KINGSTON, Jamaica – On paper, Jamaica's World Cup hopes appear all but dashed after a gut-wrenching 2-1 loss to the United States on Friday night, but coach Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore and his Reggae Boyz are keeping the faith.
Brad Evans's injury-time winner for the Americans kept Jamaica at the foot of the Hexagonal table with no wins, two points and a four-point gap between them and the fourth-place playoff spot that offers the region's last chance at a trip to Brazil next year.
A former Reggae Boy himself, Whitmore was visibly distraught as he took postgame questions from the media on Friday night.
“The players are very disappointed,” he said. “It's heartbreaking. Again. We just have to keep focused on our game [in Panama] on Tuesday. Keep focused, stay positive and hope for the best.
“This is football. It's a tough loss. Believe me, I think we deserved if not all three points, at least a point out of the game, even at the end.”
Jamaica were down 1-0 when second-half substitute Jermaine Beckford sparked delirium among the home fans with a glancing header that beat US goalkeeper Tim Howard in the 89th minute. But after chasing the game from the half-hour mark, when Jozy Altidore's header beat goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, the home side could not maintain their composure in the frenetic waning moments.
“We went down a goal, we fought to get the next goal – we hit the post in the first half – and Beckford gave us a lift and actually gave us the goal,” said striker Ryan Johnson, who plays for the Portland Timbers. “It was just a lapse and it happens, right after you score a goal, that's the time you have to be most focused and that's what happened, we got punished.”
Johnson was anguished and defiant as he spoke to MLSsoccer.com on the Reggae Boyz team bus in the shadow of the Jamaica National Stadium late Friday night.
“Yeah, we're gutted, but we're going to go into the rest of the matches looking to win,” said the Portland Timbers forward. “That's just the position we've put ourselves in. We're men and we're going to continue to fight, exactly like what we did."
“Me personally," Johnson continued, "I'm not going to give up. Maybe other people are, or the country, I don't know, whatever. I'm not going to give up. When I look at teams like Mexico and US, those are the top teams in CONCACAF and we played them hard with a team that didn't really know each other.
"We had a lot of guys that were getting their first few caps and little things like that. Those play into the game huge and now that we've got a little bit more time with each other, I expect to win games like Honduras, Panama and Costa Rica. We win those games, it's a different story.”