It took Jamaica over ninety sweltering minutes in the Houston heat and humidity to finally find the back of the net against Canada on Saturday evening in a Gold Cup Group B matchup. With both teams needing critical points in a deadlocked group, it was Canada that ran out of energy and Reggae Boyz' captain Rudolph Austin that delivered a whipping header in the waning seconds of stoppage time to plunge a dagger in Canada's Gold Cup hopes.
This victory, combined with Costa Rica's draw against El Salvador, will elevate the team to first place in Group B. Costa Rica and El Salvador, having tied 1-1 tonight, will occupy the middle two spots in the standings with two point each leaving Canada in last place.
The shadows creeped across the pitch in the first half, with both teams starting on a frenetic pace before the heat finally settled in. Canada would find a few early chances but, after the first ten minutes, gradually sat back deeper and could only muster enough energy for the rare counterattack.
Jamaica was relentless. Houston Dynamo’s Giles Barnes frequently found himself in possession of the ball and the creator of many buildup chances. But his teammates rarely felt in sync with his ideas and often tried for ill-advised distance shots that never truly challenged Canadian keeper Kyriakos Stamatopolous. In the end, Jamaica would outshoot Canada by a tally of 21 to 7.
Much of that low Canadian production can be attributed to Jamaican and Dynamo defender Jermaine Taylor, who put in a terrific shift at center back. Taylor was responsible for breaking up several threatening Canadian attacks and never was particularly challenged by the Canadian forwards.
When Jamaica did combine for solid buildup efforts, they could do so very well. Barnes frequently linked with right midfielder Garath McCleary and Simon Dawkins, helping create opportunities from out wide in the Jamaican attack. However, the final touch would often play out poorly.
A 67th minute pass from Barnes found McCleary in the box but the winger’s indecisiveness smothered any opportunity to pull ahead. This scenario would play out several times, with players like Dawkins and Austin never trying to find better looks on goal and opting for the long-distance ball instead.
Perhaps Jamaica’s best shot on goal came from, you guessed it, Giles Barnes who, on a 60th minute free kick, skillfully dipped over a wall to skim the crossbar. The deflected shot sent groans from the early Salvadoran fans who showed up for the latter half of the Group B doubleheader versus Costa Rica.
Those same fans, plus the smattering of Jamaicans that made it out, would erupt on Austin’s goal just when it felt like the match was destined for a 0-0 draw. A ball sent in from the wing by Adrian Mariappa would find Austin in the center of the box who whipped in a header that Stamatopolous had no chance to save.
Both teams now head to Toronto for the final matches of Group B. Jamaica will face El Salvador (5:00PM CDT) while Canada stares down a tough task against Costa Rica (7:30PM CDT). Those matches take place on Tuesday, July 14th.