CONCACAF Gold Cup: Guatemala and Honduras Play To Tie, Jamaica Cruises to Victory in Group B
In the other half of the group's doubleheader, Jamaica breezed to a 4-0 win over Caribbean rivals Grenada at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The victory put the Reggae Boyz atop the section's standings.
The night's main show though—and the reason most of the 21,507 fans were in attendance—was the 37th all-time encounter between Honduras and Guatemala. Los Catrachos outshot Guatemala 10-1 in the second half, but couldn’t come up with the winner.
"This tie tastes like a victory," said Guatemala goalkeeper Ricardo Jerez in Spanish. Jerez's five saves earned him Man of the Match honors.
Heavily-favored Honduras, ranked 88 places above its rival in the world standings, looked like the stronger side early on.
Honduras’ best chance of the first period came in the 33rd minute off the boot of midfielder Oscar Boniek Garcia. Forward Jerry Bengston turned and slid a pass to Garcia, whose left-footed crack smacked the crossbar and ricocheted into the arms of goalkeeper Jerez.
Later in the half, Guatemalan midfielders Jose Manuel Contreras and Marco Pappa started to impose their will in the center of the park, with Los Chapines outshooting Honduras 10-6 in the opening period.
Honduras made the better start to the second half, nearly capitalizing when defender Hendry Thomas sent his header wide of the goal off a 48th minute corner kick.
Forward Carlos Costly had perhaps the best scoring chance for Honduras, but his shot from inside the penalty box was saved by a sliding Jerez.
"We had three or four chances to score," Honduras manager Luis Fernando Suarez said.
After Costly's missed opportunity, Guatemala began to self-destruct. Midfielder Gustavo Cabrera was sent off in the 61st minute when he received his second yellow card for a karate kick challenge on Honduras’ Emil Martinez.
The Guatemalans held up remarkably well with ten men, with only Ramon Nuñez’s long free kick attempt in the 75th minute threatening Jerez’s goal.
Four minutes later, however, Los Chapines were down another man. Only seven minutes after entering as a second half substitute, Henry Medina earned his second yellow card of the game for an ill-advised tackle on Victor Bernardez, leaving Guatemala to play the rest of the match with only nine men.
Despite its numerical disadvantage, Guatemala almost grabbed a surprise winner in 84th minute. Contreras shook free down the left flank but his cross was behind forward Carlos Ruiz, ending the goal-scoring threat.
Guatemala’s players took every opportunity to drain the clock; Jerez even received nose spray from the team’s trainers at one junction to run off time.
Honduras was forced to settle for long distance shots for the rest of the match, shots that failed to trouble Jerez. The referee’s final whistle, after five minutes of stoppage time, was greeted by enthusiastic cheers from the Guatemala supporters in attendance.
"It was a complicated game," Suarez said. "[Guatemala] played the game the way they wanted to. There are still six points to be decided.”
Earlier in the day, Jamaica dominated Grenada from the starting whistle, outshooting their Caribbean rivals 23-2.
"I think the guys could have done more but we managed to score four tonight," Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore said. "What a way to start."
Jamaica took the lead in the 21st minute through a well-designed set piece. Rudolph Austin played a short corner kick to Dane Richards, quickly received the ball back and put a low cross into the box. A charging Luton Shelton redirected the ball with a deft touch into the corner of the goal.
Johnson, who plays for Major League Soccer's San Jose Earthquakes, did find the net in the 39th minute. Shelton’s well-weighted pass from the midfield played Richards in behind the Grenada defense. Richards played a square ball from the right flank and a sprinting Johnson passed the ball into the net from six yards away.
The score line could have been much worse for the Spice Boys if it weren’t for the heroics of their goalkeeper, Shemel Louison.
Shelton played a nice 1-2 with Johnson in the 55th minute, but his low shot in the box was denied by a sliding Louison. Johnson wiggled past the Grenada defense in the 63rd, but Louison again came up with a good save, pushing the forward’s shot wide of the goal.
Johnson found himself one-on-one with Louison in the 77th minute, but the forward’s shot bounced off of the underside of the crossbar and just shy of the goal line.
"I should have done a little bit better with the chances that I had," said Johnson, who was named the Man of the Match.
Jamaica's Demar Phillips put one past Lousion in the 79th, following a great run down the left flank. Phillips rounded Grenada defender Marc Marshall with an exquisite touch in the box and slid his shot into the far corner of the net.
Johnson had a goal waved off for offsides in the 82nd minute and Louison came up with big saves on shots by Eric Vernan and Jevaugh Watson.
"He's got a future in this game," Grenada coach Mike Adams said about his 20-year-old goalkeeper. "He’ll do that all game long."
Jamaica added its fourth—and best—goal in the 84th minute. Substitute Omar Daley received Watson's pass at the top of the box and fired a left-footed rocket shot into the upper corner, before celebrating with a cartwheel.
News and Notes
- Jamaica's win puts them on top of Group B with three points. Honduras and Guatemala sit tied on one point each, with Grenada in last on zero.
- Next up for Group B is a Friday night doubleheader in Miami. Jamaica will play Guatemala at 7 p.m. Eastern time, with Grenada scheduled to play Honduras two hours later.
- Guatemala’s Cabrera and Medina will be suspended for Friday’s match because of their red cards. "We need to recoup our back four because we had two expulsions," Guatemala coach Ever Hugo Almeida said.
- Grenada's Craig Rocastle, who plays his club soccer for Sporting Kansas City of MLS, suffered a knee injury late in the first half when he collided with Jamaica’s Jason Morrison. Rocastle hobbled around the pitch for the remaining two minutes of the half and was substituted at halftime. Grenada coach Adams said the team will "get another opinion" on the injury but didn’t describe the severity.
- Honduras leads the all-time series with Guatemala 17-6, with 14 draws. Jamaica now has a 7-2 advantage (with one draw) in games played against Grenada.
- The United States begins its Gold Cup campaign Tuesday night against Canada in Detroit. The North American rivals are joined by Panama and Guadeloupe in Group C.