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USMNT barely survives Jamaica to advance to Nations League final vs. Mexico
United States

USMNT barely survives Jamaica to advance to Nations League final vs. Mexico

Updated Mar. 22, 2024 3:21 p.m. ET

ARLINGTON, Texas — A third straight Concacaf Nations League title is still in play for the U.S. men's national team.

After trailing for more than 90 minutes, the USMNT came back from the dead to beat Jamaica in Thursday's semifinal at AT&T Stadium in suburban Dallas. An own goal by Reggae Boyz forward Corey Burke in the final minute of second-half stoppage time canceled out the Jamaicans' shocking opener just 30 seconds into the match, and U.S. striker Haji Wright — who wasn't even named to coach Gregg Berhalter's original roster this month — scored the game-winner in extra time off a pass by fellow substitute Gio Reyna.

Wright would add another strike later to give the hosts a 3-1 win that they really didn't deserve.


"It feels almost like a loss because we know we can do so much better," U.S. midfielder Tyler Adams said afterward. "But we had that belief until the end. And sometimes you need a little bit of luck to make a run, and that's exactly what we had." 

The Americans will meet chief rival Mexico, which beat Panama in Thursday's other semi, in Sunday's final. Jamaica takes on Los Canaleros in the third place game earlier that day.

Here are a few quick takeaways following the U.S.'s dramatic victory.

Play of the game

It came just 31 seconds into the match. Following a throw-in deep in the American end, Bobby De Cordova-Reid split two U.S. defenders and hit a cross that deflected slightly off Chris Richards's leg. Leigh raced behind Joe Scally to head home past  Matt Turner from the doorstep.

"We got caught flat-footed," Turner said. "It was just just sloppy play."

Turning point

The U.S. never truly looked like they would score before the equalizer finally came — not that they knew anything about it. Instead, it came in the flukiest and unlikeliest fashion imaginable after an ever-so-slight deflection off a corner kick by U.S. defender Miles Robinson.

Key stat

Jamaica was more than happy to park the bus and frustrate the hosts after taking its shocking lead. The USMNT had a whopping 83 percent of possession in the first half but mustered just a single shot on goal — a Malik Tillman effort on the stroke of halftime that was cleared off the goal line by Reggae Boyz defender Di'Shon Bernard. Jamaica, on the other hand, had two on-target shots over the first 45 minutes, including Leigh's opener.

"Credit to Jamaica," Adams said. "After they scored the goal they still tried to play off the counter a little bit, but they defended extremely well and they made it difficult for us around the box. Good teams know how to suffocate teams and pin them in and create chances."

What's next for the USMNT?

Sunday's high-profile finale against Mexico is the immediate task. That game offers the U.S. a chance to claim its third Nations League triumph. Bigger picture, Thursday's wholly unconvincing performance in regular time is a huge wake-up call for a program that, to a man, spent all week talking up the importance of winning knockout matches. The USMNT is desperate to show that it can make a deep run at the Copa América on home soil this summer. Based on this showing, coach Gregg Berhalter has work to do before that tournament kicks off in June, even if they end up on the podium again a few days from now.

What's next for Jamaica?

While a win would've been a monumental result for the Reggae Boyz — one made even more impressive by the fact that Heimir Hallgrimsson's side was missing several regulars who star in England's vaunted Premier League — there are plenty of positives to take into Sunday's consolation game.  The visitors could've and should've had this one; the Reggae Boyz had a golden opportunity to make it 2-0 in the second half, but Renaldo Cephas squandered a breakaway that he should've slipped past Turner, who instead smothered his shot.

Sunday offers them a chance to end March's international window with a win, and to show that they will be a tough out for any opponent at the Copa América, too.

Doug McIntyre is a soccer reporter for FOX Sports. He was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports before joining FOX Sports in 2021, and he has covered United States men's and women's national teams at FIFA World Cups on five continents. Follow him @ByDougMcIntyre.

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