CHICAGO – Brandon Vazquez saved the United States from what would have been the Americans' first loss in a CONCACAF Gold Cup opener.
Vazquez's 88th-minute goal gave the No. 13 U.S. a 1-1 draw against 63rd-ranked Jamaica on Saturday night. He had entered the match six minutes earlier, tying him to the U.S. with his first competitive international appearance. Born in Chula Vista, California, the 24-year-old forward could have played for Mexico.
“It means everything,” said Vazquez, who was overlooked for last year’s World Cup roster. “To be able to score a goal in my cap tie is amazing.”
Damion Lowe put the Reggae Boyz ahead in the 13th minute, and Matt Turner kept the U.S. close by saving a penalty kick on his 29th birthday. The defending champions came back when Jesús Ferreira's cross hit off defender Dexter Lembikisa to Vazquez, who scored with a right-foot shot from 7 yards for his second goal in four international appearances.
“It's kind of two lost points,” said Jamaica coach Heimir Hallgrímsson, who led Iceland at the 2018 World Cup.
“They are in-season. A young, energetic team,” he said about the U.S. “A lot of our players are coming from a break from their season, so I knew this game would be tricky.”
Before an announced crowd of 36,666 at Solider Field, Lowe scored his third goal in 53 international appearances with a header from 8 yards following Demarai Gray’s free kick. Lowe was played onside when Matt Miazga dropped back on the restart by Gray, an Everton winger who made his Reggae Boyz debut after switching affiliation from England.
Next up for the Americans is a Wednesday match in St. Louis with 139th-ranked St. Kitts and Nevis, which opens Sunday against No. 104 Trinidad and Tobago.
The U.S., which fielded a mostly junior varsity team, had 15 wins in 16 previous Gold Cup openers, the blemish a 1-1 draw against Panama in 2017. The U.S. has 38 wins, five draws and one loss in the group stage — a 2-1 defeat to the Panamanians in 2011.
Turner was the only U.S. player who was a regular at last year's World Cup and one of just five holdovers from last week's Nations League roster. He dived to his left to parry a 29th-minute penalty kick by Leon Bailey, who put the rebound wide with his weaker right foot.
“He's a player that came to us and wanted to play both tournaments,” U.S. interim coach B.J. Callaghan said. “I always say big players make big plays.”
The penalty was awarded when Aidan Morris knocked down Kevon Lambert following a throw-in.
Notes: Eight U.S. starters were from Major League Soccer. ... Gregg Berhalter, whose contract expired in December and who was rehired June 16, was on hand to watch and won't resume coaching until September. ... Aiden Morris, Alan Soñora and Cade Cowell played their first competitive matches for the U.S., also tying them to the American team.