Monday, 26 June 2023 12:05

Jamaica coach taking USA draw in stride

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The Reggae Boyz's 1-1 draw against Concacaf giants and defending champions United States in Saturday's opening game of the Gold Cup felt like two points lost, said Jamaica's Head Coach Heimir Hallgrímsson.

Jamaica wasted a good opportunity to score a rare win over their rivals when Leon Bailey missed a first-half penalty that would have given them a 2-0 lead after Damion Lowe's 13th-minute header gave them the lead, but an 88th-minute equaliser from second-half substitute Brandon Vasquez saw the teams share the points.

The Jamaican team left Chicago on Sunday for St Louis, Missouri, where they will play Caribbean neighbours Trinidad and Tobago in their second Group A game on Wednesday.

Hallgrímsson said while he felt that a point against the USA was a "fair result" he nevertheless felt they lost an opportunity to take charge of the group and team Captain Andre Blake also said he felt "disappointed", but a point was better than none.

"Looking at it after the match, it feels like two lost points," Hallgrímsson told a post-game press conference. "You feel that now but a draw was fair, so we cannot complain... we said before the game a point would be a good result in the first game in a competition, it is important that you don't lose as the second game will be do or die."

"Both the 2-2 draw in Mexico and this were fair results. [We have to] give the US credit... they had a lot of energy. They are in season, but a lot of our players are coming from breaks. I knew this game would be tricky, but we are glad we came out with no injuries, and I know we will grow as we go into the competition."

He said past results and friendlies were not important now. "We started well and scored early and got a penalty kick, with 2-0, the game would have been very different."

In an earlier pitch side interview, the Jamaican coach said the game was what he had expected, "We knew it was going to be intense, we could have done a lot of things better than we did, but in general, I think we should be happy and respectful for this point."

All was not lost, he pointed out, "You don't need to win the game to qualify from the group so, of course, we are not happy with conceding at the end of the game, but considering everything, I think we should, even though it is a little bit hard now, we should respect the point and take it as a positive rather than a negative."

He gave credit to the players and said, "They more or less did what they should, I think we got a little bit passive as the game went on, maybe to protect the 1-0 lead, rather than playing on the front foot and playing on the ground," he theorised, "we looked for the long ball, but I think when we played on the ground, we played much better than when we played the long ball against the USA."

Overall, he said "we should be happy, a lot of our players just came in from holidays, so you could see some tired legs in the end, but in the end, we will be happy with the point, but right now, we are sad."

Blake, who made at least two outstanding saves, one just before half-time against Jordan Morris and another in the 70th minute, said he was "disappointed".

"I think we could have gotten all three points, but nonetheless, I am thankful for a point [as] it is still better than none."

The Jamaica captain believed the team performed very well. "We have a very good team, normally we take a little time to get going, but this is also a very good US team. Overall, it was a very good game and we are satisfied with a point, but definitely could have gotten three."

Blake, however, blamed the lack of a cutting edge in attack for not taking full points.

"We lacked the killer instincts we needed to score the second goal," he said. "We got the chances and, unfortunately, when you let a very good US team hang around, playing in the US, they are always one goal away from getting back in the game and, unfortunately, we were unable to get that second goal to close the game out and we got a little bit tired at the end, with a lot of guys based in Europe who are out of season but hopefully, as the tournament goes on, we will get fitter and we will keep going."

Minutes after he picked up a yellow card, Lowe put Jamaica into the lead with a diving header from a free kick taken by debutante Demarai Gray in the 13th minute, putting the ball past goalkeeper Matthew Turner.

The Boyz, however, allowed a gilt-edged chance to go to waste when Kevon Lambert was fouled in the box and Mexican referee Cesar Ramos awarded a penalty in the 27th minute.

Turner parried Bailey's initial effort back to the Jamaican winger, but he curled it wide of the left post.

The penalty miss would come back to haunt the Jamaicans as Brandon Vasquez came off the bench in the 82nd minute and scored in the 88th minute, after the Jamaican defence failed to clear a ball from their area, to earn a point for the Americans.