ATLANTA – Either Jurgen Klinsmann doesn’t have the word failure in his vocabulary, or he simply didn’t want to say it after one of the most disappointing results in recent United States national team history.
For the first time in more than a decade, the United States won’t play in the Gold Cup final. For the first time in the history of the tournament, a CONCACAF side other than Mexico applied the fatal blow. For the first time in more than 45 years, a Caribbean nation won on US soil.
That, of course, would be Jamaica, who emerged 2-1 winners on a night that saw Klinsmann’s pre-tournament emphasis on winning – and thereby automatically qualifying for the 2017 Confederations Cup – go out the window as a long throw-in and direct free kick delivered the Reggae Boyz to their first-ever Gold Cup final.
“We lost this game with two set pieces that we conceded. It’s as simple as that,” Klinsmann said in his postgame press conference. “We had enough chances to put two, three, four [or] five in there. We didn’t do that, and that’s why, at the end of the day, we lost. It’s unfortunate, but it’s reality. Congratulations to Jamaica for being in the final. We have to swallow that pill.”
Most disappointing for Klinsmann was the dichotomy between what he called a “very very good performance” and the result, certainly the lowest point of his three-plus years in charge of the USMNT.
Though the Americans registered 10 shots on goal to Jamaica’s three, most coming during a frantic second-half comeback attempt, they were simply “missing a little luck, a little sharpness, a little bit of whatever you want to call it” in front of goal, according to captain Michael Bradley.
“It’s very disappointing, very frustrating,” said Bradley, who scored the Americans’ lone goal in the 48th minute. “We have no divine right to be in the final. We certainly didn’t think that. We knew from the get go that this was going to be an extremely difficult tournament. It was.”
Of course, it’s not over yet, not until Saturday when the US play Panama in the third-place game at PPL Park (4 pm ET, FOX Sports 2, Univision in US, Sportsnet in Canada).
“It’s disappointing, but we’ll pick ourselves up,” goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. “It doesn’t make us a bad team. It doesn’t erase a lot of the good stuff that we’ve done. Just as when we beat Holland and Germany, this game doesn’t define us.”
But it does set up a single-elimination playoff match against either Jamaica or Mexico, the two 2015 Gold Cup finalists, for the right to represent CONCACAF in the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia. Just another high stakes match for the USA and one they cannot afford to lose if they are to achieve the primary goal set out by Klinsmann at the beginning of the summer..
“We’ll continue to move ourselves forward – to push, to improve,” Bradley said. “We’ve earned our way into the playoff in October for the Confederations Cup, so we’ll let these other teams battle it out. Whoever it is come October, we’ll be ready to play a big game and get ourselves to that tournament.”