CHICAGO–The United States wants to be the team to beat at the 2023 World Cup gold cup. After all, it is about the defending champion and defending champion of the recently concluded season Concacaf Nations League. However, it spent most of Saturday’s tournament opening game against Jamaica hunt instead of being hunted.
This comeback was rewarded by the US striker in the 88th minute Brandon Vázquez scored a hit to secure one 1-1 Tie, avoiding what would have been only the second loss by a US team in the Gold Cup group stage.
“I knew I had to move in the penalty area. That’s what I live for,” Vazquez said of his goal after the game. “It means a lot to me. I think we have an extremely talented group. It makes me very proud to be able to come here and make a difference.”
Jamaica came out strong, with central defenders Damion Lowe In the 17th minute he scored the opening goal after a free kick Demarai GrayThe everton Attacker who made his Jamaica debut after being represented England at youth level.
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The Reggae Boyz missed an opportunity to extend their lead in the 29th minute. Leon Bailey Jamaica stepped up to take a penalty awarded to the US midfielder Aidan Morris committed a foul in the penalty area but saw the American goalkeeper Matt Turner Dive down and stop the shot. Bailey’s right-footed rebound attempt went wide and the Americans were able to stay within range of the Caribbean team.
“I think the main thing for us is that intensity is the starting point. We missed that at the beginning, we gave the ball away, loose touches, loose passes,” said Turner. “We grew into it and started doing a much better job.”
“I knew that [save] was a big moment for our team. A 2-0 loss in Concacaf is usually a death sentence.”
USA are refreshed with second-half changes including Vazquez, an experienced midfielder Cristian Roldan and under-20 winger Cade Cowellthe Stars and Stripes were able to secure a draw that Jamaica coach Heimir Hallgrimsson called a fair result.
How surprising Saturday’s result is depends on how it’s contextualized.
This was always going to be the toughest group game for US interim coach BJ Callaghan’s side, not only because they’re up against a Jamaican team with the strongest squad in a long time, but also because the Americans need to figure out their chemistry. The intimacy among America’s top stars was evident in victories Mexico And Canada in the Nations League Final Four earlier this month; But with only five players from that roster at Soldier Field, it will take some time for the players to get along, both with each other and with the top squad, if they ever do.
“The whole thing is we’re trying to gain experience for everyone. I think we have a plan in place for how we’re going to get through the group stage with all the players and where they are individually in terms of fitness and health and ability to recover,” Callaghan said. “So I think as we go on everyone will contribute to our success and I think you saw that tonight as the guys came off the bench and performed in different situations.”
A certain inexperience was certainly evident in the first half. Morris conceded the penalty despite being in a relatively calm situation after a long throw-in and struggled to keep up with Jamaica’s speedy attackers. James Sands stood beside him and was also unable to adequately cover the United States defense as Jamaica won the midfield battle in the first half.
In front of them, Alan Sonora got the go-ahead for a creative role. He struggled to hit the crosses he placed into the penalty area and lost seven turnovers from open play. In the 66th minute he made room for Roldan.
Callaghan has scheduled personnel changes for the remainder of the group stage, which on paper are seen as an easier step-up for the Americans than Saturday’s competition. St Kitts and Nevis, USA’s next opponents, will make their Gold Cup debut on Sunday Trinidad and Tobago – the other group rivals and a side unable to sign as many top European talents as Jamaica, even if it’s a side that has caused pain in the USA in the past.
Given their ability to salvage Saturday’s result and the talent in their ranks, USA should be able to progress to the Quarters and still lead the group. But Saturday’s performance gave the US a reality check on how far they can go with their depth options in the continental championship. USA never thought they could claim another Gold Cup title with a different roster like in 2021. Teams like Jamaica have stepped up. Mexico could do with a trophy for momentum. Canada is aiming for its first title since 2000.
Any illusions by USA or its fans that things would be easy this time around were dashed in a nervous evening. With the trophy case recently expanded, USA can rest assured that they are currently the top team in the Concacaf. On Saturday it became clear that it will be much more difficult to back this up with another Gold Cup won by an alternative team.