Watch all the key plays as the USMNT hosts Jamaica in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. men's national team was certainly hoping for its Gold Cup prep to go better than this.
A sluggish performance at D.C. United's Audi Field was punished by the Reggae Boyz Wednesday night, with Shamar Nicholson's second-half stunner the difference in Jamaica's 1-0 win. It marks the third time in 27 all-time meetings that Jamaica has beaten the U.S.–and the second in their last five meetings–and serves as a wake-up call for Gregg Berhalter's side with one more match to go before competition begins. It's the first loss in Berhalter's tenure as manager, and his record now stands at 3-1-1
The match came a day before the coach reveals his final Gold Cup roster, meaning any last-minute contributions on the field could have wound up swaying his mind. If anything positive stood out, it was the bench contribution from Duane Holmes, who provided a spark in the second half in his U.S. debut.
In the USA's defense, plenty of the top players present in camp weren't made available on the night. There was no Weston McKennie, Jozy Altidore or Michael Bradley on the active roster for the night, with Jackson Yueill, who was included in camp despite not being eligible for the Gold Cup (he wasn't on the provisional 40-man roster submitted to Concacaf) getting a surprise start. In place of Gyasi Zardes, a regular thus far under Berhalter, Josh Sargent was given the start atop the formation, a chance to get in some solid game time after being reduced to a reserve for the latter part of Werder Bremen's season.
The U.S. looked to strike on both flanks in the early going, with wingbacks Antonee Robinson and Paul Arriola both looking to serve in crosses from deep positions within the opening four minutes.
Jamaica actually put the first shot on goal, with Dever Orgill testing Zack Steffen from a left-sided angle.
The U.S. responded in kind a minute later, with Sargent getting his head to an Arriola cross, only to glance it just wide of Andre Blake's goal.
Steffen, who is headed to Man City after this summer's competition, nearly had a calamity in the back, trying to play it out of the box under pressure in the 13th minute, but the U.S. defense recovered, ensuring nothing came of the mistake.
A sluggish half unfolded from there, with both sides struggling to find anything that resembled rhythm. The U.S. defense cut out any of Jamaica's forays forward, while the U.S. continued to try to probe down the sidelines and cross, only to be stifled at every turn.
Jamaica nearly broke through in the 38th minute, with the two fullbacks combining. Right back Alvas Powell raced far up in the attack to meet a cross from left back Kemar Lawrence and had an open header, only to put it over the bar.
Jamaica threatened again in the 42nd, with Kevon Lambert getting the space to fire from 20 yards, only to shoot straight at Steffen, who made the clean save.
Lambert had a similar chance seven minutes into the second half, ripping a right-footed chance that forced Steffen into a diving stop.
Jamaica continued to be the more likely of the two to score, with Peter Vassell opting for finesse over power in curling a right-footed chance from outside the area. It had Steffen beat but went just wide of the far post, keeping things at 0-0.
The breakthrough came at the hour mark, though. Jamaica continued its theme of testing Steffen from distance, and one chance finally came off, with Nicholson blasting rip from over 25 yards by the diving goalkeeper to give the Reggae Boyz the lead.
The goal woke up the U.S. to a degree, and the Americans pushed for an equalizer. It nearly came from Sargent, who redirected his chance from out front wide of the mark after a well-designed corner kick. Holmes set it up for Sargent with a cutback from the far post.
Sargent nearly had the equalizer again in the 88th minute. He received a long diagonal ball from Holmes with his back to goal and took a deft turn, aiming his shot in the lower left-hand corner. Blake was equal to it, though, making an impressive diving save to push it around the post.
Here were the lineups for both sides:
The USA will face Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago and Panama in the group stage of the Gold Cup, while Jamaica will square off against Honduras, El Salvador and Curacao.