Jamaican me crazy! After decade upon decade with suspect international soccer, Jamaica has stamped itself as one of the top teams in CONCACAF once again. In 2015, the Reggae Boyz were able to stun the United States in Atlanta in the Gold Cup semifinals. This year, they took out Mexico in the same stage at the Rose Bowl.
On one hand, that sets what should be a relatively easy stage for the United States. The Americans are 1 to 5 favorites to win the Gold Cup at this point after being no better than +110 at any given point over the course of this tournament. On the other hand, Jamaica has taken some tremendous strides and won't be the easiest foes in the world to just merely push over.
Jamaica's organization has been the key in this tournament. The team routinely plays off of the counterattack and tries to create opportunities when opponents are committing more and more numbers to the attack. On Sunday night in Pasadena, it was Kemar Lawrence who scored on a stunning free kick that proved to be the only goal in the match.
That latter point is a crucial one. The Jamaicans have allowed just one goal in their last two matches, and they also managed to go 180 minutes against what was perceived to be the best team in this tourney at its outset (Mexico) without conceding a goal.
The Americans will surely test that defense, though. Michael Bradley and the United States were always on the front foot when these teams played two years ago in Atlanta, and though Jamaica won the match, had that fixture been played nine more times, the Stars and Stripes probably would have won it all nine times. There's no doubt that Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore and Darlington Nagbe getting called up for the knockout rounds of this tournament has made all the difference, and Bruce Arena is hoping to pick up the first major feather in his cap since becoming the coach for the second time of the USMNT.
It's a high risk/high reward situation for the Americans. They're surely expected to win the Gold Cup now. A second loss to Jamaica in this tournament in succession would put a serious damper on the program as a whole.
Location: Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, CA
TV Coverage: FOX Sports 1
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