ATLANTA – A nervous journeyman goalkeeper who rode his luck, a pair of opportune goals for Jamaica and a swath of missed chances saw the charmed run American soccer had experienced all summer long come crashing to a halt on Wednesday night.
It had all been going so well. The United States women, when faced with the best teams on the planet? Undefeated champions. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, in its heavyweight match-up with governing body FIFA? Comfortably ahead and hungry for more triumphs.
The men’s team supposedly had the easy end of the bargain, but was bounced out of the CONCACAF Gold Cup at the semifinal stage thanks to a 2-1 defeat to Jamaica at the Georgia Dome, a sizeable upset that few saw coming.
Goals from Darren Mattocks and Giles Barnes in the first half put the Caribbean side ahead, and despite some shaky moments for Jamaican goalkeeper Ryan Thompson, the U.S. could only manage to halve the deficit, through captain Michael Bradley just after the break.
And so the Jamaicans will take on Mexico on Sunday, while the U.S. is stuck with the ignominious task of playing a third place game that no one much cares about the previous day.
“We had enough chance to score the goals we needed to get to the final and that is the only thing we were missing today,” head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “We had enough chances to put three, four or five goals in there. We didn’t do that and that’s why we lost. We have to swallow that pill.”
While it is only to be expected that Klinsmann would try to put a positive spin on this disappointment, the reality is that the national public has started to expect more than a result such as this.
With the advantage of hosting the Gold Cup every two years, the Americans had never previously failed to make the final, except on past occasions when powerful teams from outside the region, such as Brazil or Colombia, were invited to take part.
It also boasted a 13-1-8 all-time record against Jamaica, a squad that has made improvements but is certainly no world-beater. Participating in the Copa America tournament against the best teams in South America earlier in the summer, Jamaica lost all three matches. It is currently ranked 76th in the world, just beneath Burkina Faso, Uganda, the Faroe Islands and Uzbekistan.
The key to the U.S. defeat was a frenetic 10-minute stretch just after the midway point of the first half, when the action flowed from end-to-end and Jamaica somehow emerged from it with a two-goal cushion.
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