USA faces confident Reggae Boyz in Gold Cup

[USA CONFIDENTIAL] On form, Jamaica probably rates an unfamiliar role as favorite for its quarterfinal against the USA at RFK Stadium on Sunday, despite not being able to win any of the 17 previous matches between the countries.

As soon as the Gold Cup groups were announced, Jamaica looked a good bet to not only advance into the knockout phases but perhaps qualify for its first final.

It has done nothing to dispel that sentiment while reeling off three straight wins in group play while scoring seven goals and conceding none. It gets a prime opportunity to confirm its class with a quarterfinal against the USA Sunday (3 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Channel, Univision) in Washington, D.C., where 14 years ago in a Concacaf Hexagonal qualifier it recorded a 1-1 tie on its way to the 1998 World Cup.

A midfield mainstay of the team that sent the island nation into ecstasy when it qualified for its first World Cup, Coach Theodore Whitmore says the current squad can meet his expectations by beating the Americans. “We came here to at least be in the semifinal,” he said to “When we are looking at the next game we know it’s going to be tough.”

In the match U.S. attacker Landon Donovan will face keeper, namesake and Galaxy teammate Donovan Ricketts, who is one of seven MLS players on Jamaica’s roster. “They're a good team,” said Donovan. “They're certainly confident. We need to continue to improve. It's going to be a test for us.”

Jamaica qualified for the elimination phase with a game to spare by thumping Guatemala (2-0) and Grenada (4-0), and polished off group play with yet another shutout, a 1-0 dispatch of Honduras at Red Bull Arena. Pelted by debris from hostile Honduran fans, the Jamaicans stuck to their task and exhibited a discipline that has been lacking at times in the past.

“We have made a lot of progress; we have a set of guys who have been working for a year, a good bunch, disciplined and everything,” says Whitmore of a team that has also displayed an ability to keep the ball, rather than charge forward with it brazenly and sometimes recklessly at the slightest opportunity. Holding the ball under pressure and playing it smartly was a facet of Whitmore’s play as well.

“I think what we brought to this tournament is ball possession, because we tended to give away the ball a lot,” says Whitmore, who coached the team at the Gold Cup two years ago when it failed to get out of the first round. “So we can see a difference in our ball possession.

“We look at 2009. We went out at this stage and we're actually in the quarterfinals now, so I think the future is bright for the Jamaican national team.”

If the future is to brighten for the U.S. it will need to sharpen many elements of its game, starting with finishing. On a total of 36 shots in the past two games against Panama and Guadeloupe, it has scored just twice. The majority of those shots either missed the target or didn’t seriously test the goalkeeper.

It needs to raise its game tactically and physically, and also emotionally in an RFK Stadium of which sections will be awash in the Jamaican colors of green and gold. Also prominent will be the blue and white of El Salvador, which plays Panama in the second game of a doubleheader. The winners advance to play a semifinal Wednesday in Houston.

“Even though the games are being played in America, sometimes we have five percent of the crowd,” says center back Clarence Goodson, who played four games of the 2009 tournament and has started the three games in this competition. “Whether it be against Honduras or Mexico or whatever, we’re certainly outnumbered, so it certainly feels like an away match.”

The Americans last played at RFK on Oct. 14, 2009, in the final game of the Hexagonal qualifying schedule. Jonathan Bornstein scored in stoppage time to earn the U.S. a 2-2 tie that pushed it atop the final standings. That game took place less than two days after forward Charlie Davies suffered severe injuries in a car crash that knocked him off the 2010 World Cup roster.

Now playing on loan with D.C. United, Davies was excluded from the Gold Cup roster. He has visited the U.S. camp this week; not present at training sessions are Donovan and Clint Dempsey, who have been given permission by U.S. Soccer to attend their sisters’ weddings Saturday in California and Texas, respectively. They will arrive in Washington on private jets sometime in the evening. Kickoff for USA-Jamaica is 3 p.m. local time.

In 17 games against Jamaica dating back to 1988, the USA is 9-0-8, but in the past two weeks, the Reggae Boyz have certainly looked better.

“We recognize what we’re doing wrong,” says U.S. forward Jozy Altidore, scorer of a spectacular goal from distance in the 1-0 win over Guadaloupe Tuesday that featured a plethora of squandered chances. He was only 16 when the teams last met, a 1-1 tie in Cary, N.C., more than five years ago.

“We have to come out and press all over the field and play some exciting soccer. We’ve addressed it. Little by little we’re getting better and when the games are on the line, in the bigger games, we’re going to play well.”

17 comments about "USA faces confident Reggae Boyz in Gold Cup".
  1. Paolo Jacobs, June 17, 2011 at 4:47 a.m.

    I sure hope Jozy's right!

  2. James Froehlich, June 17, 2011 at 9:57 a.m.

    I found the following two comments to be quite illuminating about the approach to playing soccer: (1)"a team that has also displayed an ability to keep the ball, rather than charge forward with it brazenly and sometimes recklessly at the slightest opportunity. Holding the ball under pressure and playing it smartly was a facet of Whitmore’s play as well." (2) "It needs to raise its game tactically and physically, and also emotionall..." (3)"“We have to come out and press all over the field and play some exciting ...." Two of those comments were about the US team and the other about the Jamaican team. Which team would you come out to watch ??????

  3. Robert Johnson, June 17, 2011 at 11:14 a.m.

    As far as the fans go... Keep in mind that many of them have dual interests. At the last gold cup final (a thumping of the US by Mexico)many of the fans started the match waiving the USA colors. As the match progressed and it was apparent that Mexico would win in a blow-out (of a young team minus many of it's key players) the crowd increasingly became more green (Mexico). The US should keep this in mind because these fans will root for a US team because they either are or will become proud Americans when given something to cheer for.

  4. Robert Johnson, June 17, 2011 at 1:06 p.m.

    At the last gold cup final in Meadowlands the fans started out being about 60/40 for US. By 10 minutes into the 2nd half it was 90/10 Mexico. Just saying many of the fans attending these games in the US are also US fans...

  5. Robert Johnson, June 17, 2011 at 1:13 p.m.

    So Ric... A brief search reveals that you are Latino living in LA area, run a Soccer shop, and also teach history at a local college. Who are you rooting for?

  6. John Soares, June 17, 2011 at 1:55 p.m.

    Rantin Ric, doesn't root for anyone. ONLY against. History teacher, that explains a lot. Noble profession. "BUT" Repeating/comenting even criticizing what has already happened. No original thougt/solution required. Yeah, that's Ric.

  7. James Froehlich, June 17, 2011 at 2:37 p.m.

    Well, John, given the "see no evil, speak no evil" attitude of most US fans, ranting is a dirty job that needs to be done by someone!! Keep up the good work Ric!
    BTW -- isn't the old saying about history appropriate here: those who are ignorant of history are destined to repeat it -- sounds like the history of USSF.

  8. Luis Arreola, June 17, 2011 at 3:18 p.m.

    USA will lose this one. Jamaica is probably more physical than USA and are looking decent moving the ball around. USA should drop to about 35-40 in Rankings. Mexico wins it all to move up to 15-20.

  9. Robert Johnson, June 17, 2011 at 3:51 p.m.

    Lets not forget the USA's somewhat impressive recent performances. Looking for them to gel a little and at least put together a cohesive performance. Jamaica has some decent MLS players but lets not get too fearful of that. Altidore, Dempsey, Donavan, and Bradley figure it out and get a couple. Onyewu makes an appearance and demonstrates some physicality on the backline. Coach Bradley shows some passion for a change. US gets the result.

  10. John Soares, June 17, 2011 at 4:15 p.m.

    James, you make (half) a good point...
    There is, however a big difference between whinning and constructive criticism. Simply complaining about history does not provide for a better future. AND that is my main issue/objection to many of the rants. It's Monday morning quarterbacking of what coulda/shoulda been. Easy, but no help.

  11. James Froehlich, June 17, 2011 at 6:09 p.m.

    John -- you have a perfect right to look at it as whining but to me it strikes a deep chord. For 30 years I have watched US Soccer mired in the depths of physicality. Constant lip service paid to the idea of more skillful player development and very little comes of it. Periodically a coach may pop up who says the right things but nothing ever comes of it. For 30 years the fans of the day would claim how far we had come but the results of this advance were never consistent till now we look at the class who will replace Donovan and Dempsey and we find few if any players who have DEMONSTRATED that they can step into those shoes. We talk about "fluke" wins as if they actually marked a turning point in our development. I would remind those so enamored of the Confed win against Spain that we also beat England in --- 1950. Soooo after you have watched US Soccer leaders p--s away our potential talent for another 30 years you may find yourself accused of whining too.

  12. Jamie Nicewander, June 17, 2011 at 6:30 p.m.

    “They're a good team,” said Donovan. “They're certainly confident. We need to continue to improve. It's going to be a test for us.”

    Jamaica is ranked what in the world? No offense but...
    Maybe im just being over critical.

    With the # of young men out there playing the beautiful sport, I find it incredible (and sad) that we can't produce a National Team that performs better on the world stage then the one we have witnessed in the last year.
    I think more notes need to be taken from the great teams out there.

    Barcelona has used the 'Masia' to create some amazing talent from their youth ranks (currently holds 300)and their team has dominated playing very attractive (dare say sexy?) posessiion attacking soccer. Spain also plays a very attractive game that doesn't require large physical specimens running "bigger, faster, stronger" because they understand the game itself. The players are creative, purposeful and play with intent...compared to our counterattacking style with long balls and set pieces dominating any real chance we have to win a game.
    Just an idea, but the wheel doesn't have to be reinvented, just look around and see what works. Is it that hard to do?

  13. John Soares, June 17, 2011 at 8:04 p.m.

    OK... Now we're talking. Let's get to the core and change/improve it! Bradley was hired to a job. He is going to do it his way, to the best of his ability.
    As would any of us would. When we don't succeed we get fired. I'm more than Ok with that. For many reasons we (the US) have not developed players to the best of their ability. Let'ts change that too. The US losing to Central America conutries, (no insult entended) embarassing. Do we have 18 players to win these games!? Obviously not. I too have been waiting and most often disapointed not just with the results, but even more so with level play. Do we need to make changes. OH YEAH! Big time. Firing a coach is one thing, perhaps a good start. Blaming him entirely for team performance and lack of player development is simplistic even silly. Calling him names and or making unfounded accusations says more about the indidual writing, than Bradley.

  14. Robert Johnson, June 17, 2011 at 8:29 p.m.

    US Soccer has not advanced in 30 years? Surely you jest! Do you remember the "Shot heard round the world". When Paul Caligiuri scored against Trinidad and Tobago and lead the US team to a 1-nil victory to qualify for the 1990 world cup? Agreed breaking into the top 10 has been difficult but we are much better than ever before. A long way to go yet and no bonafide superstars. But we do have lots of decent internationals now. No doubt US soccer will continue to advance.

  15. James Froehlich, June 18, 2011 at midnight

    Yes Robert, I heard the shot heard round the world and I watched it too. And here we are still beating Caribbean power houses 1 to 0. No offense meant but how can anyone think that we are developing "lots of decent internationals" unless you define "decent" as well below average. Take a look at the video showing the "best" of US soccer juggling. If you're satisfied with that level of skill from our USMNT,I'm not. Especially when I know personally numerous players who could make them look sick. I expect a lot because I've seen players out there who are better than our supposed "best"but for reasons too numerous to discuss here they have never had the chance. As long as folks like yourself are satisfied with our progress, the glacier will just keep creeping along, dropping back periodically then continuing on until the end of time. Better get comfortable it's going to be a long ride. Guess I'm just not patriotic enough to accept your definition of "advancing".

  16. Robert Johnson, June 18, 2011 at 11:50 a.m.

    The recent Gold Cup performances may be reflective of tired players coming off a long season without an opportunity to really have some down time or to gel as a team. Still a lot of tinkering going on to find the right mix, etc... But you do have a point James. I agree it is a frustrating pace. But I remember the days before MLS, when the Penn/Jersey Spirit played at Trenton State and there were no "US Professionals". We also now have some opportunities for college level players to advance. There are far more opportunities for player development now than in the past. And remember the John Harkes "Captain for Life" debacle when the US moved to a younger more promising set. Not sure how to put it on the fast track or if there is a better way. Is there a future Messi in the USA program waiting to be discovered and developed? Who knows... Just saying there is progress. Will be interested to see what Tab Ramos does with the program. In my view one of the more talented US players I have seen. Sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you don't. Oh and btw going with our boys to beat Jamaica Sunday.

  17. Private Jet, June 18, 2011 at 2:28 p.m.

    To fly to any destination on your prefer timing, prefer a private jet charter. This also allows you to travel safer and quicker too.

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