KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Brian Ching and Cobi Jones, a pair of substitutes, saved the United States against Jamaica last night.
With the entire island nation ready to celebrate the Reggae Boyz' first victory over the Americans, Jones crossed into the penalty box in the 89th minute. Landon Donovan settled the ball and Ching sent a right-footed dagger into the Jamaicans for a 1-1 tie.
Until then in the World Cup regional semifinal qualifying game, Jamaica was delivering an emphatic message: Stay out of our office.
But the Americans have never lost to the Jamaicans, and at Kingston's National Stadium, known as "The Office," they have produced four ties in qualifiers.
The United States, which was sloppy early, came alive after falling behind on Ian Goodison's second-half goal.
But the Americans couldn't find the tying score until the dying moments, when veteran Jones and newcomer Ching came through.
In three previous qualifiers at National Stadium, all played in the midday heat, the teams played 0-0 ties. This time, before their spirited fans, many of whom began gathering outside the sports complex at noon for a 6 p.m. kickoff, the Jamaicans got off to a strong start with several dangerous penetrations.
But they couldn't finish in the first half, mainly because of sloppy passing or the outstanding work of Frankie Hejduk, Eddie Pope, and Carlos Bocanegra on the US backline.
The Americans weren't any more precise, and their penchant for overpassing continually hurt them in the opening half. Claudio Reyna had the best chance after a creative series of passes, but his left-footed drive from inside the penalty area went wide.
While Jamaica dominated possession, the US team often played long balls that didn't lead anywhere.
A defensive giveaway led to the Jamaican goal in the 49th minute. After Pope stopped the Jamaicans by heading out a dangerous cross, Andy Williams, who plays for the Chicago Fire, sent in a corner kick. Goodison headed it down and the ball skipped off the ground and high over goalkeeper Kasey Keller.