Gold Cup: Richards, Johnson lead the way in 1-0 win

Dane Richards of Jamaica

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HARRISON, N.J. — The mood at Red Bull Arena on Monday night told you it was going to be a vibrant match between Honduras and Jamaica, and the players seemed to soak up the energy as the Reggae Boyz held on for a 1-0 win in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

San Jose Earthquakes striker Ryan Johnson was the hero on the night—and almost the goat—as he scored the winner, but also failed to convert a second-half penalty that would’ve iced the match.

Using a combination of speed, power, and clever passing, Jamaica delivered on the promise of their two earlier wins. They finish perfect in group play and qualify for the Gold Cup quarterfinals for the first time since 2005.

As winners of Group B, the Jamaicans will face the runners-up in Group C, who will be determined in the final group matches on Tuesday.

In the 3rd minute, New York Red Bulls winger Dane Richards set the tone for the Jamaicans. A ball over the top released him into the Honduran area, but he was unable to round goalkeeper Noel Valladares.

The message was clear, though: Jamaica were going for the win.

Their passage became clearer in the 12th minute, when Honduran marksman Carlo Costly landed awkwardly from a diving header and lay on the turf, clutching his right torso. He received treatment and continued, but the pain eventually forced him off in the 26th minute, replaced by former MLSer and current Leeds United attacker Ramon Nunez.

Jamaica continued to press but were unable to penetrate the Hondurans’ staunch backline until Johnson broke through in the 35th minute.

           WATCH: Johnson, Richards on win
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A matrix of quick-footed passing allowed Johnson cut to the middle at speed. He launched a left-footed missile from 25 yards out that left Valledares flailing air as the ball whizzed by. For a split second, though, it looked like the woodwork would save Valladares, but the ball rebounded off the crossbar and ricocheted in off the prone goalkeeper’s back.

But the second half belonged to Honduras. The insertion of Walter Martinez amped up the energy of the attack, and Nunez began to assert himself in midfield.

And when Valledares saved a Johnson penalty kick in the 71st minute, the Arena exploded in appreciation. Johnson was also the one to draw the penalty, being taking down by defender Victor Bernardez, but the Quakes ace hit a poor penalty, and one could feel the mood shifting.

Suddenly, Jamaica’s passes weren’t connecting. They were second to loose balls. They resorted to ill-advised fouls.

In the 77th minute, Bernardez slammed a 30-yard freekick just wide. Sub Javier Portillo ripped a shot from distance in the 83rd. Two minutes later, it was Nunez with a go that looked threatening but missed the target.

There was one last bit of drama in the 88th minute, when Honduras had a shout for a penalty, but Salvadoran referee Joel Aguilar waved play on. There was to be no way through for Honduras on this night.

They finish second in Group B and move on to face Group A runners-up Costa Rica in the quarterfinals on Saturday.

Scoring Summary
JAM: Johnson 35’

HONDURAS — N. Valladares; J. Garcia, V. Bernardez, O. Chavez, M. Sabillon; E. Martinez (W. Martinez 46’), E. Delgado (J. Portillo 76’), A. Mejia, O. Garcia; C. Costly (R. Nunez 26’), J. Bengtson

Subs: J. Leveron, R. Espinoza, D. Escobar, B. Beckeles

JAMAICA — D. Miller; J. Taylor, J. Morrison, A. Reid; K. Daley, D. Williams, D. Phillips, O. Daley (E. Vernan 85’); D Richards, K. Daley, J. Watson (N. Boyd 88’); R. Johnson (L. Shelton 83’)

Subs: R. Edwards, S. Thomas, R. Austin, D. Kerr