It’s already crunch time at the Gold Cup, and there’s no room for error. Both Canada and Jamaica played to hard-fought draws in their respective group-stage openers, but both teams will be hungry for full points in this one. Jamaica can afford a draw, while Canada desperately needs a win to keep its dreams of a deep run alive.
CAN LARIN RECOVER?: Rookie Cyle Larin, after a horrendous miss against El Salvador, will need to find a way to regain his composure, and his scoring touch. While that missed opportunity surely took a knock at the 20-year-old’s confidence, he’ll need to bounce back if Canada is to have any hope of advancing.
FEEL THE HEAT: It’ll feel like 100 degrees fahrenheit (high 30s Celsius) in Houston on Saturday, making the task of playing on two days’ rest even more arduous for both teams. One can easily imagine, however, that those who grew up in Jamaica might be better suited to perform in such conditions than those from Canada.
LINEUP SHUFFLE: With Atiba Hutchinson out and Julian de Guzman failing a late fitness test, Canadian manager Benito Floro surprisingly went with Adam Straith, Samuel Piette and Kyle Bekker in central midfield against El Salvador. With goals a necessity against Jamaica, will we see one (or both) of Jonathan Osorio and Russell Teibert in the starting lineup to provide some playmaking punch?
BACKLINE BATTLE: Both teams had some early-tournament defensive difficulties in their openers; Costa Rica punished Jamaica for theirs, while Canada was nearly undone by theirs against El Salvador. The team that is best able to tighten up on Saturday will be in an advantageous position to gain maximum points.
THE STAR YOU KNOW
Giles Barnes, F, Jamaica. After a long process just to make himself eligible to play for Jamaica, the 26-year-old has thus far relished his time with the Reggae Boyz. The Houston Dynamo attacker will be playing in his customary home stadium on Saturday, providing him with even more incentive to make a big impact.
THE PLAYER WHO WILL SURPRISE YOU
Tesho Akindele, M/F, Canada. He’s hardly an unknown quantity to MLS fans, but the 23-year-old has yet to fully assert himself in a Canada uniform. He followed a nervous Canada debut last month with a goal in his next game; perhaps with the Gold Cup butterflies now out, he’s ready to put the team on his back against Jamaica