Jamaica was one of the surprises at this Concacaf World Cup qualifying tournament. Despite popular expectation pegging the top three teams in attendances as the United States, Canada, and Mexico, with Costa Rica vying for fourth, Jamaica advanced out of Group B with wins over Costa Rica and Cuba, and held Canada to two goals. But that didn’t mean they were ready for the juggernaut that is the US women’s national team right now. With this semifinal the last barrier between the USWNT and the World Cup, Jill Ellis fielded a full-strength starting XI that almost immediately began to take Jamaica apart.
The US scored their first goal in the 2’ and didn’t stop for the rest of the half, scoring again in the 15’, 21’, 29’, and 33’. For those first fifteen minutes it looked like Jamaica might be able to at least stay defensively disciplined and hold the US to a closer result, but they were overwhelmed almost everywhere on the field very quickly, unable to keep up with the US’ pace and positional fluidity.
Look at the second goal, with Dahlkemper serving in a real beast of an assist from deep, and Rapinoe chesting it down to her feet so she can attack the goal and roof it near post.
What a goal!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) October 15, 2018
Megan Rapinoe doubles the USWNT's lead after a wonderful cross-field pass from Abby Dahlkemper. pic.twitter.com/MhK83vGWeY
Then there was Julie Ertz, bringing one of her classic headers on a set piece to make it three, and then Heath again with a really nice volley off a ball that Lindsey Horan floated in like a marshmallow, and finally Morgan to top it all off with the one-time touch through traffic.
Jamaica couldn’t keep track of the number and type of players crashing, cutting, sliding, or otherwise sneaking into their 18-yard-box. Rapinoe, Morgan, and Heath all shifted smoothly at will, allowing unexpected runs from any one of them and slipped balls from everywhere on the field. That wasn’t just Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle breaking lines with their passes, but Kelley O’Hara as well, drifting inside almost as often as she ran the overlap with Heath. Dunn dinged in some great balls from the left side of the pitch too, making for an attack on basically every front imaginable.
The second half started with Morgan Brian and Christen Press coming on for Julie Ertz and Megan Rapinoe respectively, both as like-for-likes. Brian was a little less dominant than Ertz in commanding the midfield, but the team as a whole kind of took their foot off the gas pedal in the second half. At 5-0 up and what will undoubtedly be a much tougher game against Canada imminent, it made sense for everyone to just slow down and focus on working out the kinks with subs. Horan continued to apply her vision in picking out teammates to put in on goal and the passing stayed relatively loose, but now with somewhat less intention.
Jamaica tried to establish more control over the midfield and got it to some extent. They created a chance in the 71’ for Jody Brown, who nutmegged O’Hara and was nearly in on goal but for a clean-up tackle from Sauerbrunn. But they would have had to chase more to actually try and get on the ball, and by this time in the game they didn’t have the energy to generate that kind of pressure.
There would only be one more goal in the second half, a penalty in the 84’ as Press won a ball and fed Morgan on the run. Morgan caught up to the ball near the end line but got enough of a tug from a defender to pull her off balance. The ref signaled a penalty and Morgan took it, although she had to wait several minutes for both an injury on the other end of the field, and then a sub by Jamaica. She stayed cool throughout, and buried the ball in the back corner of the net to make it 6-0.
The game ended on a subdued note though as Morgan Brian took a head-to-head collision on a challenge and had to come off the field. She was shown walking to the locker room under her own power and will hopefully be fine. After that, it was just a matter of seeing out the game. Final score: 6-0, and an official spot in the 2019 Women’s World Cup for the United States.
Was this a game against an opponent far down the ladder in terms of weight class? Yes. Did the United States still look very good? Also yes. After a performance like this, they’ll probably be eager to test it out against stiffer competition, which Canada will hopefully offer in the final of the tournament. For now, let’s breathe a (small) sigh of relief that the team has officially qualified for the World Cup. It wasn’t really in question, but until the results are confirmed, there’s always that tiny nagging doubt, and now that doubt can go get eaten by bears and sent downstream to the ocean where it belongs.
USA vs Canada is scheduled for 8 PM ET on Wednesday, October 17 and will air live on FS1 and UDN.