Shamar’s stunner!

By BY SEAN A WILLIAMS, Jamaica Observer

Nicholson’s pile-driver sinks US in friendly international.
WASHINGTON DC, USA — Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz served notice of what to expect of them in the upcoming Concacaf Gold Cup with a polished rendition that gave them a 1-0 win over the USA in last evening’s friendly international at Audi Field.

NK Domzale striker Shamar Nicholson got the all-important goal in the 60th minute, creating the crowning moment in a spell of offensive dominance by the Jamaicans.

But the Boyz got so many things correct on the day, that if they are to improve going into the Concacaf Gold Cup, then they will have the making of a team capable of raising more than a stir.

The Jamaicans, who lost 1-2 to the Americans two years ago in the final of the Gold Cup, was solid in defence, efficient in midfield and displayed swagger in attack yesterday.

One shudders to think that there could be more to come, with Bayer Leverkusen star Leon Bailey still to make his appearance.

Bailey, who was in Washington as part of the 23-man Boyz squad, is rounding into full fitness from a hamstring niggle and was spared action, but should be ready when Jamaica host their first match of the Gold Cup against Honduras in Jamaica on June 17.

In last evening’s Gold Cup warm-up in front of 17,719 fans, Jamaica threatened for the first time in the fifth minute when a ball deep from central defence found Brian Brown wide out left, and his quick release sent Dever Orgill on his way. The Turkey-based man made some space for himself, but his final shot was harmless.

At the other end, the USA’s youthful brigade of Josh Sargent, Djordie Mihailovic and Chrisian Roldan kept Jamaica’s Shaun Francis and Damion Lowe exercised in the centre of the defence with their penetrative runs.

But the Jamaican defenders — including Alvas Powell and Kemar Lawrence — stood tall, acting together, or independently. They were almost flawless as a unit for the most part.

But Jamaica, even as they were made to stay alert at the back, were enterprising at the other end with the probing and scheming of Orgill, Maalique Foster, Brown and Peter-Lee Vassell.

But that was not all that was going good for the Boyz up to midway the contest, as they have looked unshakeable in the midfield with the strapping pair of Kevon Lambert and Michael Hector imposing themselves in both directions of play.

In minute 37 after a quiet spell on the attacking front, Jamaica went hunting with Orgill the target, who pulled back for Brown, whose shot could not get through.

In the same sequence of action, Lawrence floated the ball in for right-back Alvas Powell whose glancing header flew marginally high over Zack Steffen’s goal.

The Boyz again looked threatening in the 42nd minute when Foster cut inside into space for a gentle lay-off to Lambert, who cued up and let fly a low drive that Steffen threw himself behind to effect the save.

A minute later the USA snatched possession down Jamaica’s left channel through Paul Arriola, whose lofted ball across goal found Antonee Robinson wide open, but his miscalculated header went up and over and goalie Andre Blake did not flinch.

Brown, who was played out left in the 50th minute, crafted Jamaica’s first offensive move on the resumption, but his angled shot rammed into the side netting.

Two minutes later, Jamaica were threatening the home team’s goal again, when Lambert capitalised on a midfield steal, but his firm right-footer was too direct and Steffen smothered.

With the Boyz in the offensive ascendancy, Vassell came into possession at the semi-circle and thought about using the left foot, then switched to his favourite right with a curler, but the ball missed by mere inches, as Steffen scrambled across his goal.

And then it finally happened. Substitute striker Nicholson, on the field for only five minutes, benefitted from another midfield caper and the Slovenia-based man found space to dress and polish the ball while feigning a left-foot shot before unleashing a brute force right-footer from 22 yards that beat the American custodian all ends up. It was the former Boys’ Town striker’s first goal for Jamaica.

In the 88th minute, the USA came closest all evening when Duane Holmes drilled a low shot in from 25 yards that bubbled for Sargent, who turned on a dime on the penalty spot, but Andre Blake pulled off a brilliant one-handed save and forced the ball behind for a corner.

In the dying moments of time added, a bit of trickery set the hosts on course for goal, but desperate and necessary defending cleared the danger.

It was Jamaica’s third win over the US, and the second time on US soil in 26 meetings. The Reggae Boyz had beaten USA 2-1 in the 2015 Gold Cup semi-finals.

Teams: USA — Zack Steffen, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Miazga (Cameron Carter-Vickers 72nd), Antonee Robinson (Daniel Lovitz 80th), Will Trapp, Paul Arriola (Joe Gyau 72nd), Jackson Yuell (Jonathan Amon 59th), Christian Roldan (Duane Holmes 66th), Tim Ream (Nick Lima 59th), Djordie Mihailovic, Josh Sargent.

Subs not used: Sean Johnson, Tyler Miller, Walker Zimmerman

Booked: None

Jamaica — Andre Blake, Damion Lowe, Shaun Francis, Kemar Lawrence, Alvas Powell, Kevon Lambert (Devon Williams 64th), Maalique Foster (Shamar Nicholson 55th), Michael Hector (Andre Lewis 51st), Peter-Lee Vassell (Tyreek Magee 77th), Brian Brown (Alex Marshall 64th), Dever Orgill (Darren Mattocks 84th).

Subs not used: Dwayne Miller, Amal Knight, Je-Vaughn Watson, Jamoi Topey, Leon Bailey, Ricardo Morris

Booked: None

Referee: Kimbell Ward (St Kitts & Nevis)

Assistant Referees: Mario Parry, Ike Inniss (St Kitts & Nevis)

Fourth Official: Tristley Bassue (St Kitts & Nevis)