Mexico crashes out of Gold Cup as Andre Blake backstops Jamaica to final
PASADENA, Calif. -- Three quick thoughts from Mexico's 1-0 defeat to Jamaica in the Gold Cup semifinal at the Rose Bowl on Sunday night.
1. Mexico crashes out of Gold Cup
There was shock among the 42,393 Mexico-majority in the stadium as Kemar Lawrence curled in a free kick to hand Jamaica a famous semifinal victory.
This was a brave performance from a Reggae Boyz team without a single one of their Europe-based players. The goal was a sweet sucker-punch to crown the solid defensive work earlier in the game, but the focus will undoubtedly fall on Mexico's inability to score in 180 minutes of play against Jamaica over this semifinal and the group game earlier in the tournament, which ended 0-0.
Coach Juan Carlos Osorio -- who was serving the fifth game of his suspension -- will face criticism for the exit and there will be pressure on his job, with pundits and even some former players rounding on the Colombian.
There is already a segment of the Mexican press on his back and the failure again in an international tournament -- following a quarterfinal exit at the Copa America Centenario last summer and a fourth-place finish at the Confederations Cup last month -- will be jumped on.
Osorio probably will argue that his team once again dominated possession, had the better chances and the squad is an experimental one, with 10 players between the ages of 19 and 24 years old. The counterargument is that the Jamaica squad is also a youthful and experimental one.
The bottom line is that El Tri was expected to reach the final of this Gold Cup. There will be debate over why Osorio wasn't able to bring in more established players after the group stage, the manager's rotations and his side's inability to learn from that previous draw against a Jamaica side that plays very simple, direct football, which is not meant as a slight.
Osorio's record as Mexico coach now reads 36 games, 25 wins, seven draws (after 90 minutes) and four losses. It looks good on paper, but the worrying thing is that three of those four losses came in major tournaments and in ugly fashion.
2. Same old problems for predictable Mexico
The same issues confronted Mexico in this loss. El Tri struggled to create.
Osorio tried to change things up from the first game, employing a 3-4-3 diamond formation, designed to overcome a defense-minded side. But that changed when Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore fielded two strikers: Romario Williams and Darren Mattocks.
The formations may have been different from that first game, but the type of didn't. Mexico dominated possession, although El Tri was often sloppy, completing only 79 percent of its passes in the first half.
It tried to force the game, but Jamaica's defense was solid and rebuked the waves of attack. Whitmore deserves credit for the defensive organization this tournament and Jamaica has a chance against the United States with another big performance.
On Mexico's left flank, there was confusion. Erick Gutierrez and Orbelin Pineda took it in turns to drop back and mark rapid Jamaica right-sided midfielder Owayne Gordon. The result was that the dangerous Pineda -- one of Mexico's potential future stars -- didn't get in the penalty area with anywhere near enough frequency and Gutierrez wasn't able to pull the strings in midfield. The Pachuca captain was eventually taken off for Jesus Gallardo on the hour mark.
Chivas' Rodolfo Pizarro was handed a role behind the striker -- the disappointing Erick "Cubo" Torres made way for Angel Sepulveda at half-time -- and his responsibility was to break through Jamaica's line, something he did with little frequency. The 23-year-old said Saturday that his dream is to play in Europe, but you'd like to see more from Pizarro in games like this at the international level.
It all made Mexico a predictable unit, with little variety in the attacking third. Jamaica once again was able to soak up Mexican pressure and resist with relative ease.
3. Blake a candidate for player of the tournament
When it comes to handing out the trophy for best goalkeeper at this Gold Cup, Andre Blake will be right at the top of the list. The Philadelphia Union keeper's heroics late on against Canada in the quarterfinal were a pivotal reason the Caribbean side made the semifinal and he was again crucial to Jamaica's success.
The Jamaica captain made a double save from first Jesus Duenas and then Torres in the 12th minute, almost announcing to El Tri that if the favorite was going to get past him it would have to do something special.
The moment appeared to arrive in the 25th minute when a perfect right-wing cross from Elias Hernandez landed on Torres' head just a couple of yards out, but Blake reacted sharply and pushed the ball away from danger.
After the break, Blake was well placed twice to stop a Gallardo free kick in the 65th minute and then a header from the same player in the 81st, although the Pumas winger should've done better.
It was another quality performance from one of the standout players in the Gold Cup.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.