The Jamaica Reggae Boyz, despite a tough, 2-0 quarterfinal loss to the USA last Sunday at RKF Stadium in Washington D.C., Caribbean champion Jamaican men’s national team represented the region well in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament, played in several U. S. venues.
The Jamaicans were knocked out of the competition when a shot by Jermaine Jones early in the second half took a deflection off of Jamaican defender Jermaine Taylor and got past his goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
After the U.S. goal and the expulsion of Taylor, who appeared to have tripped U. S. midfielder Jones (replays showed otherwise), Jamaica could not recover. Clint Dempsey scored the insurance goal for the U.S. who will play Panama in the semifinals on Wednesday. Mexico plays Honduras in the other semifinal.
The Reggae Boyz played undefeated through the preliminary rounds of the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup with its last victory in the early rounds coming against Honduras, 1-0, on Monday, June 13, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. In the earlier games, Jamaica beat Grenada and Guatemala and showed a vastly improved game, a reflection of much progress in Caribbean soccer.
Against Central American champion Honduras, the Reggae Boyz were on top from the outset, playing a very attractive possession game out of a 1-3 has developed -5-2 formation. Jason Morrison anchored the three-man Jamaican back line, constantly communicating with his fellow defenders Jermaine Taylor and Adrian Reid, but it was central midfielders Damian Williams and Kemar Daley who were most impressive. Both played extremely well together, denying Honduras space in the middle and winning balls in the middle of the park. Eventually, in the 36th minute, Ryan Johnson took matters into his own hands and rifled a shot from 22 yards that shook the crossbar and deflected off beaten goalkeeper Noel Valladares. The half ended with Jamaica ahead.
The second period started just as lively as the first as Honduras came out aggressively in the hunt for the equalizer, but Jamaica kept its composure and continued its good play. Morrison’s excellent positional play and communication was a major factor on difference; midfielders Daley, Williams and Jevaughn Watson continuously tracked back to help on defense and win balls as Jamaica moved the ball across the width of the pitch in attack.
Meanwhile, Honduras, which lost forward Carlos Costly through injury in the 25th minute, got a spark from second half substitute and veteran Walter Martinez; the forward clearly was a concern for Jamaica. He got behind Jamaica’s defense on a couple of occasions and was fouled at times, which led to free kicks on Jamaica’s goal.
The Reggae Boyz did not capitalize on a penalty in the 69th minute when Johnson’s shot was saved by Valladares as the goalkeeper guessed right and dove to his left. Dane Richards on the Jamaican frontline was at home at Red Bull Arena; his speed was a problem for Honduras in the first half as he got behind the Honduran defense regularly, but could make those forays count. Jamaican goalkeeper Dwayne Miller made a successful CONCACAF debut.
In Major League Soccer last weekend, the New York Red Bulls played to a 3-3 draw with the Portland Timbers on Sunday and Kansas City beat San Jose, 1-0 on Friday. On Saturday, Los Angeles over Colorado, 3-1; Real Salt Lake and DC United tied, 1-1 and so did New England and Chicago; Seattle beat Toronto FC, 1-0; Vancouver baeta Philadelphia 1-0; Dallas beat Chivas USA, 2-1; and Columbus topped Houston, 2-0.