Pepi scores 2 more goals, lifts US over Jamaica in qualifier

(AP) — Ricardo Pepi got a pair of goals early in the second half, becoming at 18 the youngest American to score in consecutive World Cup qualifiers, and the United States dominated Jamaica in a 2-0 victory Thursday night.

Pepi, who scored the his first international goal to break a second-half tie at Honduras, put the U.S. ahead in the 49th minute to cap a quick end-to-end movement and added another goal in the 62nd.

Pepi made his Major League Soccer debut for Dallas in June 2019 and decided just before the start of qualifying to play for the U.S. over Mexico. His sudden rise on the international stage has sparked interest in European clubs interested in a transfer.

Playing without injured attackers Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna, the 13th-ranked Americans won their second consecutive qualifier after opening with a pair of draws and improved to eight points after four of 14 matches in the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region, The other six nations all played later Thursday.

No. 59 Jamaica, which has not gone to the World Cup since 1998, has one point after four matches.

Next up for the U.S. is a Sunday game at Panama followed by a home match next Wednesday against Costa Rica at Columbus, Ohio.

The game took place on the 20th anniversary of the 2-1 U.S. win over Jamaica at Foxborough, Massachusetts, that clinched a World Cup berth, the Americans’ first match after the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

Before a raucous, pro-American crowd of 20,500 at Q2 Stadium, which opened in June about 8 miles north of downtown Austin, the U.S. had possession up and down the flanks in the first half with Sergiño Dest on the right and Antonee Robinson on the left. But crosses never connected and the Americans rarely threatened.

Referee Reon Radix of Grenada twice declined to issue red cards for Jamaican fouls that the U.S. thought merited ejections. CONCACAF has refused to mandate video review, saying it even though while Europe and South America have gone ahead with replay assistance for match officials.

The first goal came from a flowing movement as good as the U.S. can produce.

Goalkeeper Matt Turner rolled the ball to his right flank, where Dest ran onto it just outside his own penalty area. In a sequence that took all of about 8 seconds, Dest sprinted forward while taking five touches and centered the ball to Yunus Musah, who was on the run.

Musah took four touches and dished wide to Dest, who one-timed a cross. Pepi broke away from Damion Lowe and from about 8 yards directed a downward header that went in on a bounce to the right of goalkeeper Andre Blake.

Pepi scored again when he re-directed a cross from Brenden Aaronson past Blake with a right-footed shot from 6 yards after Robinson quickly played the flank.

After the U.S. started injecting fresh legs, Gyasi Zardes failed to connect for an open shot off a cross from Tim Weah in the 79th minute.