The most meaningful challenge to date for Coach Gregg Berhalter and this U.S. men’s national team will arrive in four days, when the Americans have a chance to win a tournament title. But Wednesday night, they took the next step, beating the best team this group has faced in an official setting since Berhalter was handed the reins in December.
Even though the Jamaicans threatened the U.S. lead late in the Concacaf Gold Cup semifinal, the Americans leaned on young stars Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie in a 3-1 victory at Nissan Stadium. The game was delayed nearly 90 minutes by lightning early in the first half.
With Jamaica trailing, 2-1, and pushing for an equalizer, the Americans secured a cushion when Pulisic scored his second goal of the night in the 87th minute. The goal led to a brief chant from the Nashville crowd of, “We want Mexico!” looking ahead to Sunday’s final against El Tri.
“We’ve been together for over a month,” Berhalter said of his group. “From the beginning we’ve talked about our goals, our objective. And one of the objectives is to win the Gold Cup. We’re in position to do that now.”
In the semifinal, McKennie scored the game’s opening goal on a strong sequence that started with a long pass from Michael Bradley to Reggie Cannon, who connected with Jozy Altidore and then to McKennie.
Pulisic, bound for English Premier League titan Chelsea later this summer, tapped in a goal from close range early in the second half after Jordan Morris forced a save from Jamaican goalkeeper Andre Blake, who couldn’t corral the rebound before it bounced to Pulisic. His second goal also came by way of a rebound off Jamaica’s goalie, this time following a shot from Paul Arriola.
After the restart following the delay, Jamaica came out strong and became the first team to score against the U.S. in this tournament. In the 69th minute, Jamaica’s Shamar Nicholson headed in a goal off Leon Bailey’s cross. Energized, the Reggae Boyz continued to threaten, creating a handful of chances while the Americans made some careless mistakes. Pulisic, a factor from the start, then stepped in to provide some breathing room.
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Emily Giambalvo