World Cup Qualifying

USA vs. Jamaica: A Look Ahead

USAJamaica (ISI)

Photo by ISIphotos.com

KINGSTON, Jamaica — A visit to Independence Park, otherwise known as ‘The Office,’ for a game against the Jamaican national team isn’t really an intimidating experience for opposing teams. If anything, the loud reggae music and female dance squads that entertain fans give national team matches a party-like atmosphere. The lively crowds that pack the venue are separated from the field by a wide running track, so there isn’t quite the closed-in feeling of other CONCACAF venues.

In other words, this isn’t Azteca, San Salvador, San Pedro Sula or Estadio Saprisa in Costa Rica.

That might be why the Americans have actually never lost a match in Kingston, posting a 2-0-5 record all-time, and why the U.S. is expected to come back from their trip to the Caribbean with three points.

So why has coming to Jamaica and winning World Cup qualifiers been so tough for the Americans in the past? In five previous qualifiers between the teams in Kingston, the sides have finished tied all five times. The most recent of those matches came eight years ago, when a late Brian Ching equalizer kept the Americans from suffering their first loss against the ‘Reggae Boyz.’

Playing here may not be as intimidating as many other venues in CONCACAF, but the atmosphere clearly pushes Jamaica to a higher level. They impressed at home in group stage opening win against Guatemala, and in 2010 World Cup qualifying, Jamaica won all three home matches in its final round, shutting out Mexico, Honduras and Canada in front of crowds that all surpassed 25,000 (Jamaica failed to qualify for the Hex by goal differential).

You can expect a strong crowd on Friday night, and Jamaica couldn’t have asked for a better time to face the Americans. Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley are injured, and several Americans have had their preparations leading up to this month’s qualifiers affected by club transfers. That could force Clint Dempsey to serve as an option off the bench tonight as he works to gain match fitness after sitting out the first two weeks of the Premier League season in the process of making the move from Fulham to Tottenham.

Despite those key absences, this U.S. team has arrived with the swagger that comes with having registered some impressive road wins in 2012. Winning games in Italy and Mexico for the first time has the Americans feeling bullish about adding Jamaica to that list of newly-conquered venues.

Their only meeting in the past six years showed how the current U.S. team could deal with the speedy Jamaicans. Fabian Johnson is more than capable of shutting down Dane Richards and the athletic Geoff Cameron can partner with the experienced Carlos Bocanegra to contend with Jamaica’s speedy forwards.

The big task for the Americans will be winning the midfield battle without the presence of Bradley, and dynamic threats provided by Dempsey and Donovan. Jurgen Klinsmann will need to turn to new attacking options and count on some younger players to provide offensive threats.

Klinsmann will need to decide how to field a tough and resolute midfield that can neutralize Jamaica’s attack while also generating enough offense. Dempsey would help provide that if he were capable of starting, but if he can’t, then the decisions get very tough. Jose Torres didn’t look like the answer against Mexico, but he might get another look against a Jamaican side that isn’t exactly known for its strength in midfield.

The more likely option, based on Klinsmann’s past decision, is fielding the trio of Jermaine Jones, Maurice Edu and Kyle Beckerman. There is no attacking midfielder in that bunch, but Jones has shown an ability to get involved in the attack when called on to do so, while Edu and Beckerman have shown an ability to win the possession battle.

Will that midfield be able to generate chances for a potential U.S. forward trio of Jozy Altidore, Herculez Gomez and Brek Shea or Terrence Boyd? Without Bradley in the middle to connect the defense to the attack, you could see a disconnect that could leave the Americans forwards stranded. That fear could push Klinsmann to consider scrapping the 4-3-3 in favor of a 4-4-2, but that still seems less likely, because there just aren’t the pure wing options to make it really work without Donovan or potentially Dempsey.

Jamaica isn’t likely to throw waves of numbers at the Americans, because a draw wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for them. They are more likely to keep numbers back and look to try and force the action on the wings, which will mean a busy night for Fabian Johnson and Steve Cherundolo, who are more than capable of containing Jamaica’s wingers.

The match will boil down to whether the U.S. can stay disciplined defensively like they did against Mexico last month, but also generate more scoring chances than they did in that ultra-defensive victory at Azteca. Jamaica won’t dominate the possession battle the way Mexico did, so the Americans should have enough of the ball to find some chances, but that will only happen if the midfield Klinsmann settles on is capable of providing service to a forward line more than capable of punishing Jamaica’s defense. 

  • Rik

    Good analysis. Glad someone else is saying we SHOULD beat them if we play our game.

    Key to beating Jamaica has always been possessing in the middle of the field. Jamaicans get frustrated quickly when they don’t have the ball and start to chase very impatiently…that opens the holes we need to score.

    Last Gold Cup game we easily could’ve netted 4 or 5 if Ricketts wasn’t so solid. Granted no Bradley or Landon, but hopefully the mid can work out for us tonight.


  • Chris

    Most Comcast cities dont have BeIn set up in their lineup yet. If anyone knows a site that will stream this game, please post all over the place!!!


  • biff

    Not really sure whether this works, but on another Web site this was said to offer excellent live streams of soccer games…



  • BBB

    For my Mile High Comcast-using brethren, their website says they don’t have the channel yet, but it’s there @ 312.


  • gsscasual

    What hilarious failure putting the game on this beIn channel is… support your local stream on this one


  • Aaron in StL

    Glad I have directv in this instance… hopefully beIN will recognize their goal of being a global sports network and become a normal option in most providers’ packages in the US. They seem to have deep enough pockets to chase that down


  • Rlw2020

    Great to see some positive analysis! This series should be interesting. I am forseeing this being Jones and Beckerman’s big game with the nats. I can see them taking over the midfield possession game and stopping all the jamaican runs.


  • boosted335

    Our D is going to let us down because it remains mediocre.
    Cameron is a very good midfielder but only an average CB and Boca is getting less impressive by the game.
    The bottom line is Howard is going to have to overachieve (AGAIN) if we are to come away with a point…that or we need to score 2-3 goals.


  • Brian S.

    They didn’t “put” it on BeIn Sports. BeIn won the bidding for it. At the end of the day, this is still a big money business. It would’ve been nice if ESPN, Fox, or NBC would’ve made an offer but they didn’t. Go to any sports bar that has Dish or Direct TV. They will have it


  • Hill

    You must be smoking something. Beckerman is never going to boss the midfield. He’s going to deliver a few good tackles, a few decent passes, a bunch of worthless passes, and give away possession repeatedly with his horrible first touch and distribution.


  • JRP

    Hill, you should be coach. You clearly know more about the sport than the past two national coaches who have had Beckerman in the lineup. Too bad you are stuck working the fry counter and KFC. Or are the bartender with the neck tattoo? Beckerman’s pass completion rate is inspiring. His professionalism is unparalleled. And his consistency is as steady as the moon cycle. He is a pro. He is not the most talented player but he is an animal in the midfield. Watch and learn and then pull the chicken out before it burns.


  • Michael Stypulkoski

    Congratulations. Instead of engaging in an intelligent conversation and explaining why you disagree with Hill, you came off as an ignorant jerk.


  • slowleftarm

    Would tend to agree with you about Beckerman but just saying someone works at KFC isn’t very convincing.


  • biff

    Never say never, but will be very surprised if we see Jones, Edu and Beckerman together in the starting line-up as midfielders, but maybe all three starting if Edu plays center back. I would expect Dempsey to start, maybe on the left side that he played with Fulham, and also probably Torres gets the nod after Klinsmann sent him the warning this week that he must finally start producing or else face the consequences. Shea has shined as a sub twice against Mexico (last year and last month), and maybe Klinsmann brings him in again in the second half to do his thing and Boyd also.






    Or 4-3-3





  • THomas

    I’m not sure why a 4-2-3-1 isn’t employed….Not that it really matters once the game starts since everything is fluid. But on paper I like this the best:



  • deepvalue

    called comcast but they said it would be tape delayed and the package with beIn costs around 10 bucks a month.


  • Louis Z

    Although we all have our own opinion on what a player should play a certain position. I think you are just stuck counting Beckerman’s “pass completion rate”, he is ok but let’s have a reality check on how good he really is.


  • louis z

    there is more to it that stats as you can see, his side passing sure pad his stats, the main question what kind of impact did he have, unfortunately for us, he did great — for the other team!


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