The United States is out of the Gold Cup. Because of Jamaica. In the semifinals.
Everyone expected the U.S. and Mexico to meet in the tournament final. Or, if not Mexico, then Costa Rica would be there. Nothing was going to derail that. Until Jamaica did.
The U.S. doesn’t lose to Jamaica. It sure as hell doesn’t on home soil, but it did, marking its first loss to a Caribbean side at home in 46 years.
The U.S. isn’t supposed to lose in the Gold Cup at all, unless it’s playing a powerhouse and not until the final. The Americans had made five consecutive Gold Cup finals, last missing out on the championship match in 2003, when they lost to Brazil in the semifinals. In fact, they have never been eliminated from the Gold Cup by any teams except for Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia.
And now Jamaica.
Nothing about the match made sense. It completely bucked years of history that said the U.S. would be in the final and that no one besides Mexico could cause them team any problems. It wrested free their hold on a tournament that they have dominated of late, barring a couple losses at the hands of Mexico. And it ended the idea that the Americans couldn’t be beaten on home soil by CONCACAF’s middling sides.
And yet, despite it all, the match made total sense. If you didn’t look back into history and instead focused on just this Gold Cup, there wasn’t anything entirely unforeseen.
The U.S. played one very good match in the entire tournament, and that came against an atrocious Cuba side that was thumped repeatedly. Besides that, the U.S. was out-run and rarely looked like the athletic, fit team that their reputation was built on.
Against Jamaica, this was on display again. It only scored a goal because of a goalkeeper gaffe.
Their next best chance also came on the goalkeeper’s mistake, and their next next best chance was a shot from 20 yards right at the goalkeeper. So it’s not as if they were creating opportunities at will.
This all happened against a team that wasn’t supposed to eliminate the U.S., and had never done so before. It happened on home soil. It happened earlier in the Gold Cup than it has happened in 12 years. And it happened at the worst time possible — in the tournament Jurgen Klinsmann called the most important competition of the U.S.’s year.
Luckily for the Americans, they still get a chance at the Confederations Cup with a playoff looming in October. But they have some work to do before then. Maybe they should let the shock wear off before they get to work on that, though.