Gold Cup / USMNT

Gold Cup recap: USA 1-2 Jamaica

The US Men’s National Team crashed out of the Gold Cup Wednesday night, falling 2-1 to Jamaica at the Georgia Dome. Playing against a well-drilled, organized Jamaican side, the US lacked shape and composure much like they did in all three group stage matches. Unlike those matches however, Jamaica made the US pay, with Darren Mattocks and Giles Barnes scoring in rapid succession. This insured that the Americans improved play against CONCACAF minnow, Cuba, was the only aberration when it came to Jurgen Klinsmann’s sides first half performances.

And while Michael Bradley led from the front in the second half, scoring three minutes after the break, it proved to be too little to dig the US out of their two-goal hole. With desperation creeping in, the US abandoned any principles of organized play, reverting too quickly to long ball prayers that were never answered. After making the past five Gold Cup finals, the US will now play for third place at PPL Park on Saturday afternoon.

First half

Klinsmann made two changes from the side that romped over Cuba, with John Brooks rejoining Ventura Alvarado at the heart of the US defense, and Brad Evans replacing an ailing Tim Chandler at right back.

Never disguising their intent, Jamaica sat deep from the opening whistle, using their superior athleticism to challenge the US on the counterattack.

A cheap turnover from Clint Dempsey gave the Jamaicans their first real chance to run at the US defense, forcing Kyle Beckerman to slide in late to concede a dangerous free kick from the corner of the box. Despite being marginally better than they were against Honduras, Haiti, and Panama, the same first half problems crept into the Americans play. The pre-match chatter had been that the US must eliminate their poor early passing and decision making or face getting overrun by the pacy Jamaicans.

They failed to heed that lesson in the 11th minute, when Aron Johannsson led an odd man rush into the Jamaican half, only to pass straight to a defender who was quick to launch an attack the other way.

Johannsson nearly redeemed himself for that turnover when he brought the ball forward and was brought to ground, but Dempsey was unable to keep his shot on frame.

On 21 minutes, the US created their best build up, when Gyasi Zardes picked up a loose ball and drove forward. When Alejandro Bedoya couldn’t handle his entry pass, Fabian Johnson overlapped, but could only win a corner.

Having begun to grow into the game, Bradley’s storming run into the box in the 24th minute led to Zardes having an open look from the corner of box. But with options at the far post and only goalkeeper Ryan Thompson to beat, Zardes slashed at his shot, sending it well high and wide.

At the other end, Jamaica’s Garath McCleary looked to attacked Johnson on the US’ left flank, and when the fullback blocked McCleary’s entry ball, it fell fortuitously for Giles Barnes, though the Houston Dynamo man was unable to keep his shot on target.

Johannsson nearly stole an opener for the US in the 27th minute when Thompson dwelt too long on the ball at the back, but when he poked the ball away from the Jamaican keeper, it deflected out off the outside of the post.

The US kept the pressure firmly on Jamaica, and moments later Johnson found space to cut inside on his right foot, but Thompson was equal to it. Pushing it behind for a corner, the keeper looked on helplessly as Dempsey got free on the set piece, but was unable to direct his header on frame.

In the 31st minute, out of next to nothing, the match changed.

Targeted on a long throw from the Americans’ right flank, Darren Mattocks, as he had done all night, out jumped his marker. This time it was Brooks, who stands 6 inches taller than the Jamaican striker. As Brad Guzan looked on helplessly, Mattocks’ flicked-on header bounced off the inside of the far post and rolled back along the goal line before finally fully crossing it.

Energized by their opener, Jamaica continued to press forward, and they were given the opportunity to double their advantage via an extremely unusual call. Claiming the ball in his box, Guzan looked to start a quick counter, but he was whistled for carrying the ball outside of the box as he released his throw. Gifting Jamaica an unexpected free kick, Barnes stepped up, striking it perfectly over the wall and to Guzan’s left where he was helpless to stop it.

Stunned by the score line, the US struggled to regain their footing, nearly pulling one back on the stroke of halftime. Spying Dempsey racing into the box on the left, Johannsson put him away into space, but Thompson was quickly off his line to block the shot with his legs.

Second half

Coming out in the second half, the US got exactly the start they needed when Bradley cut the deficit in half in the 48th minute. After a spinning shot Johannsson had Thompson scrambling to recover a spilled rebound, with Dempsey flying in to challenge the goalkeeper. Paying the price with a heavy collision, Dempsey managed to jar the ball free, allowing Bradley to coast in behind him, sidefooting the ball into the net.

Johannsson was again the catalyst in the 50th minute when his fancy footwork earned the US a dangerous free kick just outside of the box. However, when Thompson pushed Johnson’s delivery directly into Johannsson’s path, the striker hurried his header, sending the point blank chance floating over the bar.

Suddenly, the US had all the momentum as they drove for an equalizer.

Finding time on the left corner of the box, Bradley smashed a knuckling drive the Thompson could do little more than block with his body. Caroming off his chest, Thompson was relieved to see the ball ricochet off the near post and out.

Next it was Dempsey’s turn to try his luck. Slicing into the box on Evans’ long throw, the tournament’s leading scorer was unable to get clean contact on his volley, rolling it harmlessly to Thompson.

In the 59th minute, Bedoya picked out Johannsson with an entry pass at the top of the box, and the striker used a deft touch to keep the ball rolling to Zardes, who again could not keep his shot down.

An equalizer felt inevitable when Brooks rose highest on another long throw, but with the goal beckoning, he could only direct his header directly to Thompson’s feet.

With the US throwing everybody forward in search of a match tying goal, Jamaica nearly reopened their two goal lead at the other end in the 82nd minute, but the combined efforts of substitute Mix Diskerud and Johnson proved just enough to keep out the stampeding runs of Simon Dawkins and McCleary.

Frustrated, and out of ideas, the US resorted to lumping balls forward to substitute big man Alan Gordon, but Gordon was well marshaled by the Jamaican defense. With time running down, the Jamaicans frustrated the Americans with smart possession in the attacking corners, before celebrating wildly at the final whistle as they advanced to their first Gold Cup final.

Kickoff for the final is at 6:30 pm on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. On Saturday, the US will face Panama in the third place game at PPL Park at 4 pm. In October, the US will play a one-match playoff against the winner of Sunday’s final for qualification for the Confederations Cup.

US verdict

First half nightmares

This US team was picked for its veteran savvy. Think about that for a second. Then remember the first half of every match other than Cuba: Disjointed. Ugly. Sloppy.

Those words can all easily describe a team that at times looked to have never played together before. And at times that was an accurate assessment. In search of chemistry and a winning formula, Klinsmann tinkered all the way through the group stage, while failing to convince at any point.

For whatever reason, chemistry does not appear to be something Klinsmann values highly and he must wear plenty of responsibility for fielding a team that rarely seemed to know where the next attack was coming from, were it not derived from an individual feat of athleticism.

Midfield holes

Jamaica had a game plan. And they executed.

For their two signature wins in Holland and Germany, the US played the scrappy underdog.

Back in CONCACAF, they are favorite and Klinsmann’s team proved, fairly definitively, in this tournament they don’t quite know how to play as such. Jamaican soccer under Winfried Schaefer is about two things: defensive organization, and athleticism and pace on the counterattack.

That was a known going into the game, yet Klinsmann again chose to rely on Kyle Beckerman to screen his back four. For all the Beckerman provides, it is no secret that he can be exploited by pace. And with Bradley foraging higher up the pitch, Beckerman knew his limitations, staying close to his defense for the majority of his time on the pitch. With Bradley high and Beckerman deep, seeing no white shirts within 10-15 yards to pick up the second ball when Jamaica won a defensive header or the US failed to control a touch in the attacking third, became an all too familiar sight. For Jamaica, it was the perfect platform to enact their game plan.

Final thoughts

Perhaps the most disappointing piece of what has been an extremely disappointing pie, was the lack of fight throughout the tournament from the US. Whether it was complacency, fitness issues, confusion about team shape, or chemistry, the US spent large portions of the Gold Cup being outcompeted. Not only did the team lack pace overall, but the quickness and aggression to simple 50-50 balls was lacking.

That will keep US fans up at night. In the past, one thing that was always certain was that the US was going to fight, scrap, and compete until the final whistle. Whether they were the better, or more technical team was never consequential to the fact. And if such certainty is now up in the air, it becomes hard to locate even a silver lining from the current state of the US Mens’ National Team.

Fortunately, 2018 is a long way off and they will even have a final chance to redeem themselves in a one-match playoff for a berth to the Confederations Cup. But for whatever glory comes from winning friendlies in Europe, World Cup qualifying will soon become all that matters and the USMNT is staring at a group of teams in CONCACAF that are not just improving, but are closing the gap.

USA
1-Brad Guzan; 16-Brad Evans, 13-Ventura Alvarado, 6-John Brooks, 23-Fabian Johnson; 4-Michael Bradley(capt), 5-Kyle Beckerman (10-Mix Diskerud ’67); 11-Alejandro Bedoya (2-DeAndre Yedlin ’78), 8-Clint Dempsey, 20-Gyasi Zardes; 9-Aron Johannsson (26-Alan Gordon ’73)
Subs Not Used: 12-Nick Rimando, 22-William Yarbrough, 15-Tim Ream, 19-Graham Zusi, 25-DaMarcus Beasley, 18-Chris Wondolowski, 21-Tim Chandler, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 24-Joe Corona
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

Jamaica
23-Ryan Thompson; 19-Adrian Mariappa, 4-Wes Morgan, 3-Michael Hector, 20-Kemar Lawrence; 10-Jobi McAnuff, 15-Je-Vaughn Watson, 17-Rodolph Austin, 22-Garath McCleary (16-Joel Grant ’90); 9-Giles Barnes (2-Chris Humphrey ’85), 11-Darren Mattocks (18-Simon Dawkins ’57)
Subs Not Used: 13-Dwayne Miller, 1-Andre Blake, 6-Lance Laing, 25-Sean McFarlane, 12-Demar Phillips, 24-Omar Holness, 7-Andre Clennon, 8-Michael Seaton, 14-Allan Ottey
Head Coach: Winfried Schaefer

Scoring Summary
JAM – Darren Mattocks (Kemar Lawrence) – 31st minute
JAM – Giles Barnes – 36th minute
USA – Michael Bradley – 48th minute

Misconduct Summary
USA – Kyle Beckerman (caution-foul) – 33rd minute
JAM – Garath McCleary (caution-foul) – 46th minute
USA – DeAndre Yedlin (caution-foul) – 88th minute

Stats Summary (USA /JAM)
Shots: 20 / 10
Shots on Goal: 10 / 3
Saves: 1 / 9
Corner Kicks: 11 / 8
Fouls: 14 / 11
Offside: 1 / 4

Officials
Referee: Ricardo Montero

Venue: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
Kickoff: 6:00 p.m. ET

11 Comments

  1. jurgen klinsmann should be fired. this team has looked really tepid all tournament and i wouldn’t have felt great about him as a coach even if we had somehow managed to equalize off of a garbage alan gordon goal in the 91st minute. he has been outcoached from the the second he announced his roster. the lack of proper changes from the group stage to the knockout stage shows his stubbornness or arrogance in my opinion and gives me very little confidence that he will be able to see why we lost and learn from this experience going forward

  2. Eli points out the flaws that continue to dog US Soccer.
    .
    Glaringly…to me was the lack if technical proficiency in the midfield and general man marking by defenders in the box.
    .
    Beyond that there is not much to say about the United States Men’s National Team the warts are what the warts are…. So congratulations Jamaica- you were the superior team.
    .

    • The paragraph under “midfield holes” said it all…………oh, yeah and our CB’s may show individual talent sometime, but their play is shaky at best………

  3. OneManWolfpack says:

    Thanks for ruining my plans Sunday gentleman. And I can’t go to PPL cause I had to switch to be off for Sunday. Weekend = RUINED. Jamaica, really?! Get it together. Alan Gordon? Why do you can kick the ball down the middle and over the top for the last 15 minutes?! What a waste. Klinsmann must get to the Confederations Cup or he may have to go.

    • Ruining YOUR plans? Think about poor Mark Geiger. He has to cancel that Panama vacation now, after he used up all his frequent flyer miles to book it!
      Book it! Booked. Get it?!?

      I’ll show myself out.

  4. So glad that I waited to buy tickets for the Final.

    For all of the lofty aspirations that Klinsmann espoused when he got the job, have we really advanced as a team under him? His supporters will point to the friendly wins vs Italy, Germany and Holland, but was that really progress from what Bradley and Arena had accomplished?

    If I were in Sunil’s shoes, I’d consider moving Klinsmann to another position in US Soccer where he can focus on youth development and establishing the structure for this endeavor. He just doesn’t have the right skill set to be an effective manager of the senior squad. We need someone who is more pragmatic and results oriented as our manager. The international game is not about playing beautiful soccer as you don’t have enough time with the players in order to accomplish this. It’s not like club competition where you have the players for longer periods of time and can incorporate these types of concepts because the team has time to gel.

  5. to borrow one of our favorite Union phrases … it seems WSSM.

  6. Andy Muenz says:

    Extra value on my Saturday tickets and I don’t need to worry about missing the end of the Union game Sunday to make sure I get to the Linc on time.

  7. Great One says:

    Well at least we didn’t make any stupid trades today… Wait what’s that you say?

  8. Why didn’t the wall jump?! Had they jumped they would have prevented that 2nd goal from going in.
    .
    Bradley had a terrible touch all night. Beckerman was not much better. All in all the team was far from imposing during the whole tournament during which they should have played with much more authority and killing instincts. I think they thought it would be a cake walk after beating Germany & Holland. Beating those 2 teams was probably the worst thing they could have done.

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