It’s been four long months since “La Sele’s” top squad has played together. But at the outset of Costa Rica’s 1-1 tie against Jamaica in Friday’s World Cup Qualifier , it looked as if they hadn’t played together in four years.
The national team came out lackadaisical on defense and were unable to sustain significant possessions on the other side of the field for much of the game played at the Independence Park in Kingston. Jamaica scored in the 15th minute off a goal from Je-Vaughn Watson when defenders Ronald Matarrita and Giancarlo González were beaten to their spot on a long valley that ended with a diving header from Watson getting past goalie Keylor Navas.
Not long after, Jamaica outran Costa Rica’s defense again and nearly scored when Clayton Donaldson was fed the ball right in front of Navas but missed the goal wide left.
Coach Óscar Ramírez said when he announced his lineup last week that he wanted to exploit Jamaica’s speed by opening up the field. The plan, at least initially, seemed to backfire as Costa Rica’s normally stout defense looked slow to react to Jamaica’s constant movements.
Those first half mistakes became a moot point in the second half when, in the 66th minute, Johnny Acosta chipped in an easy equalizer after Jamaican goalie Andre Blake was unable to corral a shot from Cristian Bolaños. Before the score, the Ticos had two solid opportunities on goal when captain Bryan Ruíz had near identical chances on goal that were denied by a diving Blake both times.
Costa Rica took the lead in Group B of this round’s CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying last November with a 2-1 win over Panama, although they nearly lost it in Kingston, where they trailed the Jamaicans 1-0 for much of the game. By holding on for the tie, Costa Rica now has seven points in group play, remaining in first place above Jamaica and Panama, who both have four points.
La Sele will meet Jamaica again on Tuesday in San José’s National Stadium where it will try to solidify its hold on the group on the path towards qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
After the game, Navas told television reporters that the team feels fortunate to get off the island with a tie, but that the early goal was a disappointing lapse by the defense.
“We weren’t really well organized and it’s an error that sometimes comes of misjudging the field,” Navas said. “We know now that going home it can’t happen and we’ll be more focused.”