Tim Weah scored the USMNT’s lone goal. (Keith Furman/FrontRowSoccer.com)
By Michael Lewis
All things considered, a draw and a point in a difficult place to play – Independence Park – certainly wasn’t the end of the world or the World Cup ambitions of the United States on Tuesday.
The Americans did fly home with a point after battling Jamaica to a 1-1 draw at a venue that is nicknamed the office because use the Reggae Boyz take care of business there in Kingston.
In seven WCQs at The Office, the U.S. men’s national team has won but once en route to a 1-1-5 record.
After a dominant performance against Mexico on Friday night, the USA could not come close to that, especially as the game wore on.
Home or away…
We love ya 💙❤️ pic.twitter.com/41c4tMfoLR
— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) November 16, 2021
The result left the USA (4-1-3, 15 points) atop the Concacaf Octagonal, with the Canada (3-0-4 13) vs. Mexico (4-1-2, 14) match scheduled to kick off in Edmonton, Alberta at 9 p.m. ET. Jamaica (7) moved into fifth place with a 1-3-4 record.
“You could see it on the guys’ faces,” head coach Gregg Berhalter said. “They weren’t happy with a point. And that’s a good sign. It shows this group is highly motivated to win game and have high expectations for their performance.”
Berhalter then changed his stance just a bit.
“We’re not looking at as a disappointing result,” he said. “We’re looking at as a good result. Anytime you can get a point away from home is a good thing in Concacaf qualifying and I want to be very clear by saying that. For the guys to have their heads down because we want it more is completely natural. But this is a point that will absolutely take on the road.”
There were only a handful of supporters attending the match due to fans needing to be vaccinated to enter the stadium; Jamaica said that there would be 5,000 spectators.
There were some heart-thumping moments late in the match for the Americans as Damion Lowe headed in a corner kick in the 84th minute, but the Jamaicans were called for pushing center back Walker Zimmerman, which nullified the goal.
“Officials are there to do their job,” Jamaica head coach Theodore Whitmore said. “From the sideline I don’t see anything but again, it is just for me to look back on the tape and see. I’m not personally complain[ing] about the officiating.”
Berhalter said: “We’ve had this referee three times where I think he’s a good referee. There was a couple hard challenges today that I think maybe yellow is the right thing, perhaps maybe red on one of them. But, it’s difficult, it really is difficult. He blew the whistle early.”
In contrast to his late-match heroics as a second-half substitution, Christian Pulisic, who replaced Tim Weah, could not duplicate that feat on Tuesday night.
The USA’s Starting XI had an average age of 22 years, 341 days, the squad’s second youngest starters in qualifying. The youngest lineup was the 11 that began last month’s 2-1 win over Costa Rica (22 years, 61 days).
Weah, the man of the match of Friday’s 2-0 home win over Mexico in Cincinnati, not only picked up where he left off, but he outdid himself.
Flipping positions to the left flank, Weah did a quick give-and-go with Ricardo Pepi, meandered through that side of the penalty area and beating Bobby Decordova-Reid before sending a four-yard shot past goalkeeper Andre Blake to give the USA a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute.
No one’s taking this one away!
Weah from @Ricardo_Pepi9, 1-0 🇺🇸
— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) November 16, 2021
Weah was at it again in the 16th minute, this time on the right side, sending a cross into the area that found Ricardo Pepi. Pepi’s attempt from atop the box was blocked. The rebound came to Brenden Aaronson, whose shot was denied by Blake.
While the visitors enjoyed the early possession, the Reggae Boyz equalized on a moment of brilliance by striker Michail Antonio in the 22nd minute. Some 34 yards out on the left side, Antonio powered a shot into the upper right corner of the net out of the reach of keeper Zack Steffen to knot things up at 1-1. It was Antonio’s second international goal.
As well as the Americans were performing early on, they lost their rhythm and allowed the Jamaicans to start dictating play.
Seven minutes into the second half, Gianluca Busio tried to duplicate Antonio’s effort from 28 yards, but his try just missed the top of the net.
The USMNT dodged a huge bullet in the 53rd minute as Decordova-Reid, after a botched clearance by Antonee Robinson, fired a shot over the bar from point-blank range.
An interesting sight in the 58th minute: Jamaica’s Damion Lowe came to sideline to have his left knee taped up and USA head coach Gregg Berhalter came up to him and apparently gave the Reggae Boyz a fist bump and encouragement.