Preview: USMNT vs Jamaica

After a week long break, the U.S. Men’s National Team return to Gold Cup action. They’ll take on Jamaica in the quarterfinals on Sunday night, a side who they’ve faced at the last three editions of the tournament, including in 2015, when Jamaica shockingly upset the U.S. in the semifinals.

Jamaica 🇯🇲

Sunday will be the 29th meeting between the two sides, with the U.S. holding a firm 17-3-8 edge. Jamaica have recruited a heavy amount of English-based dual nationals in recent years, and have eight players on their squad who ply their trade in the Premier League or the Championship.

Jamaica finished second in Group C, winning their matches over Suriname and Guadeloupe before falling to Costa Rica in the final round of the group stage.

Head coach Theodore Whitmore has largely utilized a 4-4-2 in the Gold Cup, with Fulham defender Michael Hector playing at the base of midfield.

Philadelphia Union standout Andre Blake is between the pipes, and is the type of shot stopper who can keep his side in matches despite an onslaught of shots. His reaction time and ability to get across goal is unparalleled in Concacaf.

Two of the four defenders play in England. Liam Moore committed to Jamaica in the spring, and the Reading defender has shown an impressive ability on the ball. Amari’i Bell has journeyed around the lower divisions of English football, and has nailed down the job on the left.

23 year old Bayer Leverkusen winger Leon Bailey is the cream of the crop. He’s an elite 1-v-1 attacker, and has been touted as one of the best young prospects in Europe. He’s dealt with a share of injuries this season, but has been bright in the tournament thus far, assisting Junior Flemmings’ winner over Guadeloupe.

Up front, Shamar Nicholson has been incredibly effective in recent matches, scoring eight times in the last year. He has seemingly pushed past Watford veteran Andre Gray for the starting job, partnering Fulham striker Bobby Decordova-Reid in the frontline.

Decordova-Reid is another recent member of the program, scoring two goals in just seven appearances since his debut in September 2019. He missed the second two matches of the group stage amid Covid concerns, but will be back after passing the tournament protocol. He’ll be welcomed back by the Reggae Boyz after scoring arguably the best goal of the tournament to date.

Despite a disappointing loss to Costa Rica last time out, this isn’t a Jamaican side to overlook. They possess plenty of talent, and have a veteran manager at the helm. They’ve caused problems for the U.S. in the past, and can certainly do so again.

United States 🇺🇸

The U.S. topped Group B, winning all of their matches. However, their 1-0 win over Canada was anything but confidence inspiring. The Yanks scored early and held onto the lead, with Canada dominating possession and outshooting them 14-6.

Gregg Berhalter’s side will be without Walker Zimmerman, who captained the side the last two matches. The Nashville SC man and reigning MLS Defender of the Year was a standout performer for the Yanks, locking down the backline and consistently cutting out threats. New England Revolution defender Henry Kessler has been called in to replace him, and could feature in the back three that they’ve used in recent matches, but a switch to a more conventional backline seems likely.

This switch is complicated by the lack of winger depth in the squad. Berhalter’s selection was puzzling to start the tournament. Jonathan Lewis has barely played for Colorado this year, and played himself into a whole with a tepid showing over Haiti in the opener. He hasn’t featured since.

Paul Arriola picked up a hamstring injury minutes into the opener, and also hasn’t featured since. This leaves Berhalter with the option of playing midfielders and strikers out of position, and the lack of real options probably prompted the switch to a back three to cover.

Cade Cowell was called into training camp this week as a potential injury replacement, but wasn’t added to the official squad. This leaves Berhalter with few options, and will likely see a pair of players outside their comfort zones in wide areas.

Midfield has seen a rotating cast, with Gianluca Busio showing flashes of talent as well as a propensity to give the ball away too easily. Kellyn Acosta has worked himself back into contention for World Cup qualifying, and should get the start tonight. James Sands is the best option in the squad to play as the no. 6, but Zimmerman’s absence will likely mean he’ll partner Miles Robinson in the back.

This is a U.S. side that should have talent enough to compete at this level, bu t the roster construction and some sub-par displays in the group stage leave them with plenty of questions to answer.

Match info

Time: 8:30 PM Central
Venue: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Broadcast: FS1 (English) / Univision & TUDN (Spanish)

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