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Reggae Boyz have backs against the wall
by Paul Kennedy, June 7th, 2013 12:12AM

TAGS:  men's national team, world cup 2014


[JAMAICA-USA] It's basically do-or-die for Jamaica Friday night when it hosts the USA in the Hexagonal at the National Stadium in Kingston (TV: BeIN SPORT, 9:30 p.m. ET). A loss will all but kill the last-place Reggae Boyz's hopes of going to the 2014 World Cup. But a win Friday night will leapfrog Jamaica over the USA -- and drop the USA into the basement of the Hexagonal.

The one thing that's certain about Friday's match is the two teams will hardly recognize themselves from when Jamaica beat the USA, 2-1, in Kingston a year ago for its first win ever over the USA in 19 meetings.

With the exception of the 0-0 tie at Mexico -- in a match it was nevertheless outshot 19-1 -- USA has not played well on the road in World Cup 2014 qualifying, and the worst effort was the game in Kingston in September 2012 when the USA fell, 2-1, after leading on Clint Dempsey's first-minute goal.

The U.S. backline expected to start on Friday -- Brad Evans, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler and DaMarcus Beasley -- is entirely changed from the team that played in September 2012.

Only four Jamaicans who started in their 2-1 win last year -- Adrian Mariappa, Rodolph Austin, FC Dallas midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson and Portland Timbers striker Ryan Johnson -- played in Tuesday's 1-0 loss to Mexico.

The frailties of the U.S. backline aside, a case can be made that the U.S. front six Jurgen Klinsmann put out against Germany on Sunday is a more cohesive and balanced unit than the team he put out -- with three midfielders Maurice Edu, Danny Williams and Jermaine Jones -- in Kingston last year.

The same cannot be said for the new-look Jamaica lineup.

Despite wholesale changes in the Jamaican squad -- including an influx of Englishmen with Jamaican heritage -- things have not gone well for Tappa Whitmore's Boyz since their improbable 0-0 tie with Mexico in the Hexagonal opener.

Jamaica has just 10 goals in 10 qualifiers, and its three leading scorers -- including all-time goals leader Luton Shelton -- are not with the team for the June qualifiers. Ryan Johnson is a force up front, but he has been starved for support.

Whitmore was disappointed with the reaction of his players after they fell behind on Tuesday.

"When we went behind, I think we were a bit flat," observed Whitmore. "We started to back off."

He remains optimistic, believing that a split against the USA and Mexico is better than a pair of ties against the North American favorites.

"Our backs are against the wall," he said after Tuesday's game, "but I think we are just one win away."

YELLOW CARD WATCH: These players have yellow cards: Michael Bradley, Brad Davis, Clint Dempsey, Fabian Johnson, Graham Zusi, Beasley and Besler -- and will be suspended if they pick up another caution.

TRAVELING SQUAD. All but Davis are expected to start Friday night. The only player in the traveling part of 25 -- 23 can dress -- not expected to play is Herculez Gomez, who has been bothered by a knee contusion. Brek Shea, who is rehabbing in Dallas, did not rejoin the team.

JAMAICA BREAKDOWN. Six MLS players played for Jamaica when it faced the USA in September 2012 in Kingston. Just four are with the Reggae Boyz now. One of the backup keepers is University of Connecticut star Andre Blake. Reading midfielder Jobi McAnuff left the Reggae Boyz camp because his wife is expecting a baby.

U.S. Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa/ENG), Tim Howard (Everton/ENG), Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo)
DEFENDERS (8): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla/MEX), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana/MEX), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (Brondby/DEN), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim/GER), Michael Parkhurst (Augsburg/GER)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Michael Bradley (Roma/ITA), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana/MEX), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Stuart Holden (Bolton Wanderers/ENG), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04/GER), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht/BEL), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim/GER)
FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (AZ/NED), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna/AUT), Clint Dempsey (Tottenham/ENG), Herculez Gomez (Santos/MEX), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders FC)

Jamaica Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (4): Donovan Ricketts (Portland Timbers), Dwayne Miller (Syrianska/SWE), Andre Blake (Univ. of Connecticut), Richard McCallum (Waterhouse).
DEFENDERS (7): Alvas Powell (Portmore United), Adrian Mariappa (Reading/ENG), Demar Phillips (Aalesunds FK/NOR), Xavian Virgo (Harbour View), O'Brian Woodbine (VPS/FIN), Montrose Phinn (Harbour View), Daniel Gordon (Karlsruhe/GER).
MIDFIELDERS (7): Jermaine Johnson (Sheffield Wednesday/ENG), Rudolph Austin (Leeds United/ENG) Marvin Elliot (Bristol City/ENG), Jermaine Hue (Harbour View), Keammar Daley (Tivoli Gardens), Damian Williams (Nybergsund/NOR), Evan Taylor (Harbour View).
FORWARDS (7): Garath McCleary (Reading/ENG), Theo Robinson (Derby County/ENG), Ryan Johnson (Portland Timbers), Dane Richards (Burnley/ENG), Jermaine Beckford (Huddersfield Town/ENG), Jermie Lynch (Harbour View), Darren Mattocks (Vancouver Whitecaps).

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