By Michael Lewis
PASADENA, Calif. – Memo to Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch:
Kemar Lawrence will be reporting to your MLS team just a little behind schedule due to his continuing CONCACAF Gold Cup commitments and it is his fault.
The left back turned into the toast of Jamaica Sunday night as he connected on a dramatic 24-yard free kick in the 88th minute to boost the Reggae Boyz to a stunning 1-0 upset of Mexico in the semifinals at the Rose Bowl.
“The best way to put it, the biblical story, David slew Goliath. It’s overwelming,” an elated Jamaica head coach Theodore Whitmore said. “Words can’t explain it. The guys, they were hungry this afternoon. They needed it more than the Mexicans and we did what they had to do.”
Two years ago, the Jamaicans stunned the United States, 2-1, in the semifinals, to reach the championship game. They will meet the U.S. in the final in Santa Clara, Calif. Wednesday night.
They can thank Lawrence, who lifted the Caribbean side into its second consecutive Gold Cup final — it lost to El Tri in the 2015 championship game, 3-1 — as the seven-time champions of the competition walked off the pitch confounded.
The decisive play of the match was set up after Mexico’s Hugo Ayala fouled Michael Binns two yards from the penalty arc in the 86th minute.
Jamaican forward Owayne Gordon and Binns stood to the left and right of the ball, respectively, apparently ready to take the free kick as Lawrence ambled up from his left back spot. In a bit of gamesmanship, Lawrence repositioned the ball as a Mexican player protested. He then launched a curling shot with his left foot over a four-man defensive wall into the top corner as goalkeeper Jesus Corona did not move a muscle.
“The free kick we practice a lot yesterday, so it was no surprise to me,” Whitmore said. “If you can recall. it was when the ref blew the whistle, he went back and spotted the ball well. He knew it was his time.”
Lawrence scored his third international goal and his first in three years.
The Reggae Boyz will meet U.S. Soccer in the final. Check out the best moments from Selección Nacional de México 0 – 1 Jamaica Football Federation ( J.F.F ) #GoldenMoment #MEXvJAM #GoldCup2017
تم نشره بواسطة CONCACAF في 23 يوليو، 2017
Video courtesy of CONCACAF’s Facebook page
Lawrence, who took free kicks throughout the tournament for Jamaica, hasn’t attempted any for the Red Bulls. But that could very well change after his 11th-hour heroics.
“Well, the New York Red Bulls probably have better kickers than Kemar Lawrence,” Whitmore said. “The Jamaica team needs Kemar Lawrence in dead-ball situations. It’s a totally different thing. Probably when the New York Red Bulls see this tonight, Kemar might be taking free kicks.”
That comment broke up the press conference.
Lawrence was far from the lone hero for the Jamaicans as goalkeeper Andre Blake made several key saves again to help his team make history.
In fact, Blake was named the CONCACAF man of the match for the third time in the Cup as he all but sealed the Golden Glove award that will be presented after Wednesday’s final.
The Philadelphia Union keeper was outstanding, keeping Jamaica in the match with what has become expected heroics.
“Andre has been doing well,” Whitmore said. “Andre brings confidence to the team. He gives us a bit of comfort when he’s back there. When we are running a bit of risk, Andre kept us going.”
In fact, Blake picked up from where he left off in the 2-1 quarterfinal win over Canada on Thursday night, making back-to-back saves in the 12th minute. First, he sprawled to the ground to make a body save on Jesus Duenas’ 16-yard attempt and second later denied Erick Torres’ follow-up try from 13 yards.
The Jamaican backline looked shaky in the early going, making several unforced errors, giving the Mexicans several good looks on the goal as Blake made another save on Torres’ point-blank header from six yards in the 25th minute.
The Reggae Boyz took their first chance in the 38th minute as Jermaine Taylor drilled a 36-yard free kick toward the lower left corner that Corona punched away for a corner kick.
After Corona denied second-half sub Ricardo Morris in the 56th minute, Blake punched away Jesus Gallardo’s 22-yard free kick in the 65th minute.
Then it was all left up to Lawrence’s educated left foot to decide matters and write some more Jamaican soccer history.