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USMNT vs. Jamaica: A Look Ahead

Clint Dempsey


The U.S. Men’s National Team has never won a World Cup qualifier in Jamaica. Not once. Ever. Not in any of the previous five trips to the Caribbean for qualifying have Americans returned with three points, and their last visit to the Island saw them suffer their first qualifying loss to the ‘Reggae Boyz’.

So why should you believe tonight’s Hexagonal Round qualifier in Kingston will be different?

It comes down to the two teams being in very different shape heading into tonight’s showdown. The U.S. enter with just about as healthy a team as they have had in a long time. The team’s top right backs, Steve Cherundolo and Timmy Chandler, aren’t around, and Herculez Gomez seems unlikely to feature as he recovers from a knee contusion, but for the most part the U.S. will be featuring all of their star players.

Jamaica can’t quite say the same. The ‘Reggae Boyz’ are missing several key players, particularly in their back-line, which has left head coach Theodore Whitmore scrambling for options (if not considering suiting up himself).

The Jamaica team that takes the field tonight will be a far different group than the one that beat the U.S. last September. Three of the four starting defenders from that victory aren’t even available for tonight’s match, leaving a patch-work unit that could struggle to contain a U.S. attack feeling confident after a 4-3 win against Germany (albeit a German team missing most of its key starters).

The Jamaica attack has also struggled during the HEX, managing just one goal in four matches. Portland striker Ryan Johnson will lead the attack, but it will be up to some speedy Jamaican wingers and Rodolph Austin to create against a U.S. defense that has shown some vulnerability in recent matches.

Here is a closer look at tonight’s USMNT-Jamaica World Cup qualifier:

So who is Jamaica missing heading into tonight’s match? Start with all-time scoring leader Luton Shelton, who started in the win last September, but who wasn’t even called up by Whitmore for the June qualifiers. Shelton’s situation with Jamaica is eerily similar to Landon Donovan’s situation with the U.S. The only problem for Jamaica is that, unlike the U.S., the Jamaicans don’t have a Clint Dempsey to lean on in the absence of their all-time leading scorer.

Defensively is where the ‘Reggae Boyz’ are extremely vulnerable. Don’t let the 1-0 scoreline from their Tuesday loss to Mexico fool you. Mexico created several good scoring chances, and simply couldn’t convert, and they created those chances despite not being all that sharp.

The absence of defensive leader Nyron Nosworthy hurts, as does the absence of fellow injured defender Jermaine Taylor. Throw in Demar Phillips, who is also sidelined, and you have a defense that won’t be nearly as tough as the one we saw last September.

German-born centerback Daniel Gordon is 6-foot-4 and looks like a solid player, and he will be called on to anchor the back-line, but if there is a glaring weakness for the Jamaican back-line, it is at right back, where 18-year-old high schooler Alvas Powell is expected to start. Powell has been thrust into a starting role due to injuries and he struggled mightily against Mexico.

The U.S. will look to exploit Powell with Fabian Johnson, who can not only press the wing, but also cut inside and keep Powell occupied so DaMarcus Beasley can press forward as well. Beasley must first ensure that Jermaine Johnson (or Je-Vaughn Watson) isn’t posing too much of a threat on the right flank.

Jamaica are very likely to trot out some variation of a 4-5-1, with Ryan Johnson serving as the target. Whitmore could switch to a two-striker set-up, and start either Jermaine Beckford or Darren Mattocks alongside Johnson, but with so many concerns about the defense, it is tough not to see him going with a five-man midfield to try and congest the middle and make things difficult for the U.S. attack.

The return of Jermaine Johnson from suspension should help give Jamaica a more dynamic midfield than we saw vs. Mexico, and if he partners across from Garath McCleary then the U.S. will have two quick wingers to worry about.

Brad Evans could have his hands full with McCleary, a shifty speedster who likes to float in midfield and who doesn’t necessarily stay on the left wing at all times. Left back O’Brian Woodbine also likes to get forward on the left, which means Graham Zusi needs to press Woodbine to keep him honest defensively, while Evans also has to pick his spots to get forward and take advantage of McCleary’s unwillingness to track back.

The battle in central midfield will be especially intriguing. Last September, Klinsmann went with an ultra-defensive lineup that featured Jermaine Jones, Maurice Edu and Kyle Beckerman in the middle. Having Michael Bradley back makes all the difference (he was injured and didn’t play in last September’s meeting) because Bradley and Jones are well equipped to contain the Jamaican central midfield on their own.

Rodolph Austin will be Jamaica’s focal point, and arguably their best threat, not only from the run of play, but on set pieces. The Leeds United midfielder should receive special attention from Jones and Bradley, who will want to neutralize him and limit Jamaica’s chances.

Whitmore has some options to play alongside Austin, with Jermaine Hue and Watson among them. Hue isn’t as quick as Watson, but he is arguably a better passer from deep in midfield, and if someone can spring a counter with a perfect long pass it’s Hue. Watson is more of a dynamic playmaking threat who can push into the final third and deliver the final pass. If Jones and Bradley pay too much attention to Austin, Watson has the mobility to make them pay for that, which is why he should at the very least feature off the bench.

Jamaica’s midfield will also likely need to deal with Clint Dempsey, who should drop behind Altidore and float around the midfield looking for gaps to exploit. Marvin Elliott is an imposing figure in front of the Jamaica defense, but he will need some help from Adrian Mariappa to contain Dempsey, who has been on a roll for the U.S.

Here is how we see the team’s lining up tonight in Kingston:




Even though they are in desperation mode, and anything short of a win would essentially doom their World Cup qualifying hopes, Jamaica just doesn’t look equipped to beat the U.S. tonight. Their patchwork defense is going to struggle to contain the U.S. attack, and the team’s struggling offense will find it tough navigating through Bradley and Jones to get to a U.S. defense that will match-up well both centrally and on the wings.

Look for Jermaine Jones to try and get forward, and capitalize on a Jamaican defense that doesn’t always have the best transition defense, and look for a steady diet of Fabian Johnson (or Brad Davis and DaMarcus Beasley) on the left wing, trying to test the teenager Powell.

Defensively, look for Omar Gonzalez to match up with Johnson in a physical battle, while Besler looks to help his fullbacks keep Jamaica’s speedsters honest. Jermaine Johnson and McCleary not all that difficult to figure out, but they can still burn you if given the opportunity. Beasley and Evans should be up to the challenge, but some help from Besler won’t hurt. If Jamaica goes with a 4-4-2, and Whitmore starts a player like Mattocks, then Besler will have his hands full and the U.S. fullbacks will need to take care of the flanks on their own.

The U.S. attack should do well, even though Jozy Altidore could have his hands full with Daniel Gordon. It will still be up to Fabian Johnson and Graham Zusi to provide service, and the lack of defensive quality at fullback for Jamaica should allow both to provide service for Altidore and Dempsey.

If the U.S. can avoid giving up dangerous set pieces, and keep Jamaica’s wingers contained, they should be able to create enough chances of their own to come away with a comfortable victory, their first qualifying victory in Jamaica. I’ll go with a 2-0 USMNT victory on goals from Jozy Altidore and Jermaine Jones.


What do you think of the match-up? What Jamaican player concerns you the most? Do you like the U.S. team’s chances of winning tonight?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Three thoughts, a la Wahl, but pre-game:

    1) The Office is my all-time favorite stadium name. Love it. So cool. So Jamaican.
    2) With a frikkin’ high schooler starting on the back line, the US should exploit this early and often
    3) I think our guys want to do better than last time they visited Jamaica. I think we win pretty big.

  2. If I’m reading this right, this game could be a record-breaker: Up to 4 Jermaines may play tonight! U.S. has Jermaine Jones, while Jamaica has Jermaine Johnson, Beckford and Hue AND has Jermaine Taylor injured.

  3. After listening to the podcast about how US Soccer might be pricing out some fans, I thought I’d check out the prices in Jamaica. Bleachers, $1,500; Grandstand 1, $5,500 and Grandstand 2, $4,500. USD $1 = JAM $99. So bleacher seats are 15, grandstand 1 is $55

  4. 2-0 USA at The Office, that’s bold brother.

    It all depends on who scores first. If we score, they’ll need to open up and we should do no worse than a tie, if not a win. If they score first it will be a slog to claw back a goal.

    The other huge variable will be the officiating. I believe the refs will allow them to get away with murder…just like last time. Although this looks like our best chance ever to get a win, the pride of an entire nation and WC survival is on the line…beware the phantom PK or red card..,1-1 or 2-2

  5. Jamaica needs a win…..badly. Because of this, I assume they will plan on “attacking” more. We should win 3-1. I don’t know how many of you guys watched their match against Mexico earlier this week, but Corona made some nice saves to preserve the win. Jamaica also had a sitter at point blank range that was just headed wide.

  6. If we can score early, I am feeling a blow out: 3 or 4-1.

    If we do not score early, then 1-1 would leave me happy.

  7. The US can win if:
    – Jozy plays with energy and passion (e.g. v Germany)
    – Gonzo plays within himself
    – US dictates tempo and style (e.g. Bradley/Jones control midfield)
    – Howard makes the one huge early save on a chance that is bound to come

    As an earlier poster noted, getting behind early would be a bad thing, a very bad thing.

  8. ives! love the formation graphic!

    the directional arrows are a nice touch as well, although i don’t agree with jermaine shading forward and left–he should either be pushing straight forward while bradley stays home, or wide left to cover LB as beasley makes his runs.


  9. Just noticed, Dempsey has scored in every MNT game this year, when any US player has scored. I think that streak continues tonight with a header from the 6.

  10. Hopefully they don’t score (at all) 1st. Not wanting to see Jamacia w/ 11 behind the ball while we leave ourselves open to counter attacks. 2-0 Jamacia if they score 1st. 1-1 if we score first with another backline blunder from Gonzo thinking about posing dinner on instagam around the 50′ instead of playing the offsides trap.

  11. “The U.S. will look to exploit Powell with Fabian Johnson, who can not only press the wing, but also cut inside and keep Powell occupied so DaMarcus Beasley can press forward as well.”


    For a variety of reasons–conditions, the quality of our previous opponents–this is the first game where Beasley can really get forward and overlap. When he has been able to do so, the results have been very promising, and I think Johnson works better as an inside left rather than a winger anyway. I’d like to see this tactic played as often as possible.

  12. I think we see a return of the boring grind it out style that we so often see on the road. Thinking we can come out with a 1-0 win. It won’t be pretty but 3 points would be massive.

    Without a win, Jamaica is pretty much out of World Cup contention so expect them to try to come at us. That could end up playing into our hands if Bradley/Jones can control the pace of the game.

    Assuming everyone is healthy we hopefully see pretty much the same starting 11 as vs Germany. I’m 50/50 on whether it should be Gonzo or Cameron in the center. I understand both sides of that argument. Also wouldn’t be shocked if Cameron just slotted back in to right back. I know Evans was really solid there vs Germany but Cameron is the better player. Don’t rule it out

    • Pet peeve here. So both you and Ives are saying that if Jamaica draw tonight, they will essentially be out of WC contention with 3 points compared with the United States’s 5, and SIX matches to play????

      • Jamaica will have played five games, three of which are at home. We will have only played four games, one of which was at home. Our schedule sets up much better after tonight than Jamaica’s.

      • If Jamaica draws, they will have three points from FIVE matches, and having played three at home. USA would have five points from FOUR matches, having played just ONCE at home. There’s a slight difference between those two. USA having 5 points with four of six left at home would be pretty solid footing.

    • +1, the unmistakeable Ronaldinho: Big Geoff Cameron fan here and after watching Evans at right back on Sunday against Germany I remain convinced that Cameron is a better right back. Not saying that Evans won’t prove me wrong in the future, but he didn’t do it against Germany. Unlike Evans, Cameron would not have been ball watching and would have marked Draxler and prevented Germany’s third goal.

  13. As always, great analysis Ives. I hope the pitch isn’t all muddy and slow, but we’ll see how it goes. I see Jamaica sneaking a goal on Gonzales and I also see US lighting the lamp a few times. US 3-1, Klinsy adds to the list of “firsts” under his belt.

  14. Should be a good test to see if we can build on the offense we generated against Germany. I know Jamaica’s back line is makeshift and they are desperate for a win and so need to score but I’d guess that they’ll park the bus early to try to keep it close then press to score late.

    • That would be a fascinating tactic if correct. I think the pressure of needing a win to even hope of qualifying will effectively force Jamaica to come out strong and play forward.

  15. BeIn Sports? How in God’s name in this day and age can I not get a channel this game is on. Arrrggghhh! Anyone have a link?

    • Its annoying cause beinsports is available to me but beyond WCQ I dont have interest in any of the other leagues they broadcast. La Liga and Serie A do nothing for me so I have never bought it. Then when the US plays in the Caribbean I get mad at myself everytime.

      • I have Comcast in Boston, and they allow you to sign up for a channel and then cancel it later while pro-rating the cost. It might be worth a call to see if you can get BeIn for a few weeks, or even 2-3 months and then just drop it.

    • Wasn’t it announced last year or before that BeIn had bought the broadcast rights for all the away qualifiers?

      Personally, I can’t complain b/c I watch a little bit of Ligue 1 and La Liga. So, I watch it anyway. Sometimes, handball is pretty interesting, too.

    • how can an “SBI Mafia Original” be surprised about this and not know all US road qualifiers (sans Mexico) are on BeInSport? That’s how it was all throughout 2012 too.

      • At least you don’t have to order pay-per-view from some shady company like the last WCQ cycle.

      • It wasn’t so much surprise as it was frustration. But you’re a troll if that’s all you comment on.

  16. I’m going with a low scoring draw or 2-1 Jamaica win.

    We have never won in Kingston. Ever. I did think the pitch was in better condition than I’ve previous seen it (something to do with cricket investments?), but it still favors sloppy long-ball play. And their forwards are very fast.

    • Their forwards are good. Physical and fast. In the first game against Mex at the ‘Teca they gave Mex a lot of trouble.

      I don’t think the field will be as much of an issue as the desperate nature of the Jamaican squad and their physicality.

      • Yes. Another good point– officiating is always another obstacle in these qualifiers.

        I’m going to be optimistic and say we build on the excellent team play from Germany and get a draw or a win.

      • I wish I could be optimistic about CONCACAF away games. History tells me that for the betterment of my mental health I should be as pragmatic as possible in my expectations.

      • On paper these are games we should easily win. In reality we see an ugly grind it out win or draw. Something about concacaf on the road…

    • Get real, SanFran415. No way is the USMNT going to lose to this Jamaica team. The guys are coming off a famous win against a good Germany C-Team with Jozy and Clint clicking on all cylinders and supported by a very strong cast of teammates, including Jermaine Jones who has been playing out of his mind in recent games and was outstanding against Germany and a defense that, IMO, was solid against some talented German attackers.

      USA beats Jamaica 3 – 1
      Goals: Clint, Zeus and (drum roll please)……… Jozy 🙂

      • All that said, my preferred line-up would be





      • i agree with this, except evans at RB instead of cameron. evans played well there recently, and cameron did not.

      • How about the same line-up that worked against Germany? Give the same back 4 more experience working together, while rewarding players like Evans who took his chance well, and let the attack do what it did (well).

      • Looks good to me. Although, I’d like to see Jr. get forward more often and see Jones drop back more. But, it seems their presences are to do the opposite. USA!

      • “No way is the USMNT going to lose to this Jamaica team.”

        eeesh. what’s that about ‘pride before a fall’?

        i will say, if we’re going to beat jamaica in jamaica any time soon, it should be tonight.

      • I only saw the U.S. beat the German B team. Other than that I think the U.S. takes care of business at Kingston and hopefully no second yellow cards.

    • Agreed. It isn’t the time to help a young player establish confidence. Its time to qualify for the World Cup. Looks like Gonzalez has lost his confidence. Cameron or Goodson should start.

      • Still amazed that pass to Belgium, which should be called an assist on the play, isn’t a bigger deal than it is. Much rather have Cameron at RB and have Evans come in for gonz and have Cam switch to CB if Gonz continues to struggle.

      • Yeah totally agree here. That was an assist to Belgium essentially. Seems like a risk to play him.

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