Aiming for elite, Jamaica relish another “David & Goliath” Gold Cup moment

PASADENA, Calif. – Jamaica have unfinished business at the CONCACAF Gold Cup. But first, they will relish slaying the giant.

Two years after knocking off perennial tournament favorites the United States in the semifinal round to reach the final against Mexico, the Reggae Boyz defied the predictions again on Sunday, upsetting Mexico in the semifinal at the Rose Bowl.

An 88th-minute free kick from Kemar Lawrence and several superb saves from Andre Blake were enough to set up another trip to the final, this time against the US.

Jamaica head coach Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore repeatedly called the win over El Tri “overwhelming” in his postgame press conference. But the emotion on display – a partisan pro-Mexico crowd of 42,393 fans fell into stunned silence while Jamaica’s bench erupted into celebrations on the goal – belied a belief that the job is not done for this team.

“They are enjoying it at the moment, but I keep saying no one must lose focus,” Whitmore said. “In 2015 we lost the Gold Cup to Mexico. We don’t want history to repeat itself by being at two finals and being runner-up.

“We are aware of the situation, the position, and we are aiming for the goal.”

When asked about the magnitude of Sunday’s win, Jamaica’s manager referred to a familiar allegory.

“The best way I could put it is the biblical story, David slew Goliath,” he said. “That’s the best way to put it. It’s overwhelming, words can’t explain. I think the guys, they were hungry this afternoon. You know, I think they needed it more than the Mexicans.”

Jamaica have been busy in summer tournaments in recent years, playing in not only the last two editions of the Gold Cup but also the 2015 Copa America and 2016 Copa America Centenario. While many of the players on the field in Sunday’s win did not necessarily play big roles in prior tournaments, Whitmore credited the experience in raising the level of the program overall.

Now, comes a second consecutive Gold Cup final, against the US on Wednesday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. (9:30 pm ET | FS1, Univision, UDN).

Can Jamaica break the US-Mexico duopoly in CONCACAF and declare themselves one of the region’s elite?

“That’s a cycle I want to break, that’s something we see as staff and players discuss,” Whitmore said. “It’s always Mexico, US, you know? So we want to be in that top group as well. We want to be a team, a country that someone can talk about and that’s what we’re working towards.”

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