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A familiar foe stands in between USMNT, Gold Cup final

Americans battle Jamaica for spot in Cup final against Mexico

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Three teams have made the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals three consecutive times; United States, Mexico and Jamaica. 

While the rivalry between the U.S. and Mexico gets a lot of hype, the island nation has made its presence known.

Jamaica and the U.S. have put on quite a show during the past two tournaments. In 2015, the Reggae Boyz took down the U.S. 2-1 in the semifinals thanks to two first half goals from Darren Mattocks and Giles Barnes. Jamaica subsequently lost in the final to Mexico.

Two years later, the USMNT had its revenge with a 2-1 victory over Jamaica to lift the 2017 Gold Cup trophy. Forward Jozy Altidore and Jordan Morris scored during the victory. Both Altidore and Morris are on Gregg Berhalter’s 2019 Gold Cup squad, but they have been supplemental pieces off the bench.

“We know every time we play the US it is always going to be a tough game,” Jamaica goalkeeper Andre Blake said. “The boys like a challenge and we are always up for games like those. We don’t need [extra] motivation for games like that.”

Dating back to 1988, the U.S. and Jamaica have faced each other 25 times. The U.S. holds the advantage with an overall record of 15-3-8 and a Gold Cup record of 4-0-1.

While the U.S. has used this tournament to test run a new coach, players and style of play, Jamaica came into the Gold Cup with a veteran group that has an impressive resume in recent play, with 13 players competing in Major League Soccer and the United Soccer League. 

Last match up

During the first of two games in preparation for the Gold Cup, the U.S. looked inexperienced in a 1-0 loss at Audi Field in Washington D.C. The players and formation from the 1-0 loss to the Reggae Boyz is far from the USMNT’s current form. 

Forward Shamar Nicholson scored the 60th minute goal to lift the Reggae Boyz over the U.S.

“Jamaica has quality,” USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter said. “They’ve always had quality, especially in their attacking positions.”

The U.S. had plenty of opportunities earlier during the friendly, but could not unlock the final pass in front of goal. Mark it up to inexperience, a new formation or rust, but there won’t be any excuses during Wednesday’s rematch.

“Jamaica will be completely different [from Curacao],” U.S. midfielder Paul Arriola said after the 1-0 quarterfinal victory over Curacao. “Jamaica rely a lot on their physical ability. You look around, they are fast, they are strong. That is really what they rely on.”

U.S. road to semifinal

Anything less than a Gold Cup title for the Americans would be a tough pill to swallow, but a trophy at the end of the tournament won’t necessarily mean a complete turnaround for a U.S. program under serious criticism.

The USMNT topped Group D, scoring 11 goals and conceding none. In the quarterfinals, the Americans scored a first half goal, but they failed to find a second as Curacao controlled possession of the ball more than the U.S. expected. The Caribbean nation successfully nullified wingers Paul Arriola and Tyler Boyd. 

Jamaica will be much more physical than Curacao against the U.S. It will most likely sit back and absorb more attack and wait for opportunities on turnovers. 

“I’m proud of the guys for their effort, and now we move on to Nashville,” Berhalter said after the game the close win over Curacao. “We know it’s going to be a good game. Jamaica is a good team, a robust team. We know they have some good attacking pieces.”

Jamaica wants a title

Other than Canada’s victory in 2000, the U.S. and Mexico have split the Gold Cup champion title six times to seven, respectively. Reggae Boyz want their name on the leaderboards. 

“To be fair, we expected to be here,” forward Darren Mattock said. “We want to go one step forward and one step forward again. There is still a lot more work to to do. We have to keep grinding and keep working hard.”

Jamaica has made the semifinals five times, three of which came in the last three years. Their presence on the men’s world stage may not be loud, but in the Gold Cup Jamaica has lead the way for other Caribbean teams to come out and compete. 

“This tournament suits our playing style,”  Blake said. “We are very physical. We are very fast. We like to give up possession off the ball and just try to sit back and catch the team on the counter which we are very good at. We have a very solid backline and that has what has been carrying us. We know defense wins championships.”

Jamaica topped its group with one win and two draws. The team took down Panama in the quarterfinals thanks to a 75th minute penalty kick from Mattocks, who subbed on 30 seconds prior. 

“I always tell myself big players step up in big moment. At the end of the day, the team did a lot of hard work before I came on,” Mattocks said. “I did the easy part.”

The semifinal game between the U.S. and Jamaica kicks off Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. ET, with the winner advancing to play Mexico. 

Match information

When: Wednesday, 9:30 p.m. ET

Where: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.

How to watch: FS1, Univision

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