Jamaica’s “Reggae Boyz” delivered defending champion United States a humbling 2-1 defeat Wednesday, becoming the first Caribbean squad to reach the Gold Cup final by shocking the heavily favored hosts.
After Jamaican defenders disrupted US attacks for the first half hour, Darren Mattocks nodded home the first goal in the 31st minute and and Giles Barnes scored on a free kick in the 36th to put Jamaica ahead 2-0 and signal an epic upset was in the making at the sold-out Georgia Dome.
US captain Michael Bradley answered in the 48th minute but the Americans never managed an equalizer against the stubborn Caribbean backline and lost to a Jamaican side that was 1-13 with eight drawn in their prior matches.
“We made history by getting into the final. It shows what this team is capable of,” Barnes said.
“We’ve shocked a few people along the way but we’ve not shocked ourselves. We don’t fear anybody. We put out a great team.”
On Sunday, Jamaica will face the winner of a later semi-final between Mexico and Panama at Philadelphia in the championship match of the biennial North American regional football championship.
“We cannot have a party now. We still have one more match,” Jamaican coach Winfried Schaefer said. “Bob Marley comes after the match.”
In Jamaica, the late reggae legend’s music might be playing all day and night until the match.
“Just incredible. The feeling right now is just insane,” Barnes said. “The phone hasn’t stopped. Back in Jamaica there’s got to be a party on. It will be even bigger when we lift the Cup on Sunday.”
The five-time champion Americans had won their past five Gold Cup semi-finals but were undone by a Jamaican side that matched its best runs in 1993 and 1998 just to make the last four. It was the first Caribbean semi-finalist since Guadeloupe in 2007.
Bitter pill for USA
“The team is disappointed,” US coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “I cannot complain about the performance of the team. They kept pushing, pushing, pushing. We had enough chances. We had enough chances to put three, four, five in there and we didn’t do it and that’s why we lost.
“Congratulations to Jamaica on making the final and we have to swallow that pill.”
A long throw from the left side found Mattocks, who outleaped two defenders and headed the ball in off the far post, and the second goal came off a free kick set up when US goalkeeper Brad Guzan was whistled for a throw with his foot outside the area.
“I didn’t see the foot was out until the replay,” Barnes said.
Barnes curved a free kick from just outside the penalty area over the wall and into the upper right corner of the goal.
“I’m very proud of my team,” Schaefer said. “What they were doing from the first minute to the last was over the limit.”
The US scored when Aron Johannsson blasted a shot that Jamaican goalkeeper Ryan Thompson stopped but couldn’t keep in his grasp. Clint Dempsey followed and spilled over prone Thompson as the ball came loose and an onrushing Bradley buried it into the back of the net.
From there it was a case of missed opportunities. Johannsson fired a free kick in the 51st minute that Thompson could not fully grip but Johannsson headed the rebound over the crossbar. In the 57th, Bradley fired a hard outside shot that bounced off Thompson’s chest, deflected off the goalpost to his right and out of danger.
“The luck was not with us but maybe we were not clinical enough as well,” Klinsmann said. “We saw a lot of good stuff but it’s the goals that matter.”
John Brooks headed a long thrown in from the heart of the penalty box in the 71st minute but Thompson made the save.
“We knew what a threat the US is going forward,” Barnes said. “We thought if we could drop back and soak up the pressure that would be a the best way to handle it.”