Following a defiant seventh-round knockout of previously unbeaten Jose Pedraza (22-1, 12...
Eddie Johnson, US Eliminate Jamaica
By Andrew Dixon, III
Updated: November 19, 2004
MIAMI, FLA.—For the USA, the last match of the semifinal round of qualifying for the 2006 World Cup was an opportunity to rest some first team regulars and get some younger players a taste of international football.
For Jamaica, it was more urgent.
Or go home.
In the end, the relatively inexperienced US squad held off a desperate, full strength Jamaica using a 15th minute goal from Eddie Johnson to earn a 1-1 draw Wednesday night at Columbus Crew stadium to finish atop the standings in this semifinal round and eliminate Jamaica.
The US left home regulars like Eddie Pope and injured captain Claudio Reyna and opted to give opportunities to younger players like Oguchi Onyewu who plays for Belgian club side Standard Liege. “Gooch” was one of 4 Blacks in the US starting lineup which including Tony Sanneh, Cory Gibbs and Eddie Johnson.
It was Johnson, the self-proclaimed “Grown-Ass Man” with 4 goals in his first two appearances with the US who punctuated the Americans’ dominating start. The US confidently knocked the ball around Jamaica’s defense in the opening minutes, culminating in Johnson’s receiving a pass from Pablo Mastroeni on the right side on the penalty box after a perfectly timed run which beat the Jamaican offside trap. The F.C. Dallas forward, who had missed two earlier chances, took one touch to his left and drilled home his 5th goal in three appearances in the Red, White and Blue, giving the US a 1-0 lead.
The Reggae Boyz were now up against it and as news came from Panama City that Panama had scored twice in the first 15 minutes of their match, they knew they needed a goal.
They got it in the 27th minute when Ricardo Fuller spun away from an Onyewu shirt tug on the left side and was taken down in the penalty box by Ramiro Corrales. An obvious penalty. Chicago Fire midfielder Andy Williams converted the penalty kick and the Boyz were on the board at 1-1, the score line at the break.
Jamaica, however seemed resigned to their fate as news came from Panama that the hosts were now leading El Salvador 3-0. Jamaica lacked the urgency of a team about to be eliminated and the substitutions of Jermaine Hue, Marlon King (for an ineffective and listless Damani Ralph, also of Chicago) and newcomer Jason Euell of English side Charlton Athletic, did not increase the pace or attacking intensity.
The US seemed content to absorb and counter attack but their task become a little more desperate when Onyewu inexplicably stuck his hand out to block a pass. It was his 2nd yellow card meaning he was expelled from the match and that the US had to play the remaining 17 minutes down a man. Yet the Americans remained resolute and the Jamaicans lacked the creativity to break through the resilient American backline, later joined by 18 year old Jonathan Spector of famed side Manchester United. 1-1, Final score.
With this result the US joined Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago (2-1 winners over St. Vincent and the Grenadines), Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama (whose 3-0 win leaped them past Jamaica) in the final round of qualifying for the 2006 World Cup. The Hexagonal begins Feb. 9, 2005. 3 teams will automatically qualify for the World’s Biggest Sporting stage while the 4th place finisher faces a home and home playoff with the 4 place Asian team.