Office party postponed
KINGSTON, Jamaica -- An entire nation was a minute plus injury-time away from a massive party here Wednesday night. But when Brian Ching struck for his first international goal, Jamaica's yellow-clad fanatics had to settle for the same old, same old result ... a draw.
For the fourth time in as many World Cup qualifying games played between the United States and Jamaica in Kingston, both teams walked away with a point. The only difference between this contest and the first three is that Wednesday night's game featured some goals. "The Office," as Jamaica's National Stadium is affectionately known, has always been a tough place for attacking soccer. The combination of wind, heat and a field that's probably less than 70 yards wide, has always seemed to favor defenders.
Nevertheless, the crowds at The Office are always enthusiastic if not intimidating. Before the game, the reggae music blasts at deafening levels from stacked speakers that are set up in the stadium's four corners. During the game, the fans get excited when any member of the Reggae Boyz attempts some type of ball trick. Unlike other road games the U.S. plays in CONCACAF, in Jamaica there are no projectiles being thrown on the field.
"Coming to Jamaica is always great," said Bruce Arena. "The Jamaicans are great people. They are great fans. It's very festive. Here, it doesn't seem like a matter of life and death to the fans, it's more like a celebration of the game and a chance to cheer for their team."
Even after the Jamaicans surrendered Ching's late equalizer, the home fans seemed happy with the result and pleased with the lively, wide-open style of play. "We got tired," said Jamaican midfielder Andy Williams. "We played well at times, but at the end of the game, we were just giving them too much room. In the end, I think the result is OK for us. Of course, we want to beat the U.S. because they're the best team in the region."
As soon as the game was over, the reggae music was turned back on. The selection was, fittingly, Bob Marley's classic "Three Little Birds." Many of the fans began to sing: "Don't worry, 'bout a thing ... Cause every little thing, gonna be alright."
Another day at The Office.
For the Americans, credit goes to DaMarcus Beasley for putting the Jamaican defense under extreme pressure after Ian Goodison's goal. Beasley repeatedly drew fouls around the box and seemed to have all of the Reggae Boyz defenders backed up into the box. "It was a pretty typical game for Beas," said Arena. "He made a lot of plays that put the Jamaicans under pressure."
Still, the Jamaicans had one golden opportunity to put the game away, in the 78th minute, but Damani Ralph's re-direction attempt from 10 yards slid just wide of the post.
When Cobi Jones' cross fell to the feet of Landon Donovan, the U.S. bench was screaming for Donovan to shoot. "We felt he'd passed up a few shots during the course of the game," said Arena. "But this time he made the right decision."
Donovan remained poised and slid the ball to his San Jose teammate Ching, who had time to take a touch and shoot high to the near post.
Role adjustment for Vanney
Greg Vanney, who was one of the last players to be knocked off the World Cup roster last time around, had an interesting game at left back. Because Jamaica did not have any player getting up the field on its right flank, Vanney was actually able to slide forward into a wide midfield slot. His cross to Ching in the 63rd minute nearly led to a goal.
Off to London
At the conclusion of the match, Kasey Keller, Carlos Bocanegra, Eddie Lewis, Claudio Reyna and Brian McBride were all taken immediately to the Kingston Airport, along with Jamaica's 11 England-based players. They were to catch an 11:30 p.m. flight to London.
More sights and sounds from Jamaica
Jamaica's radio play-by-play team on radio must not have gotten an updated U.S. roster. They had Peter Vermes penciled in as the Americans' starting left back. Vermes, who's been retired as a player now for two years, last played for the U.S. in 1997.