International Notebook: Jamaica, Ricketts make history drawing Mexico in World Cup Qualifier
Costa Rica may have broken Panamanian hearts, but it was Jamaica who made history on the first day of the Hexagonal.
The Reggae Boyz, led by Portland Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, went into Estadio Azteca and came out with a precious point against heavily favored Mexico on Wednesday night, securing a 0-0 draw as the home team was whistled off the pitch by their own fans.
Ricketts was the man of the match, producing a double handful of fine saves, including a point-blank stop of Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez from eight yards in second half stoppage. Ricketts’ club teammate Ryan Johnson also put in 81 hard minutes as a lone forward.
It was supposed to be the biggest mismatch of the round – Jamaica had finished bottom of their group in the Caribbean Cup in December, including a loss to French Guiana and a scoreless draw vs. Martinique – but head coach Theodore Whitmore brought in a host of new players, and the gamble paid off. The MLS duo were helped by a number of England-born teammates who were new to the Jamaica set-up, among them midfielder Jobi McAnuff and forward Garath McCleary, who both had strong outings.
It was McAnuff who had perhaps the best chance of the night for either team, hitting the post just two minutes in, then somehow firing the rebound directly at Mexico ‘keeper Jesus Corona from inside the six-yard box. Johnson also should have scored on a second-half breakaway after dispossessing Carlos Salcido, but he, too, contrived to fire directly at Corona.
Nonetheless, the Jamaicans happily took the unexpected road point.
Elsewhere, those heartbreaking Costa Ricans survived a furious first 30 minutes in Panama to rally for a 2-2 road draw behind Real Salt Lake Designated Player Alvaro Saborio, and an audacious bicycle kick equalizer from Bryan Ruiz.
Timbers midfielder/defender Rodney Wallace, fresh from the Copa Centroamericana championship with the Ticos, traveled with the team to Panama City but did not feature in the qualifier.
The day’s results leave Honduras atop the table with three points, followed by Costa Rica, Panama, Jamaica and Mexico on a single point each. The US are last after MatchDay 1 with zero points.
The next Hexagonal dates are March 22 and 26. The US host Costa Rica in Denver before traveling to the Azteca for a date with Mexico.