USMNT survives to beat Jamaica in ET, reach Nations League final


Did the USMNT get lucky in their win over Jamaica?

Kasey Keller believes the USMNT will need to improve if they're to beat Mexico in the Nations League final.

The United States men's national team snatched an improbable victory from the jaws of defeat, with an equalizer in the last breath of regulation time and two goals from Haji Wright in extra time to beat Jamaica 3-1 in the semifinals of the Concacaf Nations League in Arlington, Texas, on Thursday.

The U.S. had been stunned when conceding after just 30 seconds as Jamaica's Greg Leigh headed past Matt Turner for the earliest goal the USMNT has conceded this century.

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The score remained 1-0 for the next 95 minutes as the 13th-ranked U.S. stared at the prospect of a third straight loss for the first time since 2015 and just a fourth defeat to 57th-ranked Jamaica in 33 matchups.

But in the sixth minute of the allotted five minutes of stoppage time, Jamaica substitute Cory Burke unwittingly headed past his own goalkeeper for the latest regulation-time goal the U.S. had scored since 2012.

The U.S. celebrates its dramatic equalizer against Jamaica deep into stoppage time.
John Dorton/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF

It did not take long for the U.S. to strike again. Wright, one of a number of attacking substitutes introduced by coach Gregg Berhalter, fed onto a through ball from another, Gio Reyna, and displayed the kind of composure sorely lacking from the U.S. for much of the contest to find the bottom corner of the net six minutes into extra time.

The two combined again in the second half of extra time as Wright, who just five days earlier scored to send English second-tier side Coventry City to the FA Cup semifinals, struck again to finally allow Berhalter to breathe a huge sigh of relief.

The U.S., winners of the first two Concacaf Nations League titles, will now look to make the most of its dramatic reprieve when going for a three-peat in Sunday's final at AT&T Stadium.

Berhalter's team will meet Mexico in the final after 'El Tri' beat Panama 3-0 in the second semifinal at the Cowboys Stadium.

Jamaica, which was missing arguably its two standout players in Aston Villa midfielder Leon Bailey and West Ham striker Michail Antonio, will be left with the scant consolation of a third-place playoff.

Leigh put Jamaica ahead after a throw-in deflected off Antonee Robinson to Fulham teammate Bobby De Cordova-Reid, who lofted the ball past Chris Richards and across the goal. Leigh was left unmarked by Joe Scally and headed the ball past Turner for his first goal in 13 international appearances.

Scally started at right back in place of Sergiño Dest, suspended because of his ejection for arguing with the referee against Trinidad and Tobago in November.

"It was a poor play by a number of players," Berhalter told reporters of the goal afterward.

He added: "The pregame talk is the normal Concacaf speech, right? It's not going to be easy, guys. It's going to be a very difficult game. And I think somewhere along the line it goes in one of the ears and then out the other one. They don't really understand it."

There was a sparse crowd for the first half at AT&T Stadium before Mexico supporters gradually filed in during the second half ahead of watching their team in the second game of the doubleheader. 

Tyler Adams entered in the 63rd in his first appearance since the 2022 World Cup after recovering from a torn right hamstring that twice needed surgery. Restricted to limited playing time as he regains fitness, Adams complained to Berhalter when he was removed 10 minutes into extra time.

But it was two other substitutes who made the difference.

Reyna entered at the start of the second half after being limited to 42 minutes over four substitute appearances for Nottingham Forest since he was loaned from Borussia Dortmund on Jan. 31.

Wright, who was a late injury replacement on the roster and had not played for the U.S. since the 2022 World Cup, entered in the 63rd minute. He scored his first after Reyna picked up the ball just past the center circle and sent a perfect through ball to the striker, who cut left to create space and slotted past Andre Blake.

Then Reyna won a ball from Karoy Anderson and made another incisive pass through the defense. Wright spun to control the ball and scored from 8 yards for his fourth goal in eight international appearances.

Wright had been at an airport in England last weekend about to leave for Dubai during the international break, when his phone rang and Berhalter asked him to replace injured Josh Sargent on the American roster.

"'My whole family's here. My agent's already there and my girlfriend's going -- she planned the whole thing,'" Berhalter remembered Wright telling him.

"I know you got your parents, the bags are packed and you're at the airport, but just think about it for 10 minutes and give me a call back," the coach said.

"He called me back and he said, 'I'm in.' And when I heard that, it really shows what type of guy he is, what type of character he is," Berhalter added.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.