Experienced campaigner Darren Mattocks held his nerve from the penalty spot to book Jamaica’s place in the semi-final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup as they triumphed 1-0 over Panama in a battle of attrition at the Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.

In a game that saw few quality chances created by either side, Mattocks came off the bench to first win the spot kick and then convert it in the 75th minute, sending Jamaica through to the final four for a third consecutive tournament.  Only minutes after on to the field Mattocks headed a hopeful long ball into the area off the outstretched arm of defender Michael Murillo.

After a brief dispute over who would take the spot kick, the forward wrested the ball away before placing it on the spot and firing past Panama goalkeeper Luis Mejia.  The goal was Mattock’s fifth overall in the competition.  With defenders dominating the play for most of the afternoon, Panama had missed a golden opportunity to take the lead when  Abdiel Arroyo broke through on goal but blasted a shot into the side netting at the near post from close range in the 26th minute.

The result will mean the Jamaicans will face the United States in the next round after the defending champions narrowly got by Curacao 1-0 in the day’s other game.

Jozy Altidore's second-half goal saw the United States overcome Panama 1-0 to complete a perfect group-stage campaign at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Altidore's overhead kick in the 66th minute gave USA a third win from as many games in Group D, securing top spot and a quarter-final clash against Curacao.

USA made 11 changes to their starting line-up and it showed, but Altidore – having squandered two great chances earlier – stepped up to secure three points in Kansas City.

While they were unconvincing, Gregg Berhalter's USA did enough to complete the perfect group-stage campaign.

USA made a lively start as they pushed for an opening goal and it almost came through Altidore in the 16th minute.

After Panama turned over possession, Jordan Morris played in Altidore, but the striker pulled his shot wide from an angle from inside the area.

Altidore squandered another chance five minutes later, the striker putting a tame shot straight at Panama goalkeeper Jose Calderon after a Cristian Roldan cutback.

Jonathan Lewis was denied by an excellent Fidel Escobar block, while Jose Fajardo fired wide for Panama on the counter-attack six minutes before half-time.

Both teams struggled to begin the second half, leading to the introduction of USA star Christian Pulisic just after the hour-mark.

The opener followed for USA after a corner as Altidore scored his 42nd international goal.

The set-piece went uncleared and some poor defending from Panama led to Altidore producing an overhead kick from close range to make it 1-0.

That was all USA needed, closing out a narrow victory as neither side created much of note in the closing stages.

 

What does it mean? Job done for USA

USA simply needed to avoid defeat to secure top spot and the easier quarter-final clash, avoiding Jamaica. Berhalter's side got the job done despite what was an unconvincing display.

Changes could hurt USA

USA were beginning to find rhythm in wins over Guyana (4-0) and Trinidad and Tobago (6-0). Still, Berhalter opted to rest what is seemingly his preferred team and it remains to be seen whether that was the right decision.

Altidore goal not enough

The Toronto striker scored, but he also missed two chances in the first half. That is unlikely to be enough to earn him a start ahead of Gyasi Zardes, who has three goals at the tournament.

What's next?

Both teams will play in Philadelphia on Sunday. USA take on Curacao, while Panama face Jamaica.

Panama became the first team from Group D of the CONCACAF Gold Cup to make it to the quarterfinals after two goals in each half gave them a 4-2 win over Guyana at the FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. 

Uruguay head coach Oscar Tabarez felt Luis Suarez did not look like a man who had just missed a month with a knee injury as the forward made a goalscoring return on Friday.

Suarez had not played since Barcelona's torrid 4-0 defeat at Liverpool in the Champions League semi-final second leg in early May, undergoing surgery on a troublesome knee problem.

But he came off the bench shortly after the hour in Montevideo, netting a fine free-kick to help his country to a 3-0 friendly win over Panama.

With their Copa America opener against Ecuador just over a week away, Tabarez was thrilled to see his talisman make such a smooth transition back into competitive action.

"For us he is a crucial player, he has been sending us videos from his recovery and they have been amazing," Tabarez said.

"Today he looked as if he had played seven, eight games before this one.

"This is what he is, he has a great commitment with football for this nation, and a lot of desire to repeat triumphs from the past. So, based on what I saw today, I can assure he will contribute to the team.

"Can he endure 90 minutes on the pitch? I will know it when we play against Ecuador."

Uruguay skipper Diego Godin added: "Yes, Luis is OK, his recovery has been perfect. Obviously those were the first minutes, he will be getting better this week because he just started to train with other players last week, so he will start the Copa in top condition and that is good news for us."

Luis Suarez marked his return from a knee injury with a brilliant goal in Uruguay's 3-0 win over Panama in an international friendly on Friday.

Suarez underwent knee surgery after Barcelona's Champions League exit last month and his return was a welcome sight for Uruguay ahead of the Copa America.

The star forward came on for the final half-hour in Montevideo, where he struck with a free-kick six minutes after being introduced to add to Maxi Gomez's first-half header.

Another substitute, Real Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde, sealed Uruguay's win with a fine strike.

Edinson Cavani also came off the bench for Uruguay, who open their Copa America campaign against Ecuador on June 16.

Fouls ruined the early flow of the game, although Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera was tested by a long-range Fidel Escobar strike.

But Gomez opened the scoring for the hosts in the 19th minute with his second international goal.

After a throw-in on the right, Giorgian De Arrascaeta's lovely cross was headed in by Gomez from close range.

Uruguay pushed following their opener and De Arrascaeta poked a rebound wide after Panama goalkeeper Luis Mejia could only parry a tame Nahitan Nandez shot.

There was a brief injury worry for Uruguay as Diego Godin went down clutching his arm before half-time, while Matias Vecino had a volley pushed around the post by Mejia.

Suarez needed little time to have an impact, scoring his 56th international goal in the 69th minute.

The star forward curled a wonderful 20-yard free-kick into the top corner, giving Mejia no chance.

Valverde wrapped up Uruguay's win in the 79th minute, brilliantly volleying into the bottom corner from 25 yards after a cross from the right was cleared into his path.

The high press is expected to a feature of Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz play during their campaign at the FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer. However, head coach Hue Menzies believes the team needs to a better job of taking advantage of those situations once they win the ball back in their opponents defensive third.

Jamaica pressed Panama high up the pitch during their 3-1 win at the National Stadium in Kingston on Sunday night. Their forwards – Bunny Shaw, Trudi Carter, and Mireya Gray, and midfielders Marlo Sweatman, Laura Jackson and Olufolasade Adamolekun – closed the spaces down on the Panamanian defenders and forced turnovers during the opening 30 minutes of the fame but failed to capitalize.

A brace from Bunny Shaw and one from Shakira Duncan sealed the Jamaican win over the Panamanians for whom Natalia Mills scored.

However, in the early exchanges, Jamaica missed several clear opportunities to score before Shaw managed to give the home side a 1-nil lead in the 29th minute. It could easily have been three-nil had Trudi Carter, playing in her first match since last October, Shaw, and fullback Dominique Bond-Flasza, not muffed easy chances to score.

“We talked about defending a little higher up the field so we can capitalize on some things. We won a lot of corner kicks, which was good but we still need to capitalize on those opportunities,” he said.

“We should have been up some goals early in the game. We just didn’t capitalize on them.”

Menzies pinpointed other issues that he plans to work on before the team makes their berth in the World Cup against Brazil on June 9.

“Our possession game, playing out the back, our midfield was a little stagnant. Obviously, we don’t have all the players here, but it shows the depth of what we have created,” he said, saying Shakira Duncan’s goal, Jamaica’s third was evidence of how well the team has progressed in recent months.

“Shaki’s goal dictates how good we are, getting forward with numbers. We think we are the best in the world at that. We lured them into possession and then we countered and that’s what we talked about.”

He also talked about the number of turnovers caused by errant passes, another they have identified that they have to work on before they get to France next month.

Jamaica talismanic striker Khadijah Shaw found the back of the net in typically routine fashion as the national team registered a 2-0 win over Panama at the National Stadium on Sunday.

The match-up served as part of a final set of preparations ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in June.  It was nonetheless, a closely contested affair in a blossoming rivalry between the teams.  Shaw, however, proved to be the early difference between the teams when she found the back of the net in the 29th minute.  The forward doubled the lead soon after the resumption, but Panama pulled one back through Natalia Mills in the 68th minute.  It proved to be a mere consolation, however, as Shakira Duncan rounded out a well-deserved win for the home team with a goal in the 80th minute.  The Jamaicans will open their campaign against Brazil on June 9, before facing Australia and Italy.

More than 800 female footballers from 22 schools will be among the expected thousands of patrons at Jamaica’s National Stadium on Sunday cheering on the Reggae Girlz in their final home match before they depart before they begin their FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign in June.

Jamaica will be playing Panama the team they beat 4-2 on penalties last October to qualify for their very first berth in the Women’s World Cup.

Tickets were possible for the girls, who play in the ISSA Schoolgirl Football Competition, by Winsynco through their bottled-water brand WATA, one of the sponsors of the Reggae Girlz.

“The WATA Football Showcase is all about Girl Power! We are celebrating the achievements of our Reggae Girlz and the dedication of our ISSA Schoolgirls football teams to sports,” said Tamara Ward, Wisynco’s Senior Marketing and Public Relations Manager.

“Our hope is to inspire these ladies through a fun and healthy social interaction among their peers that build confidence, team spirit, motivates them to make the right decisions and find balance in their nutrition habits.

“We are thrilled to have made this experience possible for forty-five teams or over eight hundred young girls."

In addition to match tickets, the players will also get a presentation about nutrition by fitness expert Kamila McDonald as well as an inspirational presentation by a member of the Reggae Girlz team.

They will also to take team photos to commemorate the day and get football gear and lunch.

Additionally, WATA ambassador Wayne Marshall will perform for them.

Trinidad and Tobago and Panama maintained their 100 per cent win records by each winning their second matches in Group B at 2019 CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championship in Mexico on Tuesday.

Following their 1-1 draw with South Africa back in April, the Reggae Girlz will be back in action on Sunday when they take on a strong Panama unit, hoping to exact revenge following their 4-2 penalty shoot-out loss in the World Cup qualifiers last year.

 A bit of the aforementioned recent history seemed very much on the mind of head coach Hue Menzies as he assembled a strong squad to face the Central Americans on home soil.

Veteran attacking player Khadija Shaw will once again lead the line and will be joined by returning attacking AS Roma based midfielder Trudi Carter, who has been out for four months due to injury.

 Menzies is expected to name his final 23-man squad for the World Cup this week, and so he will be looking closely at some players.

 “We are in the last week of selecting our group and some of these players were told to step up if they are to make the cut. We have brought in the technology to test some of these players and so I feel it will come down to a more psychological aspect for some of these girls,” Menzies said.

 The coach had high praises for University of Tennessee graduate Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw who showed excellent physical ability in practice.

 “When you look at the work ethic of someone like ‘Bunny’ it shows that some of the senior players are ready for the task at hand, it is very encouraging heading into our final set of warm-up games,” he added.

 Following the Panama friendly on Sunday, the squad will depart on Monday for a camp in Florida where the likes of players like Jody Brown and Marlo Sweatman are expected to join up with the team.

The Girls will then depart for the United Kingdom for a friendly against Scotland in Edinburgh on May 28.

 

Panama shut out Jamaica 3-0 at the third Gloves over Guns fight card held at the Stanley Couch Gym in Kingston on Saturday.

The United States will get a chance to exact revenge on Trinidad and Tobago at the Gold Cup after they were drawn together in a group that also features Panama and Guyana.

It was a 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago in October 2017, coupled with Panama's dramatic win over Costa Rica, that meant the USA failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup - the first time they had missed the tournament since 1986.

At this year's Gold Cup, defending champions the USA will face Trinidad and Tobago and Panama in Group D, as well as Guyana, who qualified for their first major tournament last month.

Mexico will face Canada, Martinique and Cuba in Group A, while Costa Rica will meet Haiti, Nicaragua and Bermuda in Group B, and Honduras will have encounters with Jamaica, El Salvador and Curacao in Group C.

The tournament, expanded to 16 teams from 12, begins on June 15 and most of the fixtures will take place in the USA, though double-headers will be staged in Costa Rica and Jamaica.

 

Group A: Mexico, Canada, Martinique, Cuba.

Group B: Costa Rica, Haiti, Nicaragua, Bermuda.

Group C: Honduras, Jamaica, El Salvador, Curacao.

Group D: United States, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana.

President of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association has described the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup Group D as an interesting one.

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