The U.S. men’s national team’s road to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil hasn’t been the smoothest. While the team managed a 3-1 win in its first World Cup Qualifier against Antigua and Barbuda in June, the Americans faltered a few days later on the road in Guatemala and tied 1-1.
The next two qualifiers for the U.S. are back-to-back matchups with Jamaica on Friday and Tuesday. The previous qualifying matches – as well as the 0-0 tie with Canada and 4-1 thrashing by Brazil in friendlies leading up to the games – were alarming, to say the least.
But the Americans do have a bit of momentum heading into their next game that matters.
For the first time in the storied history between the two teams, the U.S. beat Mexico on its home turf by a single Michael Orozco goal in August. The game was scrappy, and the southern rivals were probably unlucky to not score, but the win meant a lot to the U.S. team and fans.
So, the U.S. has something for this World Cup qualifier that it didn’t have before – confidence.
This boost will be necessary for the Yanks as Jamaica is their toughest competition in Group A. Both have a draw and a loss to their name – Jamaica beat Guatemala 2-1 and ended in a scoreless draw with Antigua and Barbuda. The two are tied for first in the group with four points, but the U.S. has the edge on goal differential.
Needless to say, the double-header will be crucial in terms of who wins the group and has the best chance of qualifying for the ultimate competition. The U.S. usually performs better on home turf, but will have to wait until Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio, for that luxury.
However, the lackluster away performance has improved so far in 2012. In fact, the team has yet to lose away from home after beating Panama, Italy and Mexico and drawing with Canada and Guatemala.
The U.S. will need to keep this momentum going to compete with a formidable Jamaican roster. Eight players compete in MLS while nine others ply their trade in Europe. (In fact, according to Wikipedia, the team added new Manchester United forward Usain Bolt to its list of strikers.) Compared to the other squads in the group, Jamaica’s is the most comparable to that of the U.S.
As for the U.S.’s roster, there will be some noticeable differences. Star midfielders Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley were not called up to the team due to injuries, but players like Kyle Beckerman, Brek Shea or José Torres will look to fill their shoes. Clint Dempsey is also expected to perform, now that his transfer drama from Fulham to Tottenham Hotspur is finally resolved.
The good news is the U.S. has never lost to Jamaica after a 10-0-8 record. But of the four World Cup qualifiers between the two sides, all have ended in draws.
It’s not the best odds, but in the end, a draw may be all the U.S. needs to hang on to that top spot and increase its chances of traveling to Brazil in two years’ time.
The game will be broadcast live on beIN sport at 8 p.m. ET. For fans who do not subscribe to DirecTV, Dish Network, or Comcast, ussoccer.com has a MatchTracker as well as a twitter account, @ussoccer, which will provide live updates. For Twin Cities-based viewers, the Sweetwater Bar and Grille will, as always, host a watch party.