Jamaica produced the first upset of the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Wednesday night in Carson, CA, rallying from a halftime deficit to tie highly-rated Costa Rica 2-2 in the first game of a Stub Hub Center doubleheader that began competition in Group B.
Garath McCleary and Joel McAnuff scored the goals from the Jamaicans, who failed to qualify for the previous Gold Cup and have been struggling to find their former glory days. Roy Miller and David Ramirez had the Costa Rican goals, but the 14th-ranked FIFA nation, the highest-rated side in CONCACAF at the moment, were unable to replicate their 2014 World Cup form in their first tournament outing.
Canada and El Salvador met in the second game with the prospect of taking an early lead in the group if they could take three points (live, FOX Sports 2, FOX Sports Go, 10:30 p.m. ET).
For Winifred Schaefer’s Jamaican side the result came in the wake of a three-game losing performance in Copa America and some reported unrest in the team camp before the start of this competition. Those who suggested that the dispute may have brought the team together were vindicated by an energetic performance that helped to mask some defensive shortcomings.
Costa Rica’s Paulo Wanchope will also be concerned about his defensive shape and the individual mistakes which allowed Jamaica to create far more pressure than the Ticos will have liked. Unlike last summer’s tight, five-man backfield which excelled in Brazil, Wednesday night’s Costa Rican backline was often too slolw to close gaps and found itself having to produce last-minute shot blocks too often.
Jamaica struck first in the 13th minute thanks to some extremely sloppy Costa Rican defending which gifted McCleary with an open look from just eight yards away on the right side of the box. The goal was the result of a long throw-in from Kemar Lawrence which both Miller and Junior Diaz allowed to bounce between them and directly to the open McCleary, who drove home the opening goal.
It took Costa Rica a half-hour to settle into its pass-and-move game because Jamaica defended stoutly in the first 30 minutes and kept the Ticos well away from dangerous spots. When the tying goal came it was the result of a soft foul call against Westley Morgan, who got a touch on Bryan Ruiz but hardly seemed to have pushed the veteran Costa Rican star over.
The Ticos then produced a textbook set piece to level matters in the 32nd minute, delivering an even harsher punishment than the original call. Ruiz pushed the top left free kick to the right where Ramirez chipped forward to the opposite post. Miller was open to head home the equalizer.
Costa Rica then took the lead five minutes later, Ramirez the marksman this time as he chased down a long Celso Borges pass and used the outside of his foot to chip the ball under the bar from the narrowest of angles on the left. All Morgan, who was beaten by Ramirez’ run, could do was roof the ball into his own net trying to clear, but it appeared Ramirez’ shot had already crossed the line.
Jamaica got back on level terms just three minutes into the second half when McAnuff somehow managed to push the ball past Miller at the 18, then kept his stride and found just enough stretch to touch the ball past Esteban Alvardo in the 48th minute.
Both teams had chances later, Dwayne Miller doing very well in the Jamaica goal to deny Johan Vanegas and Alvarado getting between Darren Mattocks and an open chance after the Jamaican substitute broke in in the 64th minute. Alvaro Saborio, also on as a sub, had a chance for the Ticos, but ran offside before Miller beat him anyway.
Jamaica will also rue its inability to convert from a 4-on-2 in the final five minutes when one-too-many passes let a golden opportunity to grab all three points get away. Alvarado then denied Simon Dawkins with a flying save in the 89th minute to again frustrate Schaefer’s team.