Michael Bradley: “It’s very disappointing, very frustrating. You have no divine right to be in the final. We certainly didn’t think that. We knew from the get-go this was going to be an extremely difficult tournament. It was.”
This is a repost from July 22, 2015
By Michael Lewis
ATLANTA, Ga. — The United States paid dearly for five minutes of poor defense in the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals and found itself crashing out of the tournament in a 2-1 defeat to Jamaica Wednesday night.
Major League Soccer players Darren Mattocks and Giles Barnes did the damage for the Reggae Boyz late in the first half at the Georgia Dome. Michael Bradley tallied for the USA.
The shocked Americans failed to reach the final for only the third time in 13 attempts, joining the 1996, 2000 and 2003 squads.
The Jamaicans will play Mexico, which got past Panama, 2-1, in a controversial game that featured two penalty kicks for the winner, the second game of doubleheader, in Philadelphia on Sunday.
The USA will be relegated to the third-place match in Chester, Pa. on Saturday.
Just as importantly, the USA, the 2015 Gold Cup champions, will have to play this year’s champion in a special playoff to determine which team will represent the region in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia. The playoff is scheduled for Columbus Day weekend.
To appreciate the magnitude of the defeat, it was only the Americans’ second loss to a Caribbean team on home soil. That was to Haiti in a World Cup qualifying match, 1-0, on May 11, 1969.
“It’s very disappointing, very frustrating,” Bradley said. “You have no divine right to be in the final. We certainly didn’t think that. We knew from the get-go this was going to be an extremely difficult tournament. It was.”
USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann was just disappointed.
“Obviously the team is disappointed,” he said. “The fans are disappointed because you wanted to play the big final in Philadelphia.
“I cannot complain about the performance of the team. We kept pushing, pushing, pushing. They hit the wall an went through it and kept going until the end.”
Klinsmann, who forged a reputation of putting the ball into the back of the net in a superb career, felt the reason was simple: the lack of a finishing touch for the United States.
“We had enough chances to put this game away,” he said. “The luck was not with us maybe. Maybe we were not clinical enough. There was a lot of good that we saw. Tt was the goals that matter.”
Indeed, they did.
After playing well for the opening 25 minutes, the game changed for the Americans during a five-minute span late in the first half as the defense allowed the Caribbean side to strike twice.
First, Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence’s throw-in set up an open Darren Mattocks with a header in the box that hit the right post and then bounced along the line before settling into the left corner in the 31st minute.
Only five minutes later, goalkeeper Brad Guzan was called for a handball just outside of the penalty area and the Jamaicans were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box. Giles Barnes, who plays for the Houston Dynamo, ripped a perfectly placed free kick into the upper right corner for a stunning 2-0 Jamaican lead.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that called, especially when it’s a matter of inches,” Guzan said. “If the linesman is three yards behind me, I think that’s an impressive call from his point of view.”
As for the free kick, Guzan said: “Listen, he’s 19 yards out, he has hit it well to get over the wall and back down again.”
Barely three minutes into the second half, the Americans cut the deficit in half when Thompson could not hold a shot by Johannsson. Dempsey dived in after the ball, knocked it loose from the keeper and Bradley slotted home the rebound from six yards.
It was the first goal surrendered by Jamaica after 351 minutes in the Gold Cup.
“The goal came quickly, and I thought we had a good spell right after we got to 2-1,” Bradley said. “We put pressure on them to get the second goal and there were a few more spells after that. When they had that many numbers behind the goal, it’s going to take a special play, a ball bouncing for you a little bit, a little bit of luck, a combination of all of the above. Tonight we couldn’t find it.”
Bradley said he was prepared to play in the playoff game in October.
“We’ll continue to move ourselves forward to improve,” he said. “We’ve earned our way into the playoff in October for the Confederations Cup berth, so we’ll let these other teams battle it out, and whoever it is come October, we’ll be ready to play a good game.”
But it wasn’t good enough Wednesday night.