HARRISON, N.J. — Ryan Johnson is feeling it. So are the rest of the Reggae Boyz.
Johnson, the dynamic San Jose Earthquakes striker, is the centerpiece right now of a confident Jamaican side that beat 2010 World Cup qualifiers Honduras, 1-0, to finish atop Group B in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. They finish group play with three wins and no goals conceded.
“I feel if we play together, we can beat anybody,” Johnson said after the game.
It’s an understandable statement. Johnson epitomizes the combination of speed, power, and poise that the entire Jamaican team seems to possess. His all-action performance on Monday was the catalyst for the win, and his matchwinning goal, a rifled shot from distance, was at least breathtaking to watch.
Yes, he did get help. The shot beat Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares, then rebounding off the woodwork, before ricocheting over the line off Valladares’s back.
And later, Valladares exacted his revenge, of a kind, blanking Johnson on a second-half penalty.
But regardless, Johnson’s self-assurance is sky high right now, and it is fueling the Reggae Boyz. He scored two of the side’s seven goals, playing a major role in Jamaica’s reaching the quarterfinals for the first time since 2005.
“Confidence is a big thing when it comes to footballers,” he said. “I feel confident in my team and it makes me feel confident.”
But Honduras came close more than once on Monday. Former MLSer Ramon Nunez buzzed around after replacing the injured Carlo Costly in the first half, and had several decent chances to score.
That he didn’t was proof positive, according to Johnson, that Jamaica have a chance to make some real waves in this tournament.
“Defense is the most important thing,” he said. “If we don’t let them score on us, it gives us a chance to win. And now we’re proving we can score goals.”