.
Just as importantly, the USA, the 2015 Gold Cup champions, will have to play this year's champion in a special playoff to determine which team will represent the region in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.
To appreciate the magnitude of the defeat, the USA had last lost to a Caribbean team on home soil in World Cup qualifying in 1968.
The opening 10 minutes of the match was a feeling out period for both sides as they tried to stretch the other's backline and look for weaknesses.
The best the Jamaicans could show early on was a shot from distance by Je-Vaughn Watson that sailed wide left in the 11th minute.
Four minutes later, the Americans tried to take advantage of an advantage ruling by referee Ricardo Montero of Costa Rica after Michael Hector fouled Aron Johannsson at midfield, but Clint Dempsey's resulting shot was hit over the cross bar.
Slowly, but surely, the USA became to feel more comfortable on the attacking end, forcing the issue, although it failed to get off any quality shots on goal.
The USA attemped a quick counter in the 24th minute as Michael Bradley left the ball for Gyasi Zardes, who skied his shot into the stands.
The Reggae Boyz came close to drawing first blood in the 27th minute when captain Rodolph Austin intercepted a bad clearance by the USA
Goalkeeper Ryan Thompson almost gifted the USA a goal in the 28th minute as he was slow to clear the ball out of the six-yard box. An alert Johannsson swept in and took the ball away from the close range, but he was at too difficult of an angle to put the ball on target, sending his shot to the left.
Suddenly, the game changed during a five-minute span late in the first half as an organized USA defense allowed the Caribbean side to strike twice.
First, Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence's throw-in set up an open Darren Mattocks with a header in the box that hit the right post and then bounced along the line before settling into the left corner in the 31st minute.
Only five minutes later, Guzan was called for bringing the ball out of the penalty area and the Jamaicans were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box. Giles Barnes, who plays for the Houston Dynamo, ripped a perfectly placed free kick into the upper right corner for a stunning 2-0 Jamaican lead.
Barely three minutes into the second half, the Americans cut the deficit in half when Thompson could not hold a shot by Johannsson. Dempsey dived in after the ball, knocked it loose from the keeper and Bradley slotted home the rebound from six yards.
It was the first goal surrendered by Jamaica after 351 minutes in the Gold Cup.
The USA had a great opportunity to equalize in the 51st minute when Fabian Johnson's free kick was knocked away by Thompson, but Johannsson headed the rebound over the bar.
On a counter in the 57th minute, Bradley banged a shot from distance off the left post.
Defender John Brooks came close in the 71st minute as Thompson saved his header off a throw-in from close range.
The Americans continued to send men forward and shots toward the Jamaican net as Thompson denied in the area in the 78th minute.