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The Reggae Boyz found their slingshot in the form of set pieces on Wednesday, denying USA a spot in the final of the Concacaf Gold Cup for the first time in in 12 years. Benefiting from a rare call against USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan, Jamaica stunned USA 2-1 with goals from Darren Mattocks and Giles Barnes, and earned a chance to play for their first Gold Cup trophy.
The result was a historic upset – it was only Jamaica’s second win over USA of all time, and it made Jamaica the first Caribbean team to make a Gold Cup final. In front of a sellout crowd in Atlanta, Wednesday’s semi-final marked USA’s first home loss to a Caribbean team since 1969.
Though poor finishing and turnovers from the Americans may be much to blame for their loss, an unusual call against Guzan, which led to Jamaica’s second goal, will surely be the talking point. On a routine throw to restart play, Guzan’s arm extended beyond the 18-yard line with the ball, which gave Jamaica a free-kick right on the edge of the box. Barnes hammered it over the five-man wall and into the upper 90.
Guzan’s blunder left the Americans desperately chasing the game, something they haven’t needed to do in some time. Going into Wednesday’s semi-final, USA hadn’t trailed by two at the half in their previous 34 matches, stretching back to August 2013.
“It was a very, very good performance,” Jürgen Klinsmann said of his side afterward. “I told them at half time, ‘Just keep playing like that. You’re going to get more opportunities and we’re going to turn this game around.’ We lost this game on the two pieces we conceded, it’s as simple as that. We had enough chances to put three, four, five in there. We didn’t do that and that’s why we lost.”
The Jamaicans opened scoring in the 31st minute on a long throw-in by Kemar Lawrence that met the head of Mattocks, who got up above John Brooks. The floating header nicked inside of the post, but didn’t cross the line until it bounced across the goalmouth, on to the opposite post and in.