The United States will aim to book a place in its sixth consecutive Gold Cup final and move within one win of retaining its crown when taking on Jamaica in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome on Wednesday. After lifting the trophy two years ago, the U.S. is seeking to confirm its status as the team to beat in Concacaf and earn a direct spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup.
The Americans’ progress through the initial group stage this time around had been solid, rather than spectacular. Drawn into a tough section, the U.S. underwhelmed in securing narrow wins over Honduras and Haiti, before having to come from behind to get a draw with Panama. But it had little trouble in cruising through its first knockout match, blasting a depleted Cuba team 6-0 in the quarterfinals. It is in the last four, though, where the competition really heats up.
“I think that the fact that a spot in the Confederations Cup is on the line speaks for itself. It's all down to business tomorrow night,” Klinsmann said, according to AFP. “Every game in this tournament is a battle and we definitely expect a battle against Jamaica."”
The U.S. has been led so far by veteran forward Clint Dempsey. After being stripped of the captaincy ahead of the tournament following a domestic suspension, the Seattle Sounders star has responded with six goals to lead the Gold Cup’s scoring charts. Meanwhile, at the other end Brad Guzan has been a reliable presence and frequently bailed out what has often been a shaky defense.
It will be at the back where the attention is focused when Klinsmann announces his lineup ahead of the match. John Brooks was suspended for the win over Cuba, but could return to reunite a so far unconvincing partnership with Ventura Alvarado and replace Omar Gonzalez. Elsewhere Timmy Chandler may keep his place in the lineup, with veteran DaMarcus Beasley, brought out of international retirement after the group stage to add experience to the backline, only having just returned to training following a calf injury.
The U.S. has met Jamaica twice previously in Gold Cup quarterfinals, coming on top on each occasion. Coach of the Reggae Boyz, Winfried Schäfer, was happy to admit that his team goes into the match as underdogs, but hopes it can flourish in the role.
“It feels like David versus Goliath, no? But that’s fine,” he said in his pre-match press conference. “We will try everything to hit the giant where it hurts the most.”
Schäfer, a German who has enjoyed a nomadic career that has also taken in stints in charge of Cameroon and Thailand, has already succeeded in leading Jamaica to its first Gold Cup semifinal since 1998. He has done so with a squad heavily reliant on those who play either in the lower leagues in England or in Major League Soccer. Indeed, 12 members of the Jamaica party either currently play or have played for teams in North America.
One of those is striker Darren Mattocks. And the Vancouver Whitecaps man is eager to make an impression against the U.S., particularly after missing Jamaica’s quarterfinal win over Haiti through suspension.
“Every time I play in North America it always feels like home because I play in the MLS, so playing against so many guys who play in the same league as I, you know what they are capable of doing and you know their strengths and weaknesses,” he said, according to the Jamaica Observer.
“But for me personally, it’s a game where I want the chance to show what I can do, because in the Haiti game unfortunately I didn’t get to play… I am very upbeat and excited at the challenges ahead.”
Kickoff time: 6 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Sports 1, UniMas
Live stream: Fox Soccer 2Go