Wright was the Right Man for Mission Impossible as the USNM team Trounced Jamaica 3-1

USA on course for three peat as they set up a finals with Mexico


United States National Men’s team rallied from the jaws of defeat to punch their ticket to the Concacaf Nations League finals with a 3-1 victory over Jamaica. Once again football raised its ugly head, proving it's not a sport for the faint-hearted nor the weak. United States got their equalizer in stoppage time curtesy of an own goal from second half substitute Corey Burke to cancel out Gregory Leigh’s 1st minute goal before second half substitute Haji Wright’s brace in extra time to rally past Jamaica 3-1 in the semifinals of the 2023-24 Concacaf Nations League Finals on Thursday evening at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.  

The Reggae Boyz started the game on the front foot and was rewarded with a precious goal in the 1st minute. Following the kickoff the Reggae Boyz were given a throw in from the right side, Bobby De Cordova-Reid was sent marauding down the right wing and came face to face with defender Chris Richards who made a mess of the challenge and allowed Reid to whip a teasing cross in to an unmarked Leigh. Leigh dashed forward to thump home a blistering header for a 1-0 lead with just 31 seconds on the clock. That early lead sent the entire USA game plan into a tailspin as they had to rethink their approach to the game.  


They, however, came close to scoring in the 5th minute after Folarin Balogun found some space inside the box and pulled the trigger but his effort on goal was stopped expertly by DiShon Bernard. As the game trickled on USA enjoyed the lion-share of the possession but found it difficult to break down a resolute Jamaican defense. Nine shots were fired in the opening 45 minutes, but the team’s best chance to restore parity came moments before the half time break. In the 45th minute, Weston McKennie and Tim Weah combined neatly, playing some crisp give and go football to pull Gregory Leigh out of position and allowed Weah into the Jamaica 18-yard box.  Weah sent a sizzling cross into the penalty box which found Malik Tillman who struck it ferociously with his left foot. To Tilman’s dismay Di'Shon Bernard was there to block his effort in the nick of time. 



It was evident the Reggae Boyz game plan was to set up low block and try to hit the Star and Stripes on the counterattack. They did so effectively, and Renaldo Cehpas should have made it 2-0 after he danced his way into the box dropped his shoulder and bamboozle Richard before firing a shot in the gloves of Matt Turner. The half ended in the Reggae Boyz favor from a spirited and gutsy first half knowing that the last team to beat USA in regulation time in a semifinal while leading at the half time interval was the aforementioned team.    


The second half picked up right where it left off with the USA team passing the ball along the lush green park with alacrity while the Reggae Boyz chase to regain possession. The USA crowd got behind their team and was chanting and dancing to every pass made like the Jamaicans would do to every strum of Bob Marley’s guitar on his One Love tour. The game got a little twisted and almost played as planned as custodian Matt Turner came up chumps for the U.S. as the host were staring down the barrel of another goal. In the 63rd minute, Chris Richards who was having a torrid afternoon trying to nullify Cephas’s pace and skill was found wanting again.  He was beaten for pace by Cephas who then found himself one and one with Turner, but his tamed shot was comfortably handled to deny the opportunity to extend the Jamaica lead. 


As the curtains drew closer to the end of the show a spate of misfortune hit the Jamaican camp to pile on the misery. The USA found the equalizer in the uncanniest  fashion with what appeared to be its very last opportunity of regulation time. Micheal Hector miscued clearance from a Haji Wright’s cross went for a corner kick. Matt Turner was urged to go forward by his gaffer to create more bodies in the box. Pulisic delivery found the head of Miles Robinson. Robinson’s mistimed header hit New York Red Bulls forward Cory Burke and rocketed past Blake for the last gasp equalizer. It was a bitter pill to swallow for the Jamaican forward who has not scored a goal for Jamaica in over two years and contributed very little after coming on late in the second half and then score in his own net. 


 The most inform USA striker Haji Wright who was called up late to replace the injured Josh Sargent repaid his boss seven folds. He netted the go-ahead goal in the 97th minute during the first period of extra time. The out of favor in recent times Gio Reyna who seemed to have buried the hatchet with his boss picked up a loose ball just inside the Jamaicans half, saw Wright darting through the center of the Jamaican defense, and weighted an inch-perfect, no-look pass to the Coventry City man into the 18-yard box. Wright took a touch to his left to freeze his defender before firing home for a 2-1 lead. That touch, that goal will remind football enthusiasts of how identical it was to the winning goal scored by Amada Diallo over Liverpool in the FA Cup quarter finals.  



Wright completed his double in the 109th minute, after collecting a sublime pass from Reyna, he then swiveled to shake of Hector before shooting pass the dejected Blake to make it 3-1. Moments later Wrigt turned the provider and laid one nicely in the path of Pulisic, but his pile driver was handled well by Blake. Kahiem Dixon came on late in the last phases of the game and used his youthful exuberance and skill to get by the USA backline but his shot toward goal did not do much arm to Turner. The game petered out with the Jamaicans knowing they have given all that they had and the Americans knowing they were home safely and into the finals.  


Jamaica will now turn their attention to the third-place playoff to try and salvage something from the tournament before looking towards the Copa America tournament and the World Cup Qualifiers. Meanwhile USA will take on Mexico in the finals.