USA vs. Jamaica in the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup
USA vs. Jamaica in the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup

Gold Cup Preview: USA – Jamaica

4 minutes, 21 seconds Read

The United States Men’s National Team opens their Gold Cup campaign on Saturday night in Chicago’s Soldier Field, with what could be a tough matchup against a tricky, albeit inexperienced Jamaica squad.

Not even a week after they lifted their first trophy of the summer in Las Vegas, a heavily changed USMNT will try to defend their reign as Gold Cup champions. In Jamaica, they are facing a team that has become a tougher opponent in recent years.

While The Reggae Boyz have not actually beaten the US in a meaningful game since their famous 2015 Gold Cup semifinal victory, most of their recent meetings have been surprisingly close.

Jamaica’s 2019 friendly win notwithstanding, they managed to eke out a draw in the second of the teams’ two 2022 World Cup qualifying games, a game which they were perhaps unlucky to lose thanks to a pair of justifiably disputed call that went the Americans’ way.

Apart from that, the seemingly obligatory meeting of these two teams in nearly every Gold Cup has yielded narrow one-goal victories for the Americans in three of the four games since that fateful 2015 semifinal upset.

Perhaps the strongest weapon of the Jamaicans is on the sideline, with head coach Heimir Hallgrímsson having proven during his years in charge of Iceland to be a miracle worker with getting unexpectedly strong results from a fairly limited talent pool.

He brought the tiny nation to their first-ever UEFA European championship in 2016, where they knocked out England on their way to a surprising quarterfinal berth, then subsequently qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, albeit with less success in the final tournament.

He took over Jamaica in late-2022, although has yet to be fully tested in a competitive atmosphere, with his only non-friendly game being a 2-2 draw at Mexico in their final CONCACAF Nations League group-stage game in late-March.

As per usual in most Reggae Boyz squads, the team is a mish-mash of players from the top four divisions in England, several based in MLS, and a handful from other destinations such as Russia, Ukraine, Wales and their own domestic league.

Their most experienced player is the 75-times capped defender Kemar Lawrence, currently with Minnesota United, and Spartak Moscow’s Shamar Nicholson by and far the main goalscoring threat.

Keeper Andrew Blake also comes in with 64 caps, and will have the advantage of familiarity with the MLS-heavy USMNT team, having been the starter with Philadelphia Union since 2015.

Still, based on pedigree, talent and overall firepower, BJ Callaghan’s American squad should hold and edge and will still be overwhelming favorites to take the three points.

Callaghan began his short tenure as head coach in the best way possible, beating the team’s two main regional rivals, Mexico and Canada, on their way to a second straight Nations League title.

His haul of one trophy in two games is impressive, and he will be hopeful of adding a few more marks to his CV with what he hopes will be another six strong games on the way to another regional trophy.

The naysayers might say that he is simply taking advantage of a squad that Gregg Berhalter, and subsequently Anthony Hudson constructed. However, his combined 5-0 victories over the two teams that are supposed to be the Americans’ main regional rivals will stoke arguments that he has gotten more out of the team than either of his predecessors did.

Even though there are only a few holdovers from their title-winning squad of a few days ago, the core is still filled with enough talent and promise to get the job done.

While Jesús Ferreira, Jordan Morris and Alejandro Zendejas are the most likely starting trio up front for Saturday, U20 standout Cade Cowell and prolific MLS-scorer Brandon Vazquez will also certainly figure in, with Cowell being one of the players to watch on the team.

The 32-times capped Cristian Roldan is the most internationally experienced of the midfield collection, however AZ Alkmaar’s Djordje Mihailovic will be looking to make his mark after a series of unfortunate injuries during 2022 scuppered a path that might have eventually led to inclusion in the World Cup squad.

Alan Soñora is one of the holdovers from the Nations League squad, and the Juarez-based attacking midfielder could be in for a breakout tournament if Callaghan opts to deploy him alongside Mihailovic in what would be an exciting midfield combo.

The resurgent Matt Miazga finally gets his chance to push back into the main national team picture, but will be competing with US Soccer favorite Aaron Long for the starting center back role alongside Miles Robinson.

The wide roles in defense will force Callaghan to utilize a relatively internationally-inexperienced group of Bryan Reynolds, DeJuan Jones and John Tolkin alongside the 78-times capped DeAndre Yedlin, who could very well be seeing his last tournament in the Stars and Stripes.

In goal, starting keeper Matt Turner was also retained from the Nations League squad, but it is likely he will step aside for at least one or two games, to give future prospect Gabriel Slonina a chance to build upon his one cap so far.

The game kicks off at 10pm Eastern time in Chicago on Saturday night, in Chicago’s Solder Field.


David Smith

I'm YA's resident doctor, but not the kind of doctor you would want giving you an examination anywhere outside of a lecture hall. I've been YA's feet-on-the-ground in Germany since 2008, have an affinity for overly verbose descriptions of irrelevant minutiae, keep an eye on YAs in most of the destinations on mainland Europe, and watch a whole lot of Serie A.

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