Football: Jamaica stuns USA 2-1 to reach first ever Gold Cup final

Jamaica's beat defending champion United States 2-1 on Wednesday in a Gold Cup semi-final.
Jamaica's beat defending champion United States 2-1 on Wednesday in a Gold Cup semi-final.PHOTO: USA TODAY SPORTS

ATLANTA (AFP) - Jamaica's "Reggae Boyz" stunned defending champion the United States 2-1 on Wednesday in a Gold Cup semi-final, becoming the first Caribbean squad to reach the final by shocking the heavily favoured hosts.

Darren Mattocks headed in the first goal in the 31st minute and Giles Barnes netted a free kick in the 36th minute to put Jamaica ahead 2-0 and signal an epic upset was in the making at the sold-out Georgia Dome.

The Americans, after all, were 13-1 with eight drawn in prior matches against the Jamaicans, their only loss in that span coming by 2-1 at Kingston in 2012.

US captain Michael Bradley answered for the Americans in the 48th minute off a rebound and the US kept pressing the attack but never found the equalizer to avoid a humbling defeat.

The Americans, trying to match Mexico's all-time record of six Gold Cup crowns, had won their past five Gold Cup semi-finals in a row.

Jamaica meanwhile, were in the first semi-final appearance in 17 years after runs to the last four in 1993 and 1998. They were the first Caribbean semi-finalist since Guadeloupe in 2007.

After denying and disrupting US attacks over the first half hour, the visitors scored a quickfire double.

A long throw from the left side found forward Mattocks, who outleaped two defenders and headed the ball in off the far post. Spectators had barely calmed down before the team in green doubled their lead when Barnes curved a free kick from just outside the penalty area over the wall and into the upper right corner of the goal.

But the Americans were far from finished, striking quickly in the second half.

In the 48th minute, Aron Johannsson blasted a shot that Jamaican goalkeeper Ryan Thompson stopped but could not keep in his grasp.

Clint Dempsey followed and spilled over prone Thompson as the ball came loose and an onrushing Bradley buried it into the back of the net.

Just three minutes later, the US squad nearly equalized as Johannsson fired a free kick that Thompson could not fully grip and the rebound was headed over the crossbar by Johannsson.

Time and again, the US attacked but never mustered another solid threat. Gyasi Zardes sent a dangerous cross into the penalty area in the dying seconds of stoppage time but it came to no avail.

Jamaica will face the winner of a later semi-final on Wednesday between Mexico and Panama in Sunday's final of the biennial North American regional football championship. It will be held at the Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.