The United States faces Jamaica in a Gold Cup semifinal Wednesday at the Georgia Dome. The U.S. progressed to the semifinal after defeating Cuba 6-0. Jamaica advanced to this stage after narrowly besting Haiti 1-0.
Jamaica finished first in Group B but failed to dominate any of its matches. It tied Costa Rica 2-2 and beat El Salvador and Canada 1-0. While the Americans are once again favorites in this match, the Jamaicans shouldn't be taken lightly.
Jamaica has several players who will be familiar to MLS fans. Backup goalkeeper Andre Blake, defenders Demar Phillips, the New York Red Bulls' Kemar Lawrence, Jermaine Taylor, midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson, forwards Giles Barnes, and Darren Mattocks all ply their trade in MLS. Jamaica also possesses eight players who play in the English Football Pyramid ranging from League Two to the Premier League.
Jamaica is one of the fastest and most athletic teams in the world. Probable starting forward Darren Mattocks and potential substitute forward Chris Humphrey (Preston North End) possess blistering pace and could cause problems for the U.S. back line.
Jamaican winger Garath McCleary is the team's leading goalscorer, with two goals, and figures to be a key player in this match. The Jamaican defense will surely be busy and will need an excellent performance from its anchor, Wes Morgan (Leicester City). Although Jamaica has several quality MLS and Premier League players, it lacks a true superstar such as Clint Dempsey.
Expect Jurgen Klinsmann to go with a lineup that is similar, if not identical to the one against Cuba.
After the Cuba game, Klinsmann said Timothy Chandler was dealing with a minor knock and Chandler was subbed off at halftime of that game. It's possible Fabian Johnson shifts to right-back in place of Chandler and DaMarcus Beasley starts at left-back.
Regardless of Chandler's health, Klinsmann could make this change to combat Jamaica's speed. Beasley is arguably the fastest player on the roster and surely would be useful in shutting down Jamaica's speedy attackers.
The U.S. offense will once again be lead by Clint Dempsey. Dempsey is running away with the tournament Golden Boot with twice as many goals as the second highest scoring players. He has scored 60% (6 of 10) of the USMNT's goals and look for him to add to this total against Jamaica.
The U.S. wide defenders will have to be careful about when they overlap. When Chandler or Johnson has been caught high up the field, out of position, the U.S. has looked vulnerable on counter-attacks. The excellent Jamaican counter-attack will punish these mistakes.
Before every Gold Cup, fans usually assume that the U.S. will face Mexico in the final (if the bracket allows this). I once again am expecting another U.S. v. Mexico Gold Cup final. I believe the USMNT will defeat Jamaica 2-1 in a closely contested game.