It wasn’t pretty, but the U.S. men’s national team earned a point after coming back to tie Jamaica in the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup group stage opener on Saturday.
The U.S., playing with a heavily rotated B and C team, went down in the first half but equalized in the closing stages to make it 1-1 at the final whistle.
Damion Lowe opened the scoring for Jamaica in the 13th minute off a corner kick. Leon Bailey of the Premier League’s Aston Villa delivered in an in-swinging cross, with Lowe being played onside by Matt Miazga. The header gave Arsenal’s goalkeeper Matt Turner no chance.
Jamaica then had the opportunity to extend its lead to 2-0 in the 29th minute. Aidan Morris’ clearance inside the U.S. box ended up being a high boot, forcing the referee to call a penalty for Jamaica. Bailey stepped up to take it, but his kick towards the bottom right corner was read by Turner for the save.
It marked Turner’s second career penalty save in the USMNT kits, and the next best chance of the game also went to the U.S. Jesus Ferreira and Jordan Morris combined for a one-two pass in added time of the first half, but Morris’ one-on-one shot against goalie Andre Blake went just wide of the left post.
The U.S. had 66% possession in the first half and logged six shots, with two hitting the target. Jamaica, for comparison’s sake, controlled the ball 34% of the time and had four shots (three on target). Jamaica’s 66% pass accuracy to the USMNT’s 80% was another tangible difference of the initial 45 minutes.
Chances kept coming for the U.S., even if they weren’t the most clear cut. The best prior to the equalizer came from Cristian Roldan — who came off the bench — in the 71st minute. Youngster Cade Cowell, who also came off the bench, zipped in a low cross from the left flank that connected with Roldan, but Blake managed to save it with his legs.
The equalizer finally came from FC Cincinnati’s Brandon Vazquez in the 88th minute. Just six minutes after replacing left back John Tolkin in an aggressive tactical move by interim manager B.J. Callaghan, Vazquez was at the right place at the right time after Jamaica failed to properly clear Ferreira’s cross from the right flank.
The Stars and Stripes finished the game with 13 shots (four on target), with three big chances missed. Jamaica logged six shots, but the majority of the second half was all dominated by the U.S. The Reggae Boyz completed only 64% of its 288 pass attempts while the U.S. mustered 82% on 581 attempts.
Callaghan dropping veteran center back Aaron Long for 19-year-old Jalen Neal played a pivotal role in that positive change, with the backline sweeping and retaining the ball better.
Cowell also provided a nice spark on the left flank instead of Jordan Morris, with Djordje Mihailovic also looking sharper in the attacking midfield role compared to Alan Sonora.
The U.S. will next play St. Kitts and Nevis on Wednesday, July 28 at 10 p.m. ET for the second game of the group stage.