A month ago the United States Men’s National team cemented their names in the history books by becoming the first US team to defeat El Tri on their home soil. The pomp and circumstances rang around the sports world including a rare off- year World Cup report on ESPN’s Sportscenter. Although the victory was a significant stepping-stone in the mentality of US Soccer, it in turn means nothing as far as points towards a World Cup appearance. Tonight is when the results count. The celebrations over a grudge victory have ceded, it is now time to produce. The next step to the 2014 FIFA World Cup continues versus Jamaica during group qualification.
What’s at Stake: This is the first of a home-and-home series versus Jamaica, the first coming tonight in Kingston. The US is atop of Group A for CONCACAF qualifying and every point counts. A victory would give the Yanks room to breathe at the top and set up the sweep of Jamaica at home.
The Opponent: Don’t be fooled, Usian Bolt will not lace up the boots tonight for Jamaica, but that doesn’t mean this team lacks speed. A brood of MLSers will take the pitch for the Reggae Boyz, including Vancouver Whitecaps’ speedsters Dane Richards and Darren Mattocks. Jamaica will use its vicious pace to exploit the slower US backfield, but Jamaica’s inability to finish chances plagued them versus Antigua & Barbuda in a frustrating 0-0 draw. The boyz will look to push the pace early, seeking a momentum goal in front of their home crowd.
The Squad: A mix-an-match of typical US internationals with those of the famous Mexico roster will be meshed tonight for Jurgen Klinsmann. Geoff Cameron is becoming a solid professional both overseas in England and in international appearances. Jozy Altidore and Clarence Goodson return to the national team after long hiatuses, and Clint Dempsey will attempt to move on from his soap opera months in transfer limbo. Landon Donovan was left out of the roster due to his recurring leg injury marking another non-Dempsey/Donovan pairing for the US. Besides Donovan, this could be Klinsmann’s most complete roster since taking the job, and we are slowly starting to see young players step into roles to create a balanced and competitive roster.
The Stakes: This by means is no make or break game for the US, but a chance to set themselves apart in the tables is in sight. If the Yanks gain three points tonight they will have a huge lead over Jamaica, arguably their toughest opponent in the group. If the Yanks lose or draw, it will make the home match on September 11th all the more crucial for a US win. From now on the Yanks destiny is in their hands. Grind out the necessary victories or fall far from grace before the big stage even begins.
Result: In a tough grueling battle the Yanks outlast Jamaica 2-1 with all the goals coming in the first half. After an early tally by Jamaica’s Darren Mattocks, Clint Dempsey and Herculez Gomez score a goal apiece in the ten minutes before half. Geoff Cameron and the back-line hold off 45 minutes of Jamaican offensive chances and the US earns three points heading into Columbus on Tuesday.
US vs Jamaica Tonight @ 8pm on beIN SPORT (Check your local listings for this one or get to the closest AO Bar to watch the match.)