Jamaica clinches Group B, heads to Gold Cup quarters
Ryan Johnson's flukey goal helped Jamaica win Group B, advance to the Gold Cup quarter-finals and avoid defending champion Mexico for at least a couple of games.
Johnson's winning shot hit off the crossbar and banked in off goalkeeper Noel Valladares' head, sending Jamaica to a 1-0 victory over Honduras on Monday night.
"It's one of the strangest goals, but it's a goal," said Johnson, who plays for Major League Soccer's San Jose Earthquakes.
"The best thing was getting the clean sheet. We haven't been scored on so far and I'm really happy about that."
The 58th-ranked Reggae Boyz (3-0) now will play the second-place finisher in Group C — it might be the United States — on Sunday in Washington, D.C.
While avoiding Mexico was a plus, Johnson said the important thing is Jamaica advanced, and only needed two games to do that. Winning all three was a plus.
"We came here wanting at least the semifinals," Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore said. "But we treat every one of our games as a final because we know they're all going to be tough."
Honduras (1-1-1) falls into the bracket with Mexico and will face Costa Rica on Saturday at the New Meadowlands Stadium.
"I'm satisfied with how we played," Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez said. "I'm not satisfied we lost. But the way the team played. We have a lot of potential. I like what I saw today."
Both teams were assured of quarter-finals berths before kickoff.
Guatemala also advanced to the quarters earlier as the third-place team from Group B, defeating Grenada 4-0. It will learn its opponent and quarter-final location after Group C wraps up play on Tuesday.
Johnson got the winner in the 36th minute after cutting across the middle of the Honduran defence. He ripped a shot off the crossbar from roughly 28 yards and the ball bounced down and struck the back of Valladares' head before going into the net.
"I dove for the ball and I could not get it," Valladares said. "It hit me in the back [of the head] and went in."
Valladares, Honduras' starter at the World Cup, got a measure of revenge in the 72nd minute when he made a diving stop on a penalty kick by Johnson. Play was delayed for a couple of minutes before the attempt because angry Honduran fans in the sellout crowd of 25,000 at Red Bull Arena littered the field with glass and plastic bottles after referee Joel Aguilar of El Salvador awarded the penalty.
Jamaica goalkeeper Dwayne Miller made four saves, including a fingertip stop on a blistering 40-yard free kick by Victor Bernardez.
Honduras, which is ranked No. 43, only had four of its 11 starters from last year's World Cup. The Catrachos lost forward Carlo Costly early with a rib injury. He had three goals in a win against Grenada earlier in the tournament.
"We have injured players," Suarez said. "You're concerned. But we're not going to give up."