USMNT hoping ‘perseverance’ displayed vs. Jamaica will lead to success at Copa América, World Cup

ARLINGTON, Texas — Ultimately, a win is a win.

That’s what goalkeeper Matt Turner said after the United States men’s national team beat Jamaica 3-1 in extra time on Thursday. After conceding a goal in the first 31 seconds, the Americans needed some luck by way of a Jamaican own goal in stoppage time to equalize. During the ensuing extra time, Haji Wright powered home two goals, both assisted by Gio Reyna, and now the USMNT will play Mexico in the Concacaf Nations League final on Sunday.

On the bright side, the U.S. is now in position to win its third-straight Nations League title, which is a nice feather in the squad’s cap. But bigger picture, a performance like the one the USMNT put on for the first 95 minutes won’t cut it against stiffer competition in more important knockout tournaments like this summer’s Copa América and later on at the 2026 World Cup on home soil.

This team knows that. It was clear that they hadn’t been together since their last camp in November, and there was only one practice before Thursday’s match with the full squad. And while one of the USMNT’s claimed superpowers is how tight-knit the guys are, that isn’t always going to result in wins.

Up until Jamaica’s own goal in the sixth minute of stoppage time forced extra time, the U.S. struggled to break the Reggae Boyz down. They couldn’t get the ball wide or get in behind or finish in the final third.

“I think we got caught flat-footed,” Turner said. 

The goal caused frustration to seep in early, which was obvious by players’ body language, and it grew throughout the match. The U.S. maintained possession — 77.9% for the game with a 25-6 advantage in shots — but couldn’t break through. 

Second half substitutions like Wright, Reyna and Tyler Adams – who was making his first national team appearance since the World Cup after multiple injuries and surgeries – made an impact, but there should have been more energy from the start. 

“But we never really lost hope,” Turner said. “We just kind of kept rallying each other forward and trying to get the goal because we knew that one would unlock the rest of the game.”

Coach Gregg Berhalter called the goal in those dwindling seconds “miraculous” and that being able to score two more goals in extra time and avoid a penalty shootout was a “true testament to the group we have.”

Berhalter said the message to the team before the game was the “normal Concacaf speech,” which consisted of telling players that this would be a difficult game no matter who is on the field. Jamaica was missing many of its top players for various reasons.

“I think somewhere along the line it goes in one ear and out the other one,” Berhalter said. “They don’t really understand that because this was a typical Concacaf game. I think we just didn’t really come to terms with that, especially at the beginning of the game. 

“When we did come to terms with it, we started grinding, that’s when we started getting the advantage.”

The USMNT is still a young team with the average roster age being 24 years old. But they’re not an inexperienced team anymore. Twenty-one of the 23 players have been part of past Nations League championships, and most of the roster plays in Europe and has been to a World Cup.

“I think it’s normal,” Berhalter continued. “Guys have done a great job, so focused. It’s not complacency, but they were so excited to get back and play together they think that, OK, [the game] just goes by itself. But you have to invest the time in playing with each other, building these combinations, building these relationships on the field. And you don’t play the game on paper. You have to actually go out there and compete.

“But the guys showed, in my opinion, a lot of spirit, a lot of perseverance and that’s what I’m most proud of.”

After the match, Adams said the team didn’t celebrate the win at all.

“In fact, we were a little bit disappointed because it feels almost like a loss because we know we can do so much better and we can finish that game within the first 90 minutes,” Adams said. “We just lacked that competitive edge in the first minute, but we had belief until the end and sometimes you need a little bit of luck to make a run. That’s exactly what we had.”

Every quality team has bad days. But the USMNT must have far more good ones if it wants to keep all of its goals intact, like being successful at Copa América, at the next World Cup, growing the game in America, and so on. 

On Thursday, it found a way to win. Sunday offers another chance with a matchup against rival Mexico with a trophy on the line. A victory would give the Americans an extra boost of confidence heading into a busy summer.

“We’re going to have to figure out ways to dig in and get results when it’s not so easy,” Turner said. “We had a lot of positive things, but it just looked like maybe it wasn’t going to be our night. Especially conceding in the first minute, it’s just never a good way to set the tone after you haven’t been together for a while. And the last time we were all together was [a 2-1 loss to] Trinidad in Trinidad, so you start seeing the ghosts for sure as the game is carrying on.

“But I think that speaks to the character of the team. We were able to dig deep and get the result that we really needed.”

Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman,” published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her at @LakenLitman.

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