Goalkeeper Andre Blake (blue jersey) was outstaning in Jamaica's one-goal loss to Venezuela in the Copa America Centenario on June 5, 2016, in Chicago. (Photo: Mexsport)
CHICAGO – According to many observers at the Copa America Centenario, if Jamaica was going to get out of a group that also contains Mexico and Uruguay, a win over Venezuela in its opener was essential.
It didn’t turn out that way after a pair of early missteps resulted in the South Americans posting a 1-0 win.
First, Jozef Martinez struck for the game’s only goal in the 15th minute. Then, less than 10 minutes later, the Reggae Boyz saw center midfielder Rodolph Austin – MVP of the 2014 Caribbean Cup – be given his marching orders for a hard tackle on Tomas Rincon.
Jamaica never unraveled, but neither did it fully recover.
“We were unlucky,” said goalkeeper Andre Blake.
Those words certainly rang true.
The Caribbean champion struck the woodwork twice, with an 11th-header by Je-Vaughn Watson crashing off the crossbar and Michael Hector hitting the right post four minutes after break.
When asked if playing with down a man had a debilitating effect, Blake was thoughtful in his response: “It did for a little bit, but we still stuck to the task. The 10-men, we did a good job, we still created a lot of chances. I think that if we kept all 11 players on the field, it would’ve probably been a different game.”
The Jamaicans will face “different” games in their next two Group C encounters. Next up is a 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup final rematch against Mexico on Thursday in Pasadena, California, followed by a meeting with world power Uruguay on June 13.
“We all know now what we have to do,” Blake remarked. “They’re tougher opponents, but I think we play better when we play tougher opponents. We’ll be ready for the next game.”
Getting another crack at Mexico is clearly important to Jamaica. Last year, the Tricolor won the Gold Cup decider, 3-1, in Philadelphia, where Blake plays for MLS’s Union.
“It’s somewhere in the back of our heads,” commented Blake on securing a better outcome against the seven-time Gold Cup champion. “They’re a very good team and we’re going to prepare for that game. Hopefully, we can go in, stick together and get a result.”
As Blake realizes, there is no time to be sentimental about past near-misses. The objective is to stay in contention for a Copa quarterfinal place.
“Right now, we’re going to think that we can still make it out of the group,” the 25-year-old finished. “We just have to go in and take care of business.”