In what turned out to be a very long night for everyone, the U.S. advanced to the Gold Cup final against Mexico by beating Jamaica, 3-1. A lengthy severe weather delay in the 17th minute of play pushed the ending of the match into the early morning hours of Independence Day, making it an appropriate time for the U.S. to win and a great way to start the Fourth of July celebrations.
Once again, Christian Pulisic proved he can be a difference maker both with the ball at his feet, and putting the ball into the back of the net, leading the Yanks with a brace after Weston McKennie had scored the opener.
Gregg Berhalter brought out a strong lineup for the semifinal match. As usual, Zack Steffen returned in goal, with Tim Ream, Aaron Long, Matt Miazga, and Reggie Cannon on defense. In the midfield, Berhalter brought back Pulisic, Michael Bradley, and McKennie. Up top, Paul Arriola was joined by Jozy Altidore and Jordan Morris
The Yanks started quickly with a chance on a cross from Pulisic in the second minute of play, but Altidore wasn’t able to get any kind of strike on the ball. Jamaica earned a free kick less than a minute later, and the U.S. was fortunate that Jamaica couldn’t get a foot on the delivered kick either.
Morris brought the ball down the right side in the fourth minute, and got a cross into the area, where Altidore missed. Arriola had a chance at the ball as well, but Andre Blake showed why he’s such a good keeper and got the stop. In the sixth minute, the U.S. attacked again but Cannon hit the ball into the right side of the net.
McKennie finally broke through for the U.S. in the ninth minute. Bradley delivered a long ball to Cannon, who crossed it into the area. Altidore unselfishly tipped it to McKennie, who gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead.
Pulisic earned a free kick outside the area in the 11th minute of play. He took the kick himself, and nearly doubled the lead, but he hit the right post. A few minutes later, Arriola earned a free kick on the left side this time, and Pulisic delivered it into the box. Blake went high to grab the ball, but lost it when he hit the ground, and Long was unable to put the ball into the back of the net.
The first 15 minutes of play was dominated by the U.S., as the Yanks kept hammering against the Jamaican defense. Unfortunately, in the 17th minute, the referee called the opposing captains over to the sideline to let them know that the match was now under a severe weather delay, and the teams headed into the locker rooms, where they would stay for an hour and 27 minutes.
At 11:20 p.m. — almost two hours from the start of the match — play finally resumed. The U.S. initially picked up right where it left off, with Morris making a run into the area, but the ball was smothered by Blake. After a giveaway on the U.S. side of the pitch, Jamaica finally got a shot on goal, despite a missed offside call.
In the 20th minute, Arriola earned a free kick on the left side of the area. Pulisic again delivered the ball, but Long was unable to get his header on target. Jamaica came out playing a higher line after the delay, and in the 23rd minute the Reggae Boyz got their second shot on goal. Fortunately, Steffen was able to get hands on it and keep Jamaica off the scoreboard.
The rain delay helped Jamaica reset, and took some of the energy out of the U.S. attack. In the 26th minute, Jamaica earned a corner, but Michael Hector put his shot wide right. The U.S. finally got back on the front foot, and Bradley delivered a nice pass to McKennie, but the midfielder couldn’t get a shot off.
Things settled down a bit, until the 34th minute, when Jamaica earned a free kick on the right side of the area. Alvas Powell took the shot for Jamaica, but it went wide left. Going back the other way, Pulisic made a slick move to get past the Jamaican defense, and earn a corner kick. Unfortunately, the U.S. was unable to capitalize, and Miazga fouled Blake as he was coming down with the ball. Miazga got a talking to from the ref, but no card was issued.
In the 43rd minute, Altidore was taken down by Junior Flemmings, and as the Jamaican got back to his feet, he gave a little extra kick to Altidore. Jozy didn’t like it and jumped up to get in Junior’s face. To no one’s surprise, both were given a yellow card.
In the 45th minute, Pulisic once again took the ball towards goal, but his cross at the goal line was intercepted by Blake. The teams headed back into the locker room at half with the same 1-0 score as when the weather delay was called. After a very long first half, both teams had eight shots with the U.S. putting four on target compared to Jamaica’s two. The U.S. also had the advantage in possession, with 56%.
There were no changes for the U.S. to start the second half, and the match picked up right where it left off, with both teams pressing high. In the 47th minute Cannon ran down a long ball on the right, and got a cross into Arriola, but he headed it directly to Blake.
The U.S. got its second goal in the 52nd minute. McKennie sent a ball up to Morris, whose shot came off Blake’s hands and Pulisic was there to clean up the ball and get another goal in the Gold Cup.
Things really opened up after the second U.S. goal, and both Jamaica and the U.S. started making runs. In the 55th minute, Berhalter brought in Gyasi Zardes for Altidore, to give the Toronto FC striker a rest for the final. Zardes almost immediately did what he does, and put a perfect pass from McKennie as far wide right as he could in a one-on-one with Blake.
With a two-goal lead, the U.S. still pushed forward while trying to see the game out, with Jamaica unable to create many chances. One chance they did have was Darren Mattocks in the 65th minute, but the ball sailed high.
Jamaica started to come into the game more after that, using U.S. turnovers in the attacking third to counter and catch the defense retreating toward goal. The Reggae Boyz were able to start getting some dangerous balls into and around the penalty area.
Jamaica finally got on the board as Miazga was a bit out of position, and Shamar Nicholson headed the cross from Leon Bailey past Steffen.
The goal prompted Jamaica to put even more pressure on the U.S. defense, forcing Steffen to make a save. The Yanks finally cleared the ball, but Jamaica was giving the U.S. more trouble. The U.S. didn’t help matters with some sloppy giveaways in its own half.
In the 70th minute, Cristian Roldan came on for his Seattle Sounders teammate Morris. The U.S. pushed forward again, and in the 81st minute, Pulisic took another free kick, but it went straight to Blake. Jamaica kept pressuring the U.S., putting a few crosses into the area, but the U.S. defense held, with Steffen making a save in the 86th minute.
Pulisic put the game away with the third USMNT goal, and his second of the night, in the 87th minute. Cannon started the play, passing the ball to Pulisic up the right flank. Pulisic crossed it into the area, but split two potential targets on the other side of the box. Arriola recovered it and fired a shot toward the far post that bounced off Blake’s hands, where Pulisic was waiting for the put-back, giving the U.S. a buffer.
The U.S. made their final substitution in the 88th minute, bringing in Daniel Lovitz for Arriola. With three minutes of stoppage time, the Yanks went into defensive mode, and saw the game out.
Both teams finished with 16 shots, though the U.S. put nine on target as compared to four for Jamaica. The U.S. finished with 52% of the possession.
The U.S. will face rival Mexico this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET in the Gold Cup final.