On Wednesday, the U.S. will play Jamaica at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara to determine which country will take home the Gold Cup trophy. Past matches between these two CONCACAF members have mostly resulted in wins for the United States, and this game is expected to follow suit. Manager Bruce Arena will be vying for his first piece of silverware since his appointment in November 2016, while Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz will be looking for their first ever Gold Cup trophy.
Let’s take a deeper look at the upcoming match and how the two teams match up.
Since their first meeting, the two teams have met a total of 24 times, with the U.S. having the better of the results (14W-2L-8T). However, since 2000, the U.S. has a better overall record against Jamaica (3-1-0), with most of those wins coming on home soil. With the most recent match resulting in a 1-0 win earlier this year, the Americans will be looking to build on that result in Santa Clara. However, the American squad would do well to remember that they were beaten by Jamaica in 2015 in the same tournament.
With a limited number of professional footballers to choose from, the Jamaican side consists of players from either Major League Soccer and the United Soccer League, as well as local clubs in Jamaica. While most have been rostered on the national team for several years, none have played outside of the CONCACAF region.
The United States began the group stage of the Gold Cup using a similar strategy, but added six players from their starting World Cup squad beginning with their knockout stage matches. With two of these players, Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey, scoring against Costa Rica in the semi-final match on Saturday night, it would appear that Arena’s strategy has proved successful up until this point.
The X-Factors in the Match
Jamaica lacks players who have big-game experience on the world stage, but seem to coalesce well into a cohesive unit. Since many of the Jamaican players ply their trade in the MLS, they are familiar with some of their American rivals. Their goalkeeper, Andre Blake of the Philadelphia Union, has arguably been the best at his position throughout the tournament. This level of play will need to continue if Jamaica is to have any chance to defeat the U.S. Much like in their surprise win against Mexico in the semi-final match, the Reggae Boyz will have to be patient and capitalize on their opportunities, either through a counter-attack or a free kick near the opposing goal.
For the United States, having most of their starting players breeds familiarity on the pitch — except on their back line. Their usual center-back tandem of John Brooks and Geoff Cameron has been replaced by Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler in the Gold Cup. While both performed adequately in stifling the Costa Rican offense, will the back line be able to handle the increased pressure?
While the match between Jamaica and the United States would seem to heavily favor the Stars and Stripes, look for Jamaica to try to control the tempo of the match and try to slow down the pace a bit. However, by the U.S. recalling six World Cup starters after group play, they seem to be better prepared for any style on the pitch.
The U.S. seemed to be in control throughout the semifinal match, and many thought Los Ticos would be a more formidable adversary than this Jamaican squad. While the pressure might be on the United States, they will handle it well and take the Gold Cup trophy back this year with a 2-1 win against a spirited but out-matched Jamaican team.