Christian Pulisic helped key the U.S.’s win over Jamaica. (USA TODAY Sports)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – For the first time since 2011, the United States and Mexico will meet in a Concacaf Gold Cup final.
Enduring muggy conditions and an 88-minute weather delay in the middle of the first half, the Americand defeated Jamaica, 3-1, before 28,473 rain-soaked fans at Nissan Stadium.
Midfielder Christian Pulisic scored twice in the second half after Weston McKennie’s opener to advance the USA to a tournament-record 11th Concacaf Gold Cup final.
The United States will square off against archrival Mexico, which needed etratime to beat Haiti 1-0 in Tuesday’s other semifinal at Soldier Field in Chicago Sunday.
U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter made four changes to the starting XI that beat Curacao, 1-0, in the quarterfinal, bringing in Jozy Altidore up top and Jordan Morris to the midfield plus Reggie Cannon and Matt Miazga in the back line. Berhalter also continued to rotate the captain’s armband, this time handing it to Tim Ream – one of nine players to captain the U.S. in 2019 – for the second time this year.
Altidore, Miazga and Red are former Red Bulls.
The USA swarmed the Reggae Boyz at the opening whistle with Altidore nearly connecting on multiple opportunities in the opening five minutes. Pulisic created the opening chance after evading three defenders and pinging a cross that landed at the right post before squeaking past Altidore and Morris.
Moments later, Altidore headed the ball into space for Morris who got into the right side of the box and played it across the six, but Altidore was unable to get a touch. The ball rolled to Paul Arriola who got his shot past goalkeeper Andre Blake only to see it cleared at the last moment by the keeper.
The early U.S. pressure paid off in the ninth minute when Cannon volled a Michael Bradley longball to Altidore in the box. His touch laid it off for the late run of McKennie, who drilled it home for his second goal in as many games and the 1-0 lead.
In the 12th minute, Pulisic won and took a free kick that caromed off the left post. Another free kick just before the weather delay was fumbled by Blake when he collided with a teammate and the lose ball rolled to Red Bulls center Aaron Long, but his shot hit a grateful Blake in the 15th minute. Less than a minute later, the weather delay began.
On the resumption of play, Jamaica started with a flurry, forcing goalkeeper Zack Steffen into a strong diving save in the 23rd minute. After that, the U.S. regained control of the game with good spells of possession carrying the 1-0 advantage into halftime.
Only seven minutes into the second frame, Pulisic doubled the lead, capitalizing on a Blake rebound for his 12th international goal.
At that point Berhalter turned to his bench, bringing in Gyasi Zardes for Altidore in the 55th minute and Cristian Roldan for Morris in the 70th minute. Between those subs, Jamaica felt the urgency of the moment and began to raise its play.
Waves of attack were cleared by the U.S. defense and Steffen, who was called into action to make three saves among numerous other interventions.
The pressure finally told in the 69th minute when substitute Shamar Nicholson, who scored the game-winner for Jamaica against the U.S. in a pre-tournament friendly, headed home Leon Bailey’s cross to draw the Reggae Boyz within a goal.
Pulisic gave the Americans some breathing room in the 87th minute, taking advantage of a Blake rebound to chop home for his third goal of the tournament.