Jamaica keeping it cool in big win
PASADENA: 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, their first in eight Gold Cup meetings.
Mexico beat Jamaica in the 2015 Gold Cup final, and El Tri also defeated the Reggae Boyz 2-0 at the Rose Bowl just 13 months ago during the Copa America. Jamaica finally got one back.
“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 have won seven Gold Cup titles, the U.S. 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, U.S. We want to be in that group. We want to be a team, a country that someone can talk about.”
Jamaica goalkeeper Andre Blake kept the game scoreless with a series of impressive saves while Mexico dominated possession.
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 deadball 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.” – AP