Jamaica shocks Mexico 1-0 in Gold Cup semis, will face USMNT in final

For the second Gold Cup in a row, Jamaica will play in the final.

Two years ago, in the A-team edition, it did so at the expense of the United States, which it upset in the semifinals. This time around, it stunned defending champions Mexico, which was going for a fourth title in five editions. An 88th-minute free kick by Kemar Lawrence bested a Mexican attack entirely devoid of venom or ideas in their semifinal in Pasadena on Sunday.

A date with the United States awaits in Wednesday’s title game for the regional championship in Santa Clara. Well, the glorified B-team version of the regional championship anyway.

And Mexico will likely be plunged into the usual inquisition when the deepest and most talented program in the region fails to demonstrate that superiority on the field.

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The star, as so often for Jamaica these days, was Philadelphia Union goalkeeper and captain Andre Blake. He may well be the player of the tournament, giving up just two goals in five games thus far. One of those shutouts, notably, came against Mexico in the group stage, in a bludgeoningly boring 0-0 stalemate.

Jamaica figured out then how to bungle up a Mexican machinery that wasn’t ticking over into its highest gears regardless. El Tri’s second string — called up for the benefit of resting the first team, following World Cup qualifiers and the Confederations Cup — never did find its rhythm at this Gold Cup. And the Reggae Boyz had a plan for them.

But first, Blake.

After a dozen minutes, The UConn alumnus pulled off a remarkable double-save. He kicked away a deflected shot with his feet and got to the rebound even though his vision was blocked by two of his defenders.

A while later, he made another great save on a point-blank Cubo Torres header.

Torres, by the way, should have been sent off for this karate kick from behind on Damion Lowe. He got away with a yellow instead.

Gradually, Jamaica began taking liberties with Mexico’s assumed dominance, defying the possession numbers. Before halftime, Jermaine Taylor tested Jose Corona with a rocket from a free kick, which the Mexican goalkeeper could only just push wide.

Ten minutes after the break, Ricardo Morris had a decent look. Corona saved comfortably.

Mexico’s grip on the game crumbled after an hour. Jamaica grew emboldened, knowing full well that it would eventually need a goal, or risk the penalty lottery. And when Jesus Gallardo’s blasted free kick through the wall was parried by Blake, frustration mounted.

As the clock ticked toward penalties, as there is no extra-time in this Gold Cup, it seemed that if anyone, it would be Theodore Whitmore’s side that would find a winner. And sure enough, Lawrence curled a free kick over the wall and into the top corner in the 88th minute.

Jamaica will play for its first Gold Cup title.

And Mexico will try to work out what went wrong, in spite of leaving most of their best players at home — even during the knockout stages, when the U.S. drafted in five A-team regulars. Manager Juan Carlos Osorio’s seat will suddenly be hot. Which is awkward, because the Mexican federation stuck with him through his six-game suspension for his behavior at the Confederations Cup.

He has now served five of the six games he was sentenced to spend up in a luxury box. Yet he may never complete that punishment will in Mexico’s employ. That’s how things go in one of the shakiest jobs in sports.

Theodore Whitmore, meanwhile, who is in his fourth spell in charge of Jamaica but only on an interim basis at the moment, is probably due for a promotion. Just as Jamaica is now surely confirming its new status as a regional power.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a Yahoo Sports soccer columnist. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet

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