USA vs. Jamaica
2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup Semifinal
Wednesday, July 22 | 6 pm ET | Georgia Dome, Atlanta
TV: Fox Sports 1, UniMas, Sportsnet World
The United States remain Gold Cup favorites, but Jamaica have plenty of reason to believe 2015 is their opportunity to make history after winning a competitive Group B and disposing of Haiti in the quarterfinals.
Although the US have the clear edge historically – 13-1-8 in 21 meetings, including victories in the teams' past three meetings by a combined 5-1 margin – Jamaica did pull off a 2-1 upset in World Cup qualifying in September 2012, their first-ever win vs. the Americans.
BOYZ SAY PRESSURE ON USA: Jamaica may be trending upward following an encouraging Copa América appearance and Gold Cup semifinal run, but even they admit they're the clear underdogs against Jurgen Klinsmann's talented squad.
"We fancy our chances against anybody at the moment, obviously," Jobi McAnuff told the Jamaica Observer. "... the pressure may be more on them [the USA], given our recent results and where we were the slight favorites [against Haiti]."
Realistically speaking, there's no "may be" – the pressure is squarely on the Americans, who've won three of the past five tournaments and appeared in five straight finals.
If the US win the whole thing, they'll have a chance to book a Confederations Cup spot without the stress of a playoff. Jamaica, meanwhile, are simply hoping to make the first Gold Cup final in the nation's history.
ONUS ON DEUCE-JOHANNSSON: Jozy Altidore is back in Toronto, but the United States don't seem too concerned about goalscoring. Not with Clint Dempsey topping the Gold Cup charts with six goals and Aron Johannsson proving a capable replacement for the TFC Designated Player after opening his tournament account with a beautiful chip against Cuba.
Can the AZ Alkmaar man continue to grow into a larger role with the USMNT? It comes down to the final product, according to Klinsmann.
“For Aron, he’s not there yet where Clint is,” the German told FOX Soccer. “It is important to keep growing and get an opportunity to score goals. And then when you have them, put it in. Throughout the entire [Cuba] game, he was hungry. He was waiting for the next opportunity. That builds more confidence. It gives you a little bit more standing within the group.
“When you know somebody is leaving a camp and somebody else comes in, it’s always about re-positioning within the hierarchy of the team,” Klinsmann continued. “He wants to move up in the ranking, there’s no doubt about it."
WATSON AND BRADLEY: As far as matchups go, there may be none bigger than Je-Vaughn Watson vs. Michael Bradley, an all-MLS battle in central midfield. Watson, who was suspended for yellow-card accumulation against Haiti in the quarterfinals, is back in the fold to the delight of Jamaica head coach Winfried Schaefer.
"Watson is so good... it's like he cannot get tired; he keeps running and running," the German told the Jamaica Observer.
Why is that so important? According to assistant coach Miguel Coley, it's because the FC Dallas man will have his hands full trying to minimize the influence of Bradley, the creative fulcrum that connects the US defense to attackers such as Dempsey, Johannsson and Gyasi Zardes.
"The midfield will be key, you have Bradley playing there who works between the line as they are very patient and very dangerous," Coley said. "So in midfield we really have to be on top and play a solid game.
RUN DMB TRAINS: After the USMNT's comprehensive victory against Cuba in the quarters, there was but one damper on the performance: an issue with DaMarcus Beasley's calf.
The Houston Dynamo left back, who came out of international retirement to join the squad for the Gold Cup knockout round, was suffering from tightness in the muscle, according to a U.S. Soccer spokesperson. Not to worry, however, Beasley trained with the squad on Monday and Tuesday, participating in a full session ahead of Wednesday's match.