USA snatch draw from the jaws of defeat in Concacaf Gold Cup opener

Damion Lowe #17 of Jamaica (Photo by Robin Alam/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)
Damion Lowe #17 of Jamaica (Photo by Robin Alam/USSF/Getty Images for USSF) /

An 88th minute goal from U.S.A’s  second half substitute Brandon Vazquez was enough to  snatch a draw for the host from the jaws of defeat. Damion Lowe gave Jamaica a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute with a well taken diving header from Everton’s Damarai Gray free kick. The U.S. Men’s National team recently won back-to-back Nation’s League and might be still in a celebratory mood and was caught napping has they began their quest of a second consecutive Concacaf Gold Cup title in Chicago at the Soldier Field.

An electrifying start to the opening game of the 2023 edition of the Concacaf Gold Cup saw  Damion Lowe on the receiving end of a yellow card in the 3rd minute of play due to his youthful exuberance. Despite walking surreptitiously like a “cat on butter” he managed to reprieve himself in the 13th minute. Leon Bailey was clumsily fouled by debutant Aidan Morris out wide. Twinkle toes Demarai Gray whipped a teasing free kick from nearly 40 yards on the right side into the center of the box, where a miscommunication on the USA backline allowed an unmarked Lowe behind the line of defense. Lowe headed the ball with brute force diving forward from eight yards out to put Jamaica ahead. Irrespective of that early start by the ‘Reggae Boyz’ it was ‘The Stars and Stripes’ who had the first attempt on goal. Allan Sonora was teed-up from just inside the box  by Jesus  Ferreira, but his tame shot was well handled Andre Blake in goal for Jamaica.

Jamaica settled down nicely passing the ball around the lush green park with alacrity and pressing USA higher up the field forcing them into a few turnovers. USA was brave and took the Bull by the horn and gave Jamaica as much as they got. The two fiercely traded attacks for the greater part of the first half, but it was Jamaica who got the upper hand and should have put the USA National Men’s team to the sword by going 2-0 up in the 27th minute. Morris was caught again with his hands in the cookie jar, this time clobbering Kevon Lambert of Jamaica in the midriff for an easy penalty call by referee Cesar Ramos. Aston Villa standout Leon Bailey failed to capitalize on the opportunity to get his first Gold Cup goal, his left-footed shot was saved in the bottom right corner by Arsenal’s Matt Turner.

Jamaica ended the half leading 1-0 with theirs tails up high. USA, on the other hand were not daunted despite fielding a weaker 11 with six players making their debuts in an official competition: starters Aidan Morris, Alan Soñora, and John Tolkin, and substitutes Cade Cowell, Jalen Neal and Brandon Vazquez.

A game of two halves saw a spirited USA started the second half brightly  with a few decent half chances. Jamaica applying a 4-3-3 formation seems to run out of ideas and invited the United States back in the game with a slew of attacks. Coach Hallgrimsson in his first Gold Cup match tried to shuffle the pack with a few substitutions with the intention of pulling a rabbit out the hat, but the USA defense nullified all attacks of the Reggae Boyz. USA relentless effort paid dividend pressing higher up the pitch, Miazga kept a ball on the offensive end and played Ferreira, who cut to his left and settled, sending a lofty right-footed cross into the box. The ball hit defender Dexter Lembikisa and kindly fell to Vazquez, who – five minutes after coming on – made no mistake with an exquisite strike from close range. USA hit their lucky charm bag again scoring the winning or tying goal after the 83rd minute in four straight Gold Cup matches.

Jamaica licking their wounds will see this as a missed opportunity to get another win in their column for a second time. USA will battle debutant Saint Kitts and the Nevis, while Jamaica will go up against Trinidad and Tobago at the City Park in Kansas in round two games.