Jamaica led the United States for 75 minutes last night but had to settle for a draw, as the two nations played to a 1-1 draw in the opening game of the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup at Soldier Field in Chicago.
The United States are the defending champions and playing at home, yet it would feel like two points dropped for the “Reggae Boyz” who might easily have scored two or three times in the first half alone.
Jamaica face Caribbean rivals Trinidad and Tobago next at CityPark in Missouri from 7.30pm on Wednesday 28 June. First, the Soca Warriors will tackle Saint Kitts and Nevis from 3.30pm today at the Drv Pnk Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.
Trinidad and Tobago won all 10 of their previous competitive clashes with Saint Kitts and Nevis and another successful result this afternoon will put the two-island republic temporarily on top of Group A.
However, Warriors head coach Angus Eve insisted that his troops will not take their opponents lightly.
“They’ve done great to be here and they won’t be an easy opposition,” said Eve, at the pre-game press conference. “You can see the spirit they have and they beat two competent teams in Curaçao and French Guiana […] coming from behind all the time.
“They have a lot of spirit in the team and a lot of togetherness and you can se they have been very well coached.”
(Saint Kitts and Nevis, in fact, led French Guiana 1-0 at the halftime in their contest.)
Eve attended the Concacaf press conference with 20-year-old Atlanta United midfielder Ajani Fortune and, with coaches generally prone to take senior players along to such events, it was a hint that Fortune might make his Gold Cup debut today.
Fortune told the media that spirits are high in the Trinidad and Tobago camp.
“Everybody is willing to fight for each other,” said Fortune. “[…] We are here for one thing and that’s to win.”
Jamaica looked on course for a win last night, as they stormed ahead after 13 minutes—courtesy of a Damion Lowe header from a Demarai Gray free kick. And it should have been 2-0 in the 28th minute, after midfielder Kevon Lambert drew a penalty kick as he got on the end of a long throw-in.
But USA goalkeeper Matt Turner saved a penalty from Jamaica winger Leon Bailey with the Aston Villa star missing the rebound as well.
Gradually, the host nation grew into the game and, two minutes from time, substitute Brandon Vazquez pulled them level with a predatory finish after the Jamaican defence failed to deal with a Jesus Ferreira cross.
Remarkably, Jamaican coach Heimir Hallgrimsson is now eight matches without a win. He would be desperate to address that in mid-week against the Warriors.
But first, Trinidad and Tobago have some other regional business to address with a plucky Saint Kitts and Nevis outfit. Eve is looking forward to it.
“We continue to improve as a team—we continue to get better,” said Eve. “We have the opportunity now to push ourselves against the top teams in the region and we want to show that we can stand up to this kind of test.”
USA (4-3-3): 1.Matthew Turner (GK) (captain); 2.Deandre Yedlin, 4.Matt Miazga, 3.Aaron Long (20.Jalen Neal 46), 21.John Tolkin (19.Brandon Vazquez 82); 7.Alan Sonora (10.Cristian Roldan 64), 8.James Sands, 16.Aidan Morris; 17.Alejandro Zendejas (14.Djordje Mihailovic 64), 9.Jesus Ferreira, 13.Jordan Morris (11.Cade Cowell 54).
Unused substitutes: 18.Sean Johnson (GK), 23.Gabriel Slonina (GK), 5.Bryan Reynolds, 6.Gianluca Busio, 12.Miles Robinson, 15.Dejuan Jones.
Coach: BJ Callaghan
Jamaica (4-3-3): 1.Andre Blake (GK) (captain); 2.Dexter Lembikisa, 17.Damion Lowe, 19.Adrian Mariappa, 4.Amari’i Bell (20.Kemar Lawrence 64); 3.Kevon Lambert, 15.Joel Latibeaudiere, 10.Bobby Reid; 7.Leon Bailey (8.Daniel Johnson 90), 18.Michail Antonio (9.Cory Burke 75), 12.Demarai Gray (11.Shamar Nicholson 90).
Unused substitutes: 13.Coniah Boyce-Clarke (GK), 23.Jahmali Waite (GK), 6.Di’shon Bernard, 14.Dujuan Richards, 16.Kaheem Parris, 21.Javain Brown, 22.Jonathan Russell.
Coach: Heimir Hallgrimsson