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Vazquez saves USA from Jamaica defeat in Gold Cup opener

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States (US) needed an 88th-minute equaliser from substitute Brandon Vazquez to earn a 1-1 draw against Jamaica in the opening game of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Gold Cup yesterday.

The defending champions were staring at just their second defeat in 44 games in the group stage of the competition before the Cincinnati forward pounced just six minutes after coming off the bench at Chicago’s Soldier Field.

Jesus Ferreira whipped in a cross from the right flank which Jamaica defender Dexter Lembikisa was unable to clear, and Vazquez slotted home his second goal in four appearances for the national side.

The goal robbed Jamaica’s Icelandic coach Heimir Hallgrimsson of what would have been his first win since taking over in September.

The Caribbean side were the better team for large stretches of the Group A match after taking the lead in the 14th minute.

USA’s forward Brandon Vazquez celebrates scoring his team’s first goal. PHOTO: AFP
USA’s defender Deandre Yedlin fights for the ball with Jamaica’s forward Demarai Gray. PHOTO: AFP

Everton winger Demarai Gray floated in a free-kick from deep on the right and Damion Lowe met it with a thundering diving header.

Jamaica had a great chance to double their lead when they were awarded a penalty, Aidan Morris having fouled Kevon Lambert in the box.

But Leon Bailey’s spot kick was superbly parried out by American keeper Matt Turner and the Aston Villa winger put the rebound wide with the goal unguarded.

The US under interim coach BJ Callaghan and with a largely second-string squad lacking their regular Europe-based starters, struggled to get a grip against a committed Jamaica.

Andre Blake, the Jamaica goalkeeper, was alert to keep out a Jordan Morris effort just before the break, and then produced a superb reaction save with his legs in the 71st minute to deny Cristian Roldan.

But then Vazquez, who was left out of the US squad for the World Cup in Qatar last year, delivered a reminder of his qualities as a traditional centre-forward and extended the Americans’ unbeaten run at home against CONCACAF opposition to 26 matches.

“The team stayed connected and fought until the end and we were able to get a goal,” said Vazquez.