There’s no environment, no tension quite like a World Cup qualifier, even in a continental championship tournament like the Gold Cup.

Still, a big chunk of the current US men’s national team roster can call on a certain level of ‘been there, done that’ as they prepare for Thursday’s Concacaf Octagonal clash with Jamaica at Austin FC’s Q2 Stadium (7:30 pm ET | ESPN2, Univision, TUDN), even with qualifying experience still a rarity among this young group.

The Yanks visited this very venue barely two months ago to face Qatar in the Gold Cup semifinals, sweating out a dramatic 1-0 win keyed by a missed Hassan Al Haydos penalty kick before Gyasi Zardes’ late winner. And they’d gotten there by edging these same Reggae Boyz – mostly the same, at least – in a 1-0 quarterfinal a few days earlier at AT&T Stadium, just a couple hours up the road in Arlington, Texas.

Ten of the US players involved in those matches are on this window’s roster, including Cristian Roldan, who recalled both Austin’s “fantastic” support of the team in July and the difficulties of breaking down Jamaica as he addressed the media in a Tuesday video conference.

“Jamaica was really good in that [Gold Cup] game and I felt like our players were up for it in that game, in particular Kellyn Acosta, who set the tone,” said Roldan, who came off the bench to deliver the telling cross that Matthew Hoppe headed home to dispatch the Caribbean side. “Counterattacking is something that we need to do a really good job of in this game, and taking advantage in wide areas.

“In the Jamaica game they dropped off when we tried to run in behind, and that’s just going to create a lot of space out wide. So being able to exploit the wide areas and also getting runners in the box – good things happen when we have a lot of guys in the box. That’s how we got our goal and that’s how we can punish Jamaica.”

The Reggae Boyz are up against it as they jet to the Texas capital. Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore’s squad sit bottom in the Octagonal standings with just one point from their first three matches and must host Canada on Sunday before the always-demanding trip to San Pedro Sula to meet Honduras next Wednesday. They’ll do so shorn of arguably the top two talents in their player pool, with Aston Villa winger Leon Bailey sidelined by injury and star striker Michail Antonio deciding to stay home at West Ham instead of joining the group this window.

Still, even with no Antonio, the island nation’s cultivation of their talent-rich British diaspora has upped the quality at Whitmore’s disposal with the likes of Andre Gray (Queens Park Rangers), Kemar Roofe (Rangers) and Bobby Decordova-Reid (Fulham). And in Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake they retain a powerful X-factor even when outgunned.

Roldan pointed to the importance of transitions in both directions, particularly on those occasions where the Reggae Boyz can be drawn out of their shell.

“I think this will be one of the strongest Jamaica sides that we’ll play, and it’ll be a difficult game,” he said. “The amount of physicality, athleticism that they provide is something that we have to be aware of – both on the counter and also taking advantage. Because once they go forward they go forward in numbers and they can leave themselves exposed in the back.

“They’re using, really, their key guys that they were unable to use in the last cycle. And we’re looking forward to it. That’s what World Cup qualifying’s all about, and the competition it brings.”

Injuries have robbed the USMNT of their two most decorated creative presences, Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) and Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund). That combined with coach Gregg Berhalter’s stated emphasis on direct attacking play has focused attention on the pace and work rate of their likely replacements, like winger Paul Arriola.

“Gregg had mentioned about verticality and being able to get in behind and really create havoc for backlines,” said the D.C. United standout, one of the few members of the current roster carrying caps from the 2018 cycle on his résumé. “That’s something that Gregg really likes about me and the way that I play and the willingness to get in behind, with and without the ball.

“He’s always emphasized that the wingers get in behind. So for us it’s extremely important to find our attacking midfielders in pockets, to be able to turn and look forward and then to play wingers in behind. So coming into camp I know my role.”

Sounding very much like a member of a Seattle outfit who have maintained their usual place in the upper reaches of the MLS standings this season despite the injury woes of key contributors like Nicolas Lodeiro and Jordan Morris, Roldan made clear that the USMNT believe they have ample depth for this month’s tasks.

“Yeah we’re losing talent for sure, without Christian and Gio,” he said. “Those guys play in the top teams in the world and they’re capable of unbalancing a team. We’re losing a lot of quality, guys that dribble and find that final pass. However on the flip side now we have more runners, we have guys that are playing off the ball, less ball to feet and now more into space. So we can really stretch guys in behind with the players that we have here. But look, it’s next-man-up mentality… we have the guys that can get the job done at camp.”