Ja­maica stun Mex­ico 1-0 to reach CONCACAF Gold Cup fi­nal

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Af­ter Ke­mar Lawrence ripped an ex­quis­ite shot over Mex­ico’s five man wall and into the top cor­ner for one of the big­gest goals in Ja­maican soc­cer his­tory, the de­fender hushed his team­mates and re­fused to cel­e­brate. These Reg­gae Boyz are stay­ing cool, even af­ter a goal that sent them into the CONCACAF Gold Cup fi­nal with a chance to make his­tory.

Lawrence scored on a clutch 24-yard free kick in the 88th minute, and Ja­maica ad­vanced to the fi­nal with a 1-0 up­set vic­tory over Mex­ico on Sun­day night. “I think our guys were hun­gry,” Ja­maica coach Theodore Whit­more said. “They needed it more than the Mex­i­cans, and we did what we had to do.”

Ja­maica will face the United States on Wed­nes­day night at Santa Clara, Cal­i­for­nia. With a vic­tory over the home team, the Reg­gae Boyz would claim their first cham­pi­onship in soc­cer’s North and Cen­tral Amer­i­can and Caribbean re­gion.

“The best way I could put it is the Bi­b­li­cal story,” Whit­more said. “David slew Go­liath.” The Reg­gae Boyz have reached the fi­nal for the sec­ond straight Gold Cup, but this stun­ning up­set at the Rose Bowl ranks among their big­gest in­ter­na­tional wins. Mex­ico has won seven Gold Cup ti­tles, the US five and Canada one.

“That’s a cy­cle we want to break,” Whit­more said. “That’s some­thing we sit and dis­cuss. It’s al­ways Mex­ico, US. We want to be in that group. We want to be a team, a coun­try that some­one can talk about, and that’s what we’re work­ing to­ward.”

Ja­maica goal­keeper An­dre Blake kept this game score­less with a se­ries of im­pres­sive saves while Mex­ico dom­i­nated pos­ses­sion with a lineup miss­ing most of El Tri’s most-ac­com­plished play­ers.

But af­ter Lawrence repo­si­tioned the ball in a bit of shifty games­man­ship, his late strike froze Mex­ico goal­keeper Je­sus Corona. The ball curled over the wall and slipped just be­low the bar for the New York Red Bulls de­fender’s third in­ter­na­tional goal and first in three years.

The 24-year-old Lawrence doesn’t take free kicks for his MLS club, but Whit­more knew his qual­ity from re­cent prac­tices. “The New York Red Bulls prob­a­bly have a bet­ter kicker than Ke­mar Lawrence,” Whit­more said with a smile. “Now, Ja­maica’s team needs Ke­mar Lawrence in dead-ball sit­u­a­tions. It’s a to­tally dif­fer­ent thing. Prob­a­bly when the New York Red Bulls see this tonight, they might (want him) to take free kicks.”

Try­ing to win its sec­ond con­sec­u­tive Gold Cup and fourth in five tour­na­ments, Mex­ico used the deeper reaches of its player pool fol­low­ing the World Cup qual­i­fiers and the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup last month. While teams were al­lowed to make up to six sub­sti­tu­tions for the knock­out rounds, El Tri coach Juan Car­los Oso­rio said he was blocked by Mex­ico’s clubs. Mex­ico hadn’t trailed in the tour­na­ment be­fore Lawrence’s late goal, but El Tri also hadn’t been im­pres­sive - no player scored more than one goal.

“This is a process, and it takes a lot of work to get a team that can com­pete in a World Cup,” as­sis­tant coach Luis Pom­pilio Paez said. “This is not a suf­fi­cient re­sult, but this is the mid­dle of the process. I saw a team that gave ev­ery­thing. We al­ways re­spect what the other team does. We just needed to get a goal, and we didn’t have the right cir­cum­stances. Em­bar­rass­ment, sad­ness - as a team, we feel it.” Blake also starred 11 days ago when Mex­ico and Ja­maica played to a 00 draw in Den­ver. With the Philadel­phia Union keeper play­ing ex­cep­tion­ally well, Ja­maica has al­lowed only two goals in the tour­na­ment.

The semi­fi­nal crowd was dom­i­nated by Mex­ico’s vast South­ern Cal­i­for­nia fan base, yet the Rose Bowl was less than half-full with just 42,393 fans.

PASADENA: Al­vas Pow­ell #5 of Ja­maica at­tempts a shot on Je­sus Molina #5 of Mex­ico dur­ing a 1-0 Ja­maican win in the CONCACAF 2017 semi­fi­nal at Rose Bowl on Sun­day.

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