June 25 – Highlighting Matt Turner’s crucial penalty save as a “moment that shifted the momentum,” United States interim coach B.J. Callaghan said his team will “build on the positives” of a laboured 1-1 draw against Jamaica in the Gold Cup curtain raiser.
At no point did the US replicate – or come close to – their barnstorming form of the Nations League that culminated with a sweeping win against neighbours Canada in Las Vegas. Instead, the Gold Cup holders had to work hard to first contain Jamaica’s Premier League brigade and then rally to prevent an embarrassing opening defeat at Soldier Field with a new, young-look team that keenly felt the absence of Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and others from the 17 players dropped for the Gold Cup.
If Callaghan injected enough experience with DeAndre Yedlin, Matt Miazga and Matt Turner at the back, it did not always show with his team conceding an early goal. Turner, however, kept the Americans in the game with a penalty save in the 29th minute, confirming the key role he plays in Callaghan’s team.
“Matt made a big play where it also shifted the momentum a little bit with that,” reflected Callaghan at a news conference. “We gave him the captain’s armband. That’s a great starting point for us to see how valuable he is to the group. He’s a player that came to us and wanted to play in both tournaments. Again, his commitment to this team and commitment to the craft. I always say big players make big plays. That was his moment to step up. It’s the same thing we preach to all of the guys.”
His team however were underwhelming but in the words of goalscorer Brandon Vazquez they stuck together and fought until the end. It was very much a point won for the Americans, who struggled to deal with Leon Bailey’s dribbling, Michail Antonio’s hold-up play and Jamaica’s transitioning.
They also had themselves to blame for a bleak performance, playing without conviction, identifiable game plan and unity until the last 20 minutes of the game when the defending champions pressed in search of an equalizer and grabbed their point through Vazquez’s strike.
A point in the bag, Callaghan still struck an optimistic tone.
“We always knew that this was going to be a strong opponent,” said the US interim coach. “It’s a very talented Jamaican team that can hurt you in many different ways. Again, there are a lot of learning moments for us. At the same time, there are a lot of great responses that we saw tonight. We’ll build on the positives and continue to navigate group play one step at a time. Our goal is to just get better each day.”
His team will have to if they want to have a chance of defending their Gold Cup crown. On Wednesday, they face Gold Cup final debutants St Kitts and Nevis in St Louis.
Contact the writer of this story at samindra.kunti@insideworldfotball,com