BALTIMORE – Just an hour after the United States thoroughly dismantled Cuba to book their spot in the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals, Jamaica and and a surprising Haiti side met to determine which of the two teams would face the Americans on Wednesday.
It would be the Reggae Boyz who'd punch their ticket to the semis, riding an early goal from Houston Dynamo star striker Giles Barnes to a 1-0 victory in front of 37,994 at M&T Bank Stadium.
Jamaica’s opener came just eight minutes in. Rudolph Austin found Crystal Palace defender Adrian Mariappa in the far corner. Mariappa did well to fight off his defender and get the ball to Barnes at the far edge of the six-yard box. The Dynamo forward struck a near-post effort that managed to squeeze between Haiti ‘keeper Johny Placide and the post, giving the Reggae Boyz the early lead.
The Haitians did their best to return fire during the next quarter hour or so, yet failed to equalize. In the 13th minute, forward Duckens Nazon lined up a 20-yard blast which Jamaica ‘keeper Ryan Thompson parried away from danger. Two minutes later, a corner kick swung to the back of the post found Haiti midfielder James Marcelin at the goal line. Thompson was again there to keep the Haitians off the board, smothering the attempt.
In the 24th minute, Haiti had their best opportunity to equalize, a Nazon rope from 18 yards out that clanged off the far post and away from danger.
Jamaica very nearly doubled their lead shortly after the halftime whistle. In the 55th minute, Leyton Orient midfielder Jordan McAnuff pounced on a mishit pass 20 yards out, breaking in alone on goal. His driven attempt was pushed aside by Placide, directly into the path of Barnes, who couldn’t manage to put his follow-up on frame.
In the 70th, New York Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence took his own stab at nabbing Jamaica’s second, sending a pacy, dipping free kick over the wall from 20 yards out. Placide was again up to the task.
Haiti seemed to lose a little steam in the game’s final 15 minutes, succumbing a bit to the summer heat and rigors of the tournament. Barnes nearly put the game away in the 83rd with a point blank shot, but Placide, who was busy during the game’s second stanza, punched it clear.
The Haitians followed up with their own flurry at the death. Second-half substitute Kernes Belfort got his head on a ball eight yards from goal, his attempt trickling inches wide of the far post. Both sides collapsed to the ground at the final whistle, thoroughly wiped out from the encounter.
The Jamaicans will need to recover quickly – the unenviable task of taking on the tournament favorites lays ahead.