Jamaica beat the U.S. 2–1 in the Gold Cup semifinals to reach the final for the first time in the nation’s history (their previous best finish was fourth in 1998). Though the U.S. were undoubtedly favorites not only in this specific match, but to go on and win the competition for the fifth time in the last eight stagings of it, the result shouldn’t be the shock that some fans and pundits are making it out to be.
Yes, the U.S. are probably the best team in the region, but being the biggest fish in a small pond has a tendency to distort expectations. Even though they had a strong showing at the World Cup and have won a couple of friendlies against world powers recently, they still aren’t above losing to teams that are worse than them in meaningful games. And the margin between Jamaica and the U.S. probably isn’t as wide as many would believe.
At the end of the day, a team of MLS players (the U.S. had 12) with a German manager lost to another team of MLS players (Jamaica had 9) with a German manager. They even had two Premier League players apiece (Brad Guzan and DeAndre Yedlin for the U.S., Wes Morgan and Adrian Mariappa for Jamaica). Granted, that’s an oversimplification, but it’s not like the U.S. rolled in with La Masia trained world beaters to face a rag-tag squad coached by John Candy.
Jamaica scored twice in a span of five minutes, with both goals coming from set pieces — one of which was even set up by a borderline handball called on U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Should the U.S. win the Gold Cup every time out? Maybe. Will they? Of course not. Germany probably wouldn’t, either. That’s just not how sports work in real life. It doesn’t mean Jurgen Klinsmann has revealed himself to be a terrible manager and it also doesn’t mean he’s without fault in this result.
Jamaica were good enough to beat their opponent and they did. Whether this is a sign of larger issues or not for the U.S. will largely depend on what happens next. Any claims of regression, stagnation, or abomination right now are all just reactionary clickbait or frustrated hyperbole.