Once more, Jamaica end a summer full of international football without a trophy. That's not exactly a surprise -- they've never won a major summer competition, with their only trophies coming in the Caribbean Cup, a competition held in the fall. That's not to say that this wasn't a successful summer, though, because that's exactly what it was.
Jamaica started the summer by taking a trip to South America for the Copa America, facing a brutal group stage where they'd have to play Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. They came out of those three matches without a win or even a goal, yes, but Winifred Schäfer's players took three very good sides to the limit and didn't make any of their losses the easy blowouts that were expected. Jamaica played three impressive matches despite the results, and it looked like the defending Caribbean Cup champs learned some important lessons from the monumental challenge they were tasked with.
Those performances were only so valuable if they didn't take anything useful from them, though, and once the Gold Cup came around, it looked like Jamaica took their lessons to heart in a major way. Not only did they come back from a disastrous five-minute spell against Costa Rica to earn a draw against one of the most talented sides in CONCACAF, the two goals they gave up against the Ticos were the last two they'd give up until the semifinal round, winning a group Costa Rica were supposed to carry with ease and playing three impressive matches before going head to head against the United States in the penultimate round of the tournament.
That semifinal against the USMNT saw them go up against a team that they had beaten just once since decades, and that win came on home soil. Everyone expected the US to steamroll the Reggae Boyz, but instead, they played one of the best matches any Jamaican team has ever played and shocked the entire continent when they beat the United States in a massive upset. What's more, it wasn't just some cheap, scratched-out win -- they outplayed the US from the get-go, and looked like a fully deserving winner at the final whistle.
Yes, Mexico thrashed them in the final, but only so many miracles could occur. They still saw some truly fantastic performances from the likes of Darren Mattocks, Giles Barnes, Garath McCleary, and Kemar Lawrence all tournament long, and that's worth a lot in the long run. This summer's achievements, paired with their resounding success in the Caribbean Cup last fall, could be a huge launching pad for a side that's got a lot of talent and upside.
Maybe the most impressive part of Jamaica's performance is that in every match, they stayed true to what their team is. They never once looked cowed by facing bigger teams, and never looked overconfident against minnows. They came out and played their same lightning-counter approach in every match, be it against Haiti or Argentina, Canada or the United States. Sometimes the shape and formation was a little different from match to match, but the approach was always the same.
Sometimes it worked better than others, but Jamaica never let their opponent dictate how they played -- they stuck to their guns, because they knew that gave them their best chance of winning. Not many teams do that at this level, so to see that kind of commitment, and success coming from it, and they can do great things by using that approach and this success as a base.
This could just be the start of a very exciting time for Jamaica in international football. With World Cup qualifying right around the corner for CONCACAF and a place in the Hex beckoning, the Reggae Boyz could be dancing in celebration quite a few more times over the next few years. And who knows? Maybe once everything is said and done we'll see them shocking the world in Russia. After what they've done this summer, it wouldn't be surprising.