United States knots Jamaica, stumbling just days after beating Mexico

How do you keep the buzz going after an electrifying victory over your fiercest rival in front of a boisterous home crowd? How do you k...

How do you keep the buzz going after an electrifying victory over your fiercest rival in front of a boisterous home crowd?

How do you keep that momentum going days later in a nearly empty stadium, on pockmarked ground, thousands of miles from home?

Those were the questions for the United States men’s national soccer team on Tuesday night as they lined up to face Jamaica in their eighth qualifying game for the World Cup 2022, four days after a thrilling and moving victory against Mexico.

And for about 90 minutes in Kingston, the Americans never really found an answer, mostly looking sluggish in a 1-1 draw.

“It was a tough game, not the result we wanted,” said Timothy Weah, whose first-half goal was a bright spot on the team’s otherwise lackluster night. “Coming into the game, we wanted to win.”

US coach Gregg Berhalter called the draw a good result – a hard-earned point in a tough environment on the road. But he admitted that the result could have been below the expectations of some players.

It also ended their brief stint at the top of the group standings at Concacaf. Canada beat Mexico, 2-1, in the snow in Edmonton hours after the United States equalized Jamaica. The win put the Canadiens in first place – for now – as they try to qualify for their first world Cup since 1986.

Mexico has slipped to third place, just behind the United States, which will visit Canada in January. The top three teams in the group automatically qualify for next year’s World Cup in Qatar. The fourth can still enter the field during a playoff with a team from another region.

Ahead of the game, Berhalter said he warned his young players to let their energy levels drop after their big win over Mexico.

“In the coaching world, you talk about trap games,” Berhalter said. “You talk about putting that last game behind you, and the next game is the most important game.”

He called Tuesday’s meeting against Jamaica a “massive game”. But neither the team’s play nor the atmosphere reflected that premise.

The stands were mostly empty due to pandemic restrictions, and the match took place on dry, ragged pitch that grew more and more ragged as the minutes wore on.

On the ragged grass, each team was able to at least each create a moment of beauty.

In the 11th minute, a back and forth with Ricardo Pepi sent Weah dangerously leaping into the penalty area, where a crowd of Jamaicans awaited him. But Weah continued, dancing through two defenders, keeping his balance as he tiptoed around a final challenge, before tossing the ball with his left foot off the far post and into the net.

Weah said the game had special meaning for him: While his father is former World Player of the Year George Weah, the current President of Liberia, the mother’s side of the family is Jamaican and his aunt was in the match.

“My parents told me about it,” Weah said before the game. “They said not to insist too much on their country. But obviously business is business.

Jamaica meant business, too. Michail Antonio, the third-highest scorer in the English Premier League, equalized the score in an exciting way just 11 minutes later when he dribbled into a cubbyhole with a space more than 30 yards from goal and decided to throw a speculative shot towards the net. . The ball sailed over the outstretched arms of US goalie Zack Steffen and under the crossbar, eliciting cheers from the sparse and thankfully stunned crowd.

“It’s one of those goals where you turn around and clap your hands and say, ‘Amazing goal, incredible individual effort,'” said Berhalter.

Jamaica had been flat in the first seven games of World Cup qualifying, accumulating just six points out of a possible 21. six World Cup qualifiers in Jamaica before Tuesday.

The Jamaicans sometimes lacked ambition and ideas in attack, but they made up for it with a level of physics close to roughness. They seemed to take the lead in the dying minutes of the game when Damion Lowe headed the goal. But he was whistled for a foul (a call that reruns have shown to be questionable) that nullified the goal.

The United States also appeared to be pedestrianized, particularly in the midfield, where the presence of Weston McKennie, who missed the game due to a build-up of yellow cards, appeared to be missing.

“It was a great experience for our team to go through this,” said Berhalter, who noted that the field conditions had disrupted some of his team’s passing efforts, “but you can see the guys are disappointed.”

Christian Pulisic, who scored against Mexico but continues to recover from a sprained ankle, came on as a substitute with around half an hour to go. Entered the match in a similar situation on Friday, he had directed the goal of the green light.

But he failed to conjure any balm for Americans’ problems on Tuesday night, leaving the United States to wonder where all the energy and urgency had gone.

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Newsrust - US Top News: United States knots Jamaica, stumbling just days after beating Mexico
United States knots Jamaica, stumbling just days after beating Mexico
Newsrust - US Top News
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