It was a battle of words during and after the first of two matches between the United States and Jamaica in a five-day span.KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Jamaicans know how to party.
The atmosphere at the U.S. team's 2-1 loss to the Reggae Boyz in a World Cup qualifier felt more like a reggae concert than a soccer game on Friday night. Even the press room after the match had an open bar for the sponsors in attendance as U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann addressed the media.
Apparently, Jamaicans also know how to trash talk.
Not only was there some yapping on the pitch, as expected in any competitive play, one local journalist let Klinsmann know that his U.S. squad was "dominated" in all areas of the game. Then, as the players walked toward their coach bus, Tim Howard’s mixed-zone interview was interrupted by an angry fan.
“You no good,” the fan said, among other things.
The goalkeeper stopped mid-sentence.
“What!” he shouted.
A stare-down followed.
Jamaica had just capped off a historic summer in sports – highlighted with Usain Bolt sprinting to three Olympic gold medals - with its first victory in 19 games against the mighty Americans. Goals scored off free kicks on either side of the half led the Reggae Boyz to the come-from-behind win.
Klinsmann spoke with his usual smile on his face as he took questions from both local and traveling media after the match. He didn't seem all too concerned about leaving the Caribbean island without a point and complemented the Jamaicans on a well-deserved win.
But the manager's attitude changed when a Jamaican journalist asked an aggressive question.
"Is the game on Tuesday coming too quickly, because you keep on mentioning that the Jamaicans were hungry?" the reporter asked. "They were not only hungry, they were better than you in every aspect of the game today. They bossed the entire football game."
Klinsmann turned off the charm for a few seconds.
"Jamaica comes back to Columbus and then we have another match. It starts 0-0 on Tuesday night and we'll try everything to turn it around," the coach responded. "I'm curious what your comments are after the game on Tuesday night."
Every time the U.S. goes on the road to a CONCACAF nation, with the exception of Canada, the environment is different than anything the players are used to on a daily basis. In Guatemala there is a barbed-wire fence that separated the fans from the players, for example.
Jamaica, well, it might have been the least-threatening sporting event one could ever attend as a fan. But that doesn't mean that the music blasting through huge speakers and the DJ, who would put any NBA arena hype man to shame, didn't distract the American players.
Among the other problems included a lousy playing surface and poor refereeing, both typical complaints of American players following CONCACAF road games. The reality, though, is that every one of the 23 players called up for the current round of games has dealt with uncomfortable situations before.
Howard thinks his team should have been more ready.
"I think we kind of let the referee get under our skin a little bit and the crowd was jeering, but that all seems like normal stuff that you have to deal with," Howard said. "We just didn't deal with it."
It will be four more days before the U.S. team plays in the comforts of home. The second match of the doubleheader will be played in Ohio on Tuesday. The game is sold out.
"We have to get three points. It's a must," Clint Dempsey said. "We just have to go out and take care of business."