CONCACAF Gold Cup: US – Jamaica Preview
The US did just enough to win their last group game and advance to the second round of the Gold Cup. This tournament has already fallen short of our expectations for the Americans, but if the team finally can get a couple of solid game performances, the US could still get themselves to the final and maybe win. Sunday’s game has a setup similar to our group game against Panama. In 17 games the US (9-0-8) has never lost to Jamaica, but both teams’ recent form puts this streak into question.
Jamaica finished top of its group with three wins over Honduras, Grenada, and Guatemala, scoring seven goals and not allowing any. In the past, Jamaica has been a team of athletic and speedy players that fell short in the skill department. This tournament has shown an improved quality of play, but their speed is still the biggest threat.
The US back line is going to face its toughest assignments yet this tournament trying to shut down the speed and athletic ability of Jamaica’s forwards and outside midfielders. Assuming that Bradley keeps the same back four from the game against Guadeloupe, Eric Lichaj’s match up with New York Red Bull winger Dane Richards in this game could solidify his role as the US’s new left back. Cherundolo will have a similar matchup on the right against Luton Shelton which could limit his runs into the attack. Bocanegra and Howard will have their hands full making sure the defense can support one another while also putting a body on the runners from the midfield.
There is a good chance that Jamaica will run a 4-3-3 which should give the US a man advantage in the midfield, though Richards and Shelton can easily track back. Jones will have a busy day trying to help the back four contain Jamaica’s speed as well as the passing ability of their center mid Jason Morrison. Out wide, the US will probably have Donovan and Dempsey. Hopefully the pair won’t have to track back to help out the defense too much and will be able to get into the attack with Bradley and our two forwards to face a very local back four.
Jamaica’s defense is nearly all MLS players with Houston’s Jermaine Taylor, Kansas City’s Shavar Thomas, Dicoy Williams from Toronto and LA’s keeper Donovan Ricketts. Initially that fact would bring the skill level of the back four into question, but the Jamaican has yet to allow a goal this tournament. In their group games the US has had little trouble getting shots off, but has struggled getting them on frame to test the keeper. If the US can tighten up offensively and keep pressure on the back four it will put less pressure on our own defense and allow more of our players to go forward.
Kick-off is set for 2:00 on Sunday and will be televised once again on Fox Soccer.