A tale of two goalkeepers: Costa Rica and Jamaica play to 2-2 draw in 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup

July 9, 2015

Carson, Calif. – With the beat of Jamaican drums and the sight of a Costa Rican red and blue hue transforming the StubHub Center into an international spectacle, Wednesday's exciting 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer match between the Men's National Teams of Costa Rica and Jamaica featured spectacular performances by each side's respective goalkeepers as the two squads battled to a 2-2 tie.

Early into the match at minute 13, Jamaican midfielder Garath McCleary scored the first goal with a right-footed touch off a bounce from a sideline throw-in by teammate Kemar Lawrence near the penalty box area.  Costa Rican defender Junior Diaz was able to touch the ball with his right foot in an attempt to block the shot, but the ball managed to score nonetheless.

Costa Rica regained control of the ball at minute 31, and while within scoring position of the goal, played a bit of tiki-taka, toying with the Jamaican defense.

Although the tough Jamaican defensive wall initially did not allow penetration from the Ticos, Mexican referee Fernando Guerrero called a free kick for Costa Rica at minute 33.

The Costa Rican offense capitalized immediately, tying the score at 1-1 with a header by defender Roy Miller from the left side of the 6-yard box.

The three-touch play was started with a left-footed pass off the free kick from midfielder David Guzman, who sent the ball to the right side of the top of the penalty area where forward David Ramirez softly crossed it to Miller.

In the 37th minute Costa Rica struck again, as Celso Borges made a long pass from the midfield toward the left side of the goal inside the 6-yard box.  Ramirez was there to brilliantly beat out Jamaican defender Wes Morgan with a rainbow touch on the ball over the head of the goalkeeper.

In a desperate second attempt to prevent the score, Morgan had another opportunity to reach the ball, but he hit it with his right foot toward the goal, instead of using his left foot to strike it away from the goal.  Ramirez’s score gave the Ticos a 2-1 lead heading into halftime.

The second half picked up where it left off, with both sides playing with high energy and pace. At minute 48, Jamaican midfielder Jobi McAnuff blasted off on a spectacular streaking run from centerfield, taking on four defenders plus the goalkeeper before scoring with a left-footed poke to even the match at 2-2.

From that point forward, the goalkeepers put their imprint on the game.

At the 49 minute mark, Costa Rica answered back with a right-footed canon blast by midfielder Johan Venegas, but Jamaican keeper Dwayne Miller marvelously leaped high to save the ball with a push out.

Miller continued his stellar play later at minute 74, when he made a spectacular save on a Costa Rican header.

“I want my goalkeeper to smell the ball coming, to say this is my area and I am the boss," said Jamaican Technical Director Winfried Schaefer, after I asked him about Miller's performance.  "I want my goalkeeper to be more confident, and show more body language out there. I am happy with my team.”

Costa Rican goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado would soon have his own signature moment as well when Jamaica was given a free kick at minute 75. Midfielder Rudolph Austin's shot was deflected by the Tico defensive barrier, causing a momentary lost ball that nearly gave the Jamaicans a scoring opportunity.  Instead, Alvarado made an unbelievable diving save to keep the score even.

During the 86th minute, Jamaica's McCleary dribbled the ball toward the top of the penalty box area on a break and then passed to midfielder Simon Dawkins inside the box.  Dawkins then touch-passed the ball back to McCleary for a powerful open shot at goal.

Ever-present however, was Costa Rican midfielder Jose Miguel Cubero, who marked Dawkins and was able to quickly come back toward McCleary’s frontal scoring angle. Cubero’s extra defensive effort prevented a possible Jamaican score, as his sliding foot blocked the shot.

Costa Rica countered with a right side pass from forward Joel Campbell to midfielder Deyver Vega, who then took on one Jamaican defender and shot at goal with a strong detonation off his left foot.  Yet once again, Miller made a spectacular diving save to prevent a Costa Rican goal.

Not wanting to be outdone, Alvarado proved to have one more incredible stop left in him.

In the 89th minute, McCleary took on two Costa Rican defenders from the left side, drew closer to the 6-yard box, and crossed the ball. Patiently waiting near the top of the 6-yard box was Dawkins, who struck the ball toward goal for a sure score at the far left section of the post.

However, in a magnificent display of acrobatic finesse, Alvarado did his best dolphin imitation and torpedoed toward the beaming ball for a spectacular loss-preventing save.

“It was a good start," said Schaefer of the tie.  "Costa Rica is not a small team . . . they are one of the best teams in the last World Cup.”

The next 2015 Gold Cup matches for both teams are scheduled for Saturday July 11, 2015, with Jamaica facing Canada, and Costa Rica taking on El Salvador.

By Felix I. Hernandez
Contributing Writer for TheDailySportsHerald.com

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