The United States has been in every Gold Cup Final since 2005. This year, the team looked to replicate its decade of success.
In 2005, the U.S. won in penalty kicks over Panama after the regulation match ended scoreless. Since that win, Mexico and the U.S. have both won twice. In the semifinal, Jamaica looked to stop the five final consecutive appearances of the Americans. In 22 previous meetings, Jamaica had only one win against the U.S., which was in September 2012. Nobody picked Jamaica to win. The Caribbean nation has never advanced to the final of the Gold Cup. A David vs. Goliath analogy was used by Jamaica’s head coach, Winfried Schafer, in his pregame interview.
Jamaica received its spot in the 2015 semifinal clash by relying on speed, counters and creating off-set pieces. It won Group B by drawing against Costa Rica and gaining one-goal victories over Canada and El Salvador. Jamaica moved through the quarterfinals with its third straight one-goal victory over Haiti.
The U.S. made it to its eighth consecutive Gold Cup final by winning Group A with one-goal victories over Honduras and Haiti and a 1–1 draw against Panama. In the quarterfinal, the U.S. faced off against Cuba. The U.S. fired on all cylinders for the first time in the whole tournament, resulting in a 6–0 win, including four first-half goals. Goal scorers included a hat trick by Clint Dempsey, Gyasi Zardes, Aron Johannsson and Omar Gonzalez.
U.S. kicks off against Jamaica
At Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, the matchup took place with a spot in the final at a sold-out Lincoln Financial Field on the line. The U.S. used a 4–2–3–1 formation. The back four consisted of Brad Evans (in place of Timothy Chandler due to injury), Ventura Alvarado, John Anthony Brooks and Fabian Johnson. The two defensive-holding midfielders were Kyle Beckerman and Michael Bradley. Johannsson started as the lone forward, with Dempsey right below him and Zardes and Alejandro Bedoya as wingers.
Jamaica employed a 4–4–2 formation. Its two strikers were Giles Barnes and Darren Mattocks. At midfield, they had Jobi McAnuff, Jevaughn Watson, Rodolph Austin and Garath McCleary. In the backline, Jamaica had Kemar Lawrence, Wes Morgan, Michael Hector and Adrian Mariappa. Brad Guzan was the man behind the post for the U.S. while Ryan Thompson would do the same for Jamaica.
In the first half hour of the game, it looked like the U.S. would have a scoreline similar to its latest win over Cuba. But it was not meant to be, as the Reggae Boyz kept the Americans off the board. In the thirty-first minute, Lawrence threw a long throw inside the box to Mattocks, who headed it far post, past Guzan, to put Jamaica up 1–0. The goal was against the run of play where the U.S. dominated possession and chances until that goal.
Five minutes later, Barnes took a free kick from outside the box and hit it near post, past Guzan, to put them up 2–0. The U.S. would go down two goals at the half. In the forty-eighth minute, Thompson failed to corral a routine shot, allowing Dempsey to take a shot, which was blocked. The rebound was followed up by Bradley past an empty net to make it 1–2. Thompson would continue to struggle for the rest of the half.
Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann needed to get an equalizer and turned to substitutes Mix Diskerud, Alan Gordon and DeAndre Yedlin, to no avail. The equalizer never came, and the Reggae Boyz celebrated on the field when the final whistle blew. The fans in the stands shouted once they realized the upset had been completed.
Jamaica’s final matchup opponent was Mexico, who won 2–1 in extra time over Panama. El Tri scored a late equalizer in a controversial call by referee Mark Geiger to give Mexico a penalty kick that was converted by Andres Guardado. Geiger awarded another penalty kick for Mexico in the stoppage time of the first extra time. Guardado converted once again to make it 2–1, which was the final score. Panama played with 10 men from the twenty-fifth minute, when Luis Tejada was sent off with a red card. After angering the fans, Geiger had to be escorted off the field.
The third-place game against Panama at Philadelphia’s PPL Park proved to be a disaster of a finish to the Gold Cup for the U.S. After a goal-less first half, Panama struck first in the fifty-fifth minute, when Rolando Blackburn found Roberto Nurse. The U.S. would answer in the seventieth minute, when Yedlin picked out a pass to find Dempsey, who finished.
The game ended with a penalty shootout. Panama made three of their four penalties to win it 1–1 (3–2). The U.S. converted their first two shots but failed to make another.
U.S. vs. Mexico
In front of a supportive crowd of 68,930 at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, Mexico secured their spot to face off against the United States. Mexico will face off against the Americans after a 3–1 win over Jamaica. Andres Guardado came up big again by scoring a sensational volley past Thompson in the thirty-first minute. Jesus Manuel Corona and Oribe Peralta added goals in the forty-seventh and sixty-first minutes to make it 3–0. Mattocks would score in the eightieth minute for the Reggae Boyz to make the final score 1–3.
The dream matchup of the United States against Mexico on October 9 will most likely be played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., which will surely sell out all 92,542 of the stadium’s seats. The winner will get a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.