Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz put in a stellar performance in front of a sell out crowd and made history by dethroning the defending champions USA 2-1 in their CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-final match at the Georgia Dome on Wednesday night.
Vancouver Whitecaps’ striker Darren Mattocks opened the scoring in the 31st minute with a well taken header from a long throw by Kemar Lawrence, while Houston Dynamo’s Giles Barnes text book free kick five minutes later was a sight to behold from 20 yards.
The USA got their consolation when Michael Bradley pounced on a spill by Ryan Thompson, the Jamaican custodian in minute 48.
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The win marks the first time in Jamaica's history that they have defeated US on their home soil, and it’s also the first time they have made the finals of this prestigious tournament.
The U.S. started the game on the front foot as they quickly pressed at the Jamaica backline, but the Jamaicans were able to fend off the first attack of the game through a Wes Morgan clearance.
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Despite having to soak up the early pressure from the Americans, the Reggae Boyz were the first to get a real good chance after the USA failed to clear the ball from the corner and Giles Barnes teed up Je-Vaughn Watson on the edge of the box, but his shot sailed just wide of the target in the 12th minute.
Though having the greater portion of possession, the USA failed to get in a nice passing rhythm, this was mainly because the Jamaicans were pressing the them high up the field, something they failed to do against Haiti.
The USA's first real opportunity came in minute 24 when Aron Johannsson found space inside the box as he skillfully evaded the challenge of Kemar Lawrence. He then slid the ball across the face of goal for Gyasi Zardes, but Micheal Hector broke up the play before a shot could be taken. Immediately after, Barnes muffed an easy chance for Jamaica.
Thompson was placed under pressure by Johannsson following a back pass and it almost led to a goal for the US, it was a nervy moment for Thompson.
A curling effort from fullback Fabian Johnson as he surged forward from the left and cut back on his right was superbly saved by Thompson to make up for his earlier error.
Lax defending from the home side allowed Mattocks to head home a long throw which kissed both posts before crossing the line in the 31st minute, to put the visitors ahead.
Five minutes later USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan was judged to have handled the ball outside his own penalty box and gave up a cheap free kick at the edge of the area. Barnes produced a breathtaking free kick that rain-bowed over the wall and hit the back of the net behind the hapless Guzan to give Jamaica a two-goal advantage at the Georgia Dome.
Coach Schaefer coached Klinsmann when he was at VfB Stuttgart in Germany, and he was once again coaching him on how to deploy the best tactics to outsmart your opponents, as the Reggae Boyz headed into the half with a 2-0 lead over Klinsmann's stunned star studded troupes.
The USA got off to a blistering start in the second half as Bradley pulled them back into the game after capitalizing on a mistake by Thompson. Johannsson collected the ball on the edge of the box and fired a tame shot at goal, which the keeper failed to hold. Morgan and the forward collided in an attempt to get the rebound and the loose ball fell straight to Bradley, who fired the ball into the net from 4 yards.
The momentum swung drastically in the Americans favor and they had plenty of chances to equalize. In minute 57, Bradley rocketed a shot from distance. The shot swerved incredibly before miraculously deflecting off Thompson's chest and off of the post. Jamaica survived yet another flurry of attack from the US. Riding their luck, Jamaica just barely brushed aside chance after chance.
For the remainder of the game, the US persisted but Jamaica's resilience and stout defending by an organized unit just would not crack. Jamaica held off the challenge and head into the Gold Cup final with high expectations.
The US, on the other hand, will miss the Gold Cup final for the first time since 2003. If the Jamaicans should go on to win the tournament they will meet the Americans again in the playoff for qualification to the Confederations Cup in 2017 in Russia.
The Americans -winners of the 2013 Gold Cup - will meet the champions of this year's Gold Cup in a play-off match.