The Jamaican national team will miss out on World Cup 2006, falling out in the semifinal round of CONCACAF qualifying after a 1-1 draw with the United States in Columbus, Ohio, on Wednesday night.
Jamaica managed to get an equalizer just nine minutes after the U.S. had gone ahead in the first half, but combined with Panama's 3-0 win over El Salvador in Panama City, the Reggae Boyz will not advance to the hexagonal stage. The U.S. will join Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago in the final stage of CONCACAF qualifying next year.
Two players based in Major League Soccer scored the goals: Dallas' Eddie Johnson for the United States and Chicago's Andy Williams for Jamaica. Johnson, making just his third cap and getting his first start, equaled three U.S. soccer milestones in scoring again. He became just the second player in U.S. history to score at least one goal in each of his first three appearances, something Alexander Rae accomplished in 1937 in three games against Mexico. Johnson also became the first U.S. player to score in each of his first three World Cup qualifiers and the second to tally five goals in as few as three caps. Aldo "Buff" Donelli scored five times in two caps in 1934.
The United States came out and dominated the first half-hour, using the right side extensively and pushing deep into the Jamaican end of the field. Johnson looked dangerous as he tried to break Jamaica's back line.
The U.S. didn't give Jamaican 'keeper Donovan Ricketts much to do in the opening minutes, but by the quarter-hour Ricketts was a busy man. In the 14th minute Johnson had two excellent chances, but couldn't convert on either of them, fanning on a shot from 15 yards and then driving the ball straight at Ricketts after strike partner Brian McBride collected the clearance of Johnson's first attempt and sent it back into the box.
A minute later, though, Johnson made up for his missed chances, continuing his remarkable run. The 20-year-old FC Dallas striker beat Jamaica's offside trap to run onto a little chip over the top from Colorado's Pablo Mastroeni and slot the ball to Ricketts' right.
The U.S. almost doubled their lead four minutes later, but Ricketts came up big to make a save and then got some help from his defense. McBride ran under a long ball into the box, heading it back to Dallas defender Cory Gibbs, who chested it down as he charged toward goal. Gibbs got a shot off, but Ricketts threw himself in front of it. With Ricketts down on the ground and out of the play, San Jose's Landon Donovan sent a diagonal cross in, but a defender in yellow headed the ball clear before it could reach Johnson at the near post.
As the game wore on, the Jamaicans battled back and the contest became much more physical, leading to Jamaica's goal. San Jose's Ramiro Corrales, making his first national team appearance since 1997, clipped Ricardo Fuller's leg as the forward carried the ball along the endline, and referee Mauricio Navarro pointed to the spot. Williams stepped up to easily convert the penalty kick to tie the game at 1-1.
Donovan gave Ricketts another test on the half-hour with a free kick from nearly 25 yards out, but Ricketts stretched to his left to punch the ball wide, and the 'keeper again gave up his body at the start of the second half, saving a shot from Johnson with his face. Johnson had been sent in alone on goal by a chip from McBride and had trouble controlling the ball on the slick field before Ricketts shut him down.
The physical play that crept into the match late in the first half dominated the second stanza. Jamaica midfielder Jermaine Hue was lucky not to be shown the gate, picking up a yellow card in the 57th minute after a hard tackle on Mastroeni and then being whistled for a foul but not carded after hacking down Johnson five minutes later. Los Angeles Galaxy defender Tyrone Marshall got a caution of his own after cutting down Johnson in the 65th minute.
Oguchi Onyewu, another player getting his first start for the senior U.S. team, was sent off in the 74th minute after picking up his second caution for a handball about 25 yards from goal. With the U.S. down a man, much of the play in the latter stages of the game was in the U.S. end of the field. Jamaican forward Marlon King had a chance to put his team ahead in the 84th minute, but after shaking his man in the box, he couldn't get a good shot off and U.S. 'keeper Kasey Keller saved the effort with ease.
Two players made their debuts with the U.S. team, as New England Revolution midfielder and MLS Gatorade Rookie of the Year Clint Dempsey replaced Corrales in the 66th minute and 18-year-old defender Jonathan Spector came on for New England's Steve Ralston in the 77th minute.
Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.