USA vs. Jamaica
Friday, Feb. 3, 7:00 pm ET | Finley Stadium, Chattanooga, Tenn.
TV: FS1, UniMas, UDN
After a somewhat listless 0-0 draw against Serbia on Sunday, the US men’s national team will look to really shake the rust off on Friday, when they host CONCACAF foe Jamaica in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The friendly will be the final opportunity for US players to impress manager Bruce Arena ahead of the crucial World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and at Panama in March. It’ll also be the last shot for Arena, who used a lone-striker formation against Serbia, to settle on tactics ahead of those hugely important Hex matches next month.
There’s plenty of history between the US and Jamaica, with the Americans holding a 13-2-8 record against the Reggae Boyz in 23 matches going back to 1988. The two countries last met in the semifinals of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, where Jamaica pulled off a shocking 2-1 upset to advance to the tournament final. Friday’s match will be the first friendly between the two countries to be played on US soil since April 2006, when they played to a 1-1 draw in Cary, North Carolina.
As detailed by Matt Doyle in his postgame breakdown, the US used a 4-1-4-1 formation in Sunday’s draw against Serbia. Jozy Altidore was the lone forward and Michael Bradley lined up as a true defensive midfielder, while Alejandro Bedoya and Darlington Nagbe slotted in on the wings and Jermaine Jones and Sacha Kljestan manned the middle, with Kljestan playing as a No. 10.
The performance was decent, if not quite as dangerous as most would’ve liked. Nagbe was active and the midfield did well in possession and held firm defensively, especially through the middle. Still, they weren’t exactly creating a ton of chances, something they’ll look to change on Friday.
If Arena sticks with the same formation, the wingers will have to do a little bit more going forward if the US are to be more dangerous. But that’s not Bruce’s only option. He could switch to a two-forward formation that worked well at times in 2016 with Altidore and Bobby Wood, who is busy with his Bundesliga season and not in the current camp. If he goes to two strikers, look for Seattle Sounders man Jordan Morris to pair with Altidore up top.
The Reggae Boyz are out of the running in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, but they still have plenty to play for in 2017. Jamaica are prepping for this June’s 2017 Caribbean Cup, where they’ll look to defend their title against French Guiana, Curacao and Martinique. That tournament will be closely followed by the Gold Cup in July, where they’ll look to repeat their surprise 2015 run.
Like the US, Jamaica don’t have any of their European-based players available for Friday’s match. They’ll lean heavily on MLS players on Friday, with seven players from the league – Andre Blake, Oneil Fisher, Omar Holness, Kemar Lawrence, Alvas Powell, Je-Vaughn Watson and Romario Williams – included on Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore’s 20-man traveling roster.
Players to Watch
USA – Benny Feilhaber
Kljestan got the start and the lion’s share of minutes on Sunday, but Feilhaber was perhaps a bit more impactful after replacing the New York Red Bulls midfielder at the No. 10. These two are presumably locked into one of the most intriguing battles of the entire January camp, with the winner potentially putting himself in position to start as an attacking central midfielder in the two qualifiers in March. With Kljestan leaving camp on Monday to be with his expecting wife, Feilhaber should get serious run on Friday. We'll see if he takes advantage.
Jamaica – Alvas Powell
Still only 22, the fifth-year Timbers defender should be one of the more important defensive pieces for Portland in 2017. He’s one of the more experienced internationals on Jamaica’s roster, having already appeared 21 times for the Reggae Boyz. The right back may directly face off against his Timbers teammate Nagbe, who lined up on the left wing for the US on Sunday, in what would be one of the more intriguing individual matchups in Chattanooga.
DEFENDERS (8): DaMarcus Beasley (Unattached), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Greg Garza (Atlanta United FC), Chad Marshall (Seattle Sounders FC), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna | MEX), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union)
GOALKEEPERS (2): Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union), Ryan Thompson (St. Louis FC)
DEFENDERS (7): Sergio Campbell (Unattached), Oneil Fisher (Seattle Sounders), Rosario Harriott (Harbour View), Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls), Damion Lowe (Tampa Bay Rowdies), Alvas Powell (Portland Timbers), Ladale Richie (Montego Bay United)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Dwayne Ambusley (Montego Bay United), Michael Binns (Portmore United), Ewan Grandison (Portmore United), Omar Holness (Real Salt Lake), Kevon Lambert (Montego Bay United), Je-Vaughn Watson (New England Revolution)
FORWARDS (5): Cory Burke (Bethlehem Steel FC), Jourdain Fletcher (Montego Bay United), Owayne Gordon (Montego Bay United), Shamar Nicholson (Boys’ Town), Romario Williams (Atlanta United FC)
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