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USMNT-Jamaica final displays ongoing CONCACAF growth

Photo by Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

SAN JOSE, Calif. –  CONCACAF has been notoriously known for continuously dishing a Gold Cup final headlined by its two giants: Mexico and the United States. Two years ago, the story was stolen by an unexpected Jamaican team that found a way to take down the U.S. Men’s National Team and set up a date with Mexico in the final.

Two years later, events have taken a similar turn.

This time around, it was Mexico who failed to make it through to another historic final, this time in Santa Clara. While that is likely bad news for the bottom line and TV ratings, it presents an intriguing twist to the sometimes stale story. But Wednesday’s final goes further than that: Jamaica will feature in its second consecutive Gold Cup final, just the third team to achieve that distinction alongside the USMNT and Mexico themselves. In a tournament so often dominated by the two biggest draws in the region, Jamaica’s recent dominance is so captivating that even head coach Bruce Arena can crack a joke or two.

“I think everyone is getting sick of seeing Jamaica in the finals now,” Bruce Arena jokingly said on Jamaica’s greater good to CONCACAF  through its Gold Cup success. “We gotta have more parity in this tournament.”

Of course in terms of parity, Arena need look no further than his own team and their primary rivals for an example of dominance in a region. But CONCACAF continues to take big strives forward in elevating balance, with Jamaica’s second fairytale moment serving as the leading example.

“We saw in the European champions last summer that there were teams that came from nowhere,” Arena said. “Iceland for example, no one picked Portugal to win the European championships last year. I think you see that the game is shrinking around the world. In the fact that, the lesser known teams are more accomplished today. They have more experience and they have better coaching. We are in a low-scoring sport, so the likelihood of being able to pull off an upset in this sport is much greater than in other sports.”

“Certainly I think a consensus of opinions was that U.S. and Mexico would be the best final, but I also thought that Costa Rica was well-positioned to perhaps win the Gold Cup this year. I say that’s the case with Jamaica now as well. I think it’s been a good competition, I think the level of play in the competition has been pretty strong.”

For a man that who’s life has revolved around the Jamaican team and its confederation for nearly a decade, the Reggae Boyz repeated Gold Cup final appearances not only show progress for the tiny Caribbean island, but for CONCACAF as well.

“It means a lot.” said Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore. “It has shown growth, even as a country if you look around. Probably no one expected us [to be in the final], but we have the team to be in the final. In beating Mexico and to play USA, it means a lot [to CONCACAF for Jamaica] to go all the way.”

Wednesday will feel odd, missing the best rivalry CONCACAF has to offer, but this edition of the final between Jamaica and the USMNT will be sure to entertain nonetheless, and carries an air of importance in the growth of North American soccer.

“Sure, sure. Why not, right?,” Paul Arriola told SBI. “I mean look, the teams in CONCACAF have continuously gotten stronger and stronger, and I think that’s what people have really looked over recently.”

“Look at our group, we had trouble in our group,” Arriola added. “When the group came out, no one would have imagine the group. For me, I think its important. It’s important not just for CONCACAF, but for the soccer around us to continually grow.”

11 comments
  • Old School

    From a talent perspective of all squads in the tournament, I thought this has been one of the worst Gold Cup’s I’ve watched in recent memory. The quality has felt poor, a plethora of injuries and the “marquee” nations bringing their C teams.

    I think people are giving far too much credit, this year, citing improvement when it’s felt more like a harmony of medocrity. I don’t think I’ve felt so underwhelmed about the U.S. playing in a Final, for a trophy, in awhile.

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  • DB

    I mean, yeah, Jamaica only went and didn’t qualify for the Hex in between GCs…

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    • NC Jeff

      I believe in “What have you done, LATELY?” And this Jamaica squad has gone undefeated in this GC, and has both tied and beaten Mexico, without surrendering any goals to Mexico. Was Mexico missing a lot of the #1 guys on their depth chart? Certainly, but the Mexican teams that Jamaica played were very capable of scoring several goals.

      Scoring first for the US would be game-changing … Jamaica would then be compelled to play a completely different game than they have planned. The longer it remains scoreless (or worse) the more it plays right into the Jamaican game plan.

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  • Gary Page

    Before this started I called it a meaningless tournament. We need to keep things in perspective. While it will be nice for our players if they can win the championship, much more important is the September qualifiers. Arena has already accomplished his main goal–identify some additional players to fill out the World cup roster and maybe add one starter (Acosta). While the lesser teams have definitely improved, it’s hardly as competitive as some of the other continental competitions.

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    • Beto

      Easy to hate on this Gold Cup and most of it is warranted. but for a second consider 2017 with out it; right now we have the European preseason, Liga MX just started and the dog days of the MLS season (snooze).. 7 of the 12 teams in the tournament have not played a meaning full game in over a year and don’t plan on playing another for 2 more years. Instead we are getting 20-50k in stadiums across the USA every night for a bunch of players that if not for this tournament would not be doing much else this time of year.

      from the USMNT perspective ya if we id a few players for the future, get Acosta and Arriola a few more reps, get Dempsey the title! and take a step closer to the 2021 Confed Cup (wherever that will be) that makes this game worth getting excited about.

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  • MidWest Ref

    If this Gold Cup – our confederation’s championship – is meaningless, what are the meaningful tournaments? Euros? But why does this matter to us in the US? Its not our federation.

    Copa America? But last year everyone said the Centenario was a waste..

    Is it because the Gold Cup takes place every 2 years? I would assume that the African Cup of Nations is just as meaningless because it occurs every two years.

    Does only the World Cup matter?

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    • Gary Page

      I guess you didn’t notice. Because of WC qualifying and the Confederations Cup, the US and Mexico have brought their B/C teams. Same thing as in 2013. Costa Rica was decimated by injuries this year. The Gold Cup is more meaningful in non-qualifying years. That’s the difference.

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  • MidWest Ref

    What do you mean I didn’t notice. That is an unnecessary insulting comment. Mexico brought a B team because of the Confed Cup. The US team I see on the field in the knock out rounds looks like an A team to me. Costa Rica was picked as a challenger because of their performance and the fact that they could bring an A team with the exception of Keylor Navas. The US played an okay game to win that semi final.

    Your only basis for saying it is meaningless is because of 3 teams not fielding their A team the entire tournament, one because of injuries and one because of another tournament. You didn’t answer the question I posed: what makes is meaningless? Am I to infer that you think so because it takes place every two years.

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    • MidWest Ref

      Before I draw any other comments, yes no Euro based players were brought in by the US. The real question I have in response to Gary is should the Gold cup be limited to every 4 years, and would that make it more relevant in your opinion? But if so, what happens when JK screws around with the lineup like he did in the 2015 version?

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