For the first time since 2003, the United States failed to make the Gold Cup final. They were eliminated on Wednesday by Jamaica, who beat them 2-1 in Atlanta.
While the U.S. was the better team early, there were signs of danger before they went behind. Giles Barnes should have scored when he was served a ball on a silver platter at the penalty spot in the 27th minute, but fluffed a wide-open shot that he should have buried.
The next time Jamaica created a chance, they didn't miss it -- though it was a bit unorthodox. John Brooks didn't stick on Darren Mattocks on a long throw-in, and Mattocks directed a gorgeous header over the outstretched arm of Brad Guzan, just barely sneaking it inside the near post.
Just under five minutes later, Guzan was caught handling the ball just outside the penalty area and the referee gave a free kick. Barnes stepped up and curled a perfect shot over the wall and into the back of the net, doubling Jamaica's lead.
From the opening kickoff in the second half, the USMNT had a serious sense of urgency, and got a goal back quickly. Aron Johannsson had a 48th minute shot stopped and Clint Dempsey was stuffed on his follow-up, but Michael Bradley followed the play and pushed his team's third effort over the line to cut Jamaica's lead in half.
Jamaica went into full bunker mode quickly, and ultimately, they were able to hold on for the win. Bradley nearly scored in the 57th minute, hitting a shot that went off Jamaica goalkeeper Ryan Thompson's chest, then the near post. Alan Gordon was brought on in desperation and had the Americans' best chance to equalize in the 78th minute, but didn't catch all of his shot from 10 yards, and it was saved comfortably.
Despite the U.S. throwing everyone forward late, they couldn't produce a great chance to score a second goal, and they'll head home early. Because of their failure to win the Gold Cup, they'll have to play the winner of the tournament in a playoff to qualify for the Confederations Cup.
United States: Guzan, Johnson, Brooks, Alvarado, Evans, Beckerman (Diskerud 67'), Bradley, Zardes, Dempsey. Bedoya (78'), Johannsson (Gordon 73')
Goals: Bradley (48')
Jamaica: Thompson, Lawrence, Morgan, Hector, Mariappa, McAnuff, Watson, Austin, McCleary (Grant 90'), Barnes (Humphrey 85'), Mattocks (Dawkins 57')
Goals: Mattocks (31'), Barnes (36')
1. The USMNT was unprepared - While the United States had more possession and got the ball into the box more often than Jamaica in the first half, they looked like they didn't understand what they couldn't get away with. Jamaica sit back in two banks of four, have a couple of technically solid forwards and break down the wings very fast. All of the USMNT's turnovers were punished with dangerous counters, but they gave the ball away in the middle third repeatedly, then struggled to recover. They might have played the better soccer, but they also played directly into Jamaica's hands.
2. Michael Bradley led by example - While the team as a whole wasn't great, no one can fault Bradley's effort or leadership. From the second Jamaica goal onward, he took responsibility in all phases, and his goal was only a small part of his contribution. If the U.S. had one player who was up to par, it was Bradley.
3. This is an embarrassing result - Even when they've had bad squads, performing poorly, the USMNT has been able to reach the Gold Cup final over the last decade. Jamaica are a solid team, but this simply shouldn't happen. It might not cost Jurgen Klinsmann his job, but U.S. Soccer should consider this result completely unacceptable and demand serious changes.