USA v Jamaica - Match Preview

USA vs Jamaica – Match Preview International tournaments are a rare occurrence. They are the pinnacle of a professional footballer’s career, an opportunity for a player to showcase their abilities on the grandest audiences. Normally to legions of patriotic fans who look on either from the crowd or from a distance, watching their heroes attempt to cement their place in history.

USMNT and surprise package Jamaica will both compete at Levis Stadium, Santa Clara on Thursday morning in the CONCACAF Gold Cup Final to do just that.

The Yanks may not hold this competition in the highest regard compared to the World Cup for instance, hence the initial squad excluding a lot of big names like Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey and including younger, more inexperienced players, but make no mistake Bruce Arena’s team definitely want to win this tournament.

The stars switched back into the side at the quarter-final stage, and Clint Dempsey did what he does best to seal Sunday’s 2-0 semi-final victory over Costa Rica with a goal that ties him as the country’s all-time leading goal-scorer with Landon Donovan on 57 strikes.

A quarter-final triumph over El Salvador by the same score-line demonstrates that in a tournament where there has been no single outstanding team, the United States are garnering momentum at the just the right time and are demonstrating championship credentials.

Mexico suffered the ignominy of defeat against Jamaica in the semi-finals, and the United States will do everything in their power to avoid facing the same fate.
The Stars and Stripes are the second most successful side in Gold Cup history with 5 victories, two behind bitter rivals Mexico, and this presents a fantastic opportunity to narrow the gap to a singular title. Not to mention the reward for victory is a guaranteed place in the CONCACAF play-off for the 2021 Confederations Cup.

Kemar Lawrence scored a last minute stunner for Jamaica to progress to the Final Photo Credit:concacaf.com

Jamaica will be inherently aware of that opportunity, by beating Curacao, Canada and Mexico on the way, they have the chance to elevate their underdog story to the highest reaches of the game by beating a CONCACAF superpower like the United States in an international tournament final.
Creating a chance to play against the World’s best at the Confederations Cup is something manager Theodore Whitmore will be desperate to achieve.

This is the second successive final for the Reggae Boyz which is an outstanding achievement, this two-year period has undoubtedly been the greatest in Jamaican history.
Exacting revenge against 2015 winners Mexico in Monday’s semi-final with a resilient 1-0 win illustrates how far they have come. To do so with a wonderful moment of individual brilliance like the free-kick Kemar Lawrence curled into the top corner in the 88th minute makes it so much sweeter.

This final should have an intriguing clash of styles, the Reggae Boyz have only conceded two goals in the entire tournament and will set up to force the United States, who like to attack and are the tournament’s highest scorers with a total of 11 goals so far, to dominate possession and break them down.

The United States are unquestionably massive favourites to claim their sixth CONCACAF Gold Cup crown but do not rule Jamaica out one bit – they have already conquered Mexico and have glory in their sights.

CONCACAF Gold Cup Final - USA vs Jamaica - Match Preview

Clint Dempsey could become USA’s all time top goalscorer with a goal in the CONCACAF Final Photo Credit: skysports.com

Player to Watch
Clint Dempsey is an USMNT legend, nothing will ever change that. However, he has an opportunity to enhance that legacy on Thursday by scoring the goal that will place him as his country’s record goal-scorer and with a penchant for finding the net when it matters, you wouldn’t bet against him doing it. The ex-New England Revolution, Fulham, Spurs and Seattle Sounders forward is seeking his third CONCACAF Gold Cup against the team who he began his international career against, with a debut v Jamaica 13 years ago in 2004. He has since made a total of 136 appearances for the United States and it would be a special moment for all involved to see him score the winner.

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CONCACAF Gold Cup Semi Final - Mexico v Jamaica - Match Preview

Mexico v Jamaica – Match Preview – The Rose Bowl, California will host the second CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-final as Mexico and Jamaica repeat the 2015 final and battle for the right to face the United States for the title.

Pre-tournament favourites Mexico have reached this stage in a comfortable, yet not completely convincing manner. Two expected wins in the group over El Salvador and Curacao, 3-1 and 2-0 respectively, alongside a 0-0 draw with tomorrow’s semi-final opponents Jamaica helped El Tri to finish top of Group C.

This set up a quarter-final meeting with Group A’s 3rd place finishers Honduras, who only obtained enough points to do so by virtue of a French Guiana forfeit for fielding an ineligible player (Florent Malouda).  An early Rodolfo Pizzaro goal proved enough to separate the two sides in a 1-0 win for Juan Carlos Osario’s side and place Mexico in their sixth successive semi-final in this competition.

The most successful team in the tournament’s history with 10 overall victories, Mexico’s dominance in the CONCACAF region brings a certain level of expectancy with it.
Consequently, despite also competing in the Confederations Cup this summer and finishing 4th, anything less than lifting the Gold Cup trophy on Wednesday will be viewed as a failure.
All the more important considering failure will give the chance for bitter rivals USMNT to claim bragging rights as the confederation’s best side.

The next obstacle for El Tri to accomplish that is Jamaica, in only their fourth ever Gold Cup semi-final but their second in succession, the Reggae Boyz have proven themselves to be capable again this campaign.

Romario Williams scored against Canada to help progress to the Semi Final

Like Mexico, Theodore Whitmore’s side are yet to lose in the competition after a 2-0 victory over Curacao and two draws against Mexico (0-0) and El Salvador (1-1).
Finishing 2nd in Group C saw a match-up against exciting tournament dark horses Canada and Jamaica duly dispatched the Canucks 2-1 courtesy of Shaun Francis and Romario Williams (yes named after ‘that’ Romario) strikes. Portland Timbers forward Darren Mattocks has been pivotal so far, scoring twice in the group stage and setting up both goals against Canada and will be vital for Jamaica securing a shock result.

Make no mistake, the Reggae Boyz are the underdogs here but in a Gold Cup where no single team has asserted dominance it leaves the door wide open for someone just like Jamaica to come and whisk away the title from the favourites.

 

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Curacao vs Mexico - Match Preview

Curacao vs Mexico – Match Preview – Curacao will face Mexico in the final round of the group fixtures at the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup. The Mexicans participated to a bore draw with Jamaica in their previous outing meaning that progression to the next round isn’t a certainty despite currently leading Group C. Curacao suffered a second successive 2-0 defeat, this time to El Salvador. Having conceded two goals in the first half hour, the Caribbean’s were unable to convert a 44th minute penalty; a coincidence that has summed up their Gold Cup campaign so far. That 2-0 defeat means Curacao will take the field for the final time at the tournament, whilst their opponents still have it all to play for with El Salvador and Jamaica breathing down their necks.

The Mexicans dominated their last match against the Jamaicans but were unable to convert their furiously superior possession into clear goal scoring chances. The Central Americans only managed three shots on target all match with a total of 73% possession; a statistic that reflects upon the inexperience of this fresh-faced Mexican side.

Manager, Juan Carlos Osario, will look to alter his sides tactics yet again in their bid for qualification to the knockout stages; after trialling an ineffective 4-4-2 that baffled a lot of supporters after Mexico’s previous success in a 4-3-3 formation in their curtain raiser. The bookmakers are expecting the Mexicans to come out victorious in this showdown, where a point will be enough to see them qualify through. Will Osario’s men come out on top?

Skybet Correct Score Betting – Mexico to Win 3-0, 3-1 or 3-2 – 11/4

Curacao will be bitterly disappointed with how their Gold Cup campaign has panned out. After a poor showing in their first match, things didn’t get any better for Ramko Bicentinni’s side who replicated their previous score line, proving unclinical in front of goal and unstable in their backline. With little to no expectations laid out for the Caribbean side before the tournament began, it’s safe to say that Curacao have not impressed and have been frustrating viewing for many impartial fans. With their qualification chances already out the window, Mexico should prove too much for the small island, however this tournament can provide shocks.

Skybet Match Result – Curacao to Win – 16/1

Team News

Neither side has any injuries or suspensions ahead of Monday’s fixture.

When these two met in 1970, Mexico won 7-0. Will another thrashing be on its way for Curacao?

 

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Nicaragua vs USA - Match Preview

Nicaragua vs USA – Match Preview – United States face Nicaragua in the FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, to conclude Group B knowing that if they better Panama’s result they will finish top and take them through to the quarter-finals.

Back in charge of USMNT for a second spell, Bruce Arena named a young and relatively untested squad for the 2017 Gold Cup, to raise the competitiveness for places in the World Cup next summer.

Hosts of this tournament, that inexperienced squad has four points from their opening two matches – level with Panama and with the same goal difference – but are top by virtue of goals scored.
A single point would guarantee USMNT’s passage to the last 8 – where they would meet the best third place team from Group A or C.

The second-favourites for the title, The Stars and Stripes have been unconvincing so far – a lethargic draw against Panama and an underwhelming 3-2 victory over Martinique has raised some questions for Arena and his side to answer.

However, it would take something remarkable for Nicaragua to surface from this match with a positive result so panic stations are not being called yet for the five-times champions.

Henry Duarte’s side were massive underdogs coming into this tournament, this year’s edition of the CONCACAF Gold Cup is the first time The Pinoleros have qualified for the tournament since 2009. In fact, it is only the second appearance Nicaragua have made in the competition since 1967 where they had a best-ever finish of 6th.
To further illustrate the point, Nicaragua have only ever avoided defeat once (with a draw) at the Gold Cup in every game they played.

This year, Nicaragua have so far lost 2-0 to Martinique and 2-1 to Panama. As such it would take a miracle to get out of the group, needing to beat the U.S. by several goals to secure a best-placed 3rd finish.

So that underdog status is accentuated when playing a CONCACAF powerhouse like the United States – especially when a result is needed by the latter. Nicaragua have nothing to lose and legend status to gain in their homeland. The recipe for an intriguing football match.

Jordan Morris Photo Credit: espnfc.com

Player to Watch
Forward Jordan Morris is doing his best to cement a place in Arena’s World Cup squad at this tournament – saving United States’ blushes with a well-taken brace in the narrow 3-2 victory over Martinique last time out. Morris is definitely capable, his breakthrough season with Seattle Sounders in 2016 displayed that – scoring 12 goals in 41 appearances. The 22-year-old, remarkably, is one of the more experienced players in this squad with 18 caps and will be raring to justify his selection for both this tournament, and hopefully for the ones to come.

 

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Canada vs Honduras - Match Preview

Canada vs Honduras – Match Preview – Group A concludes as Canada take on Honduras at the Toyota Stadium, Frisco, in the knowledge that just a draw will secure passage to the quarter-finals for the first time since 2009.

The Canucks have been the surprise package so far at this year’s Gold Cup, easily dispatching French Guiana 4-2 in the opening match and then battling to earn a well-deserved 1-1 draw against 2014 World Cup quarter-finalists Costa Rica.

A major part of Canada’s success is down to breakout star Alphonso Davies, the 16-year-old became the first player born in 2000 or later to feature in MLS and has continued his rise to stardom by becoming the first player to hit three goals in the opening two matches in the 2017 Gold Cup.

Alphonso Davies Photo Credit: goal.com

Octavio Zambrano’s side currently sit at the top of Group A on four points, level with Costa Rica but ahead on goal difference. The two-time winners of this tournament (1985 and 2000) will be hoping to proceed in this vein of form and become real outside contenders for the crown.

1981 Gold Cup victors Honduras, conversely, have been one of the competition’s biggest disappointments. The Catrachos haven’t even scored a goal so far after dismal performances in firstly the 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica and secondly the 0-0 draw with French Guiana. Fortunately, Jorge Luis Pinto’s side were handed a 3-0 win by CONCACAF after French Guiana fielded an ineligible player, captain Florent Malouda who has represented France on 80 occasions, so had a forfeit imposed.

This takes Honduras fortuitously to 3rd and within one point off both Canada and Costa Rica going in to the final game, allowing any combination of two from the three sides to go through. So, it is all to play for thanks to divine, or in this case regulatory body, intervention.

Team News
The abovementioned Alphonso Davies was substituted after 69 minutes in the draw with Costa Rica amid concerns of an ankle injury, so may not be 100% and consequentially might have to settle for a spot on the bench – a big blow for Canada.

Honduras have no new injury concerns and will have a full squad to choose from in this crucial match.

 

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Costa Rica vs French Guiana - Match Preview

Costa Rica vs French Guiana – Match Preview – Costa Rica face French Guiana in the last round of group fixtures at the CONCACAF Gold Cup. The favourites, Costa Rica, drew in their last outing against the Group A leaders, Canada. An equaliser on the stroke of half time by Francisco Calvo was all the Central American outfit could conjure up from their 20 total shots. French Guiana’s second match against Honduras ended in a bore draw and a very evenly contested match; with nothing to spilt on possession. All is still possible for French Guiana who are currently at the foot of Group A but this tough Costa Rican opposition will be looking to secure their place in the next round.

Marco Urena Photo Credit: skysports.com

Costa Rica illustrated some much-improved defensive tactics against Canada in their previous match. Canada’s clear attacking threat was hushed to a minimum which allowed the Central American’s counter attacking potential to flourish. Oscar Ramirez’ team were unfortunate to not get all three points from the match with the Group leaders but can secure their place in the next round with a point against French Guiana. Striker, Marco Urena, was unable to convert numerous chances in the last match but was able to net in their opener against Honduras. The striker remains a big threat to the French Guiana defence and will have to be man-marked if they wish to keep him quiet. Can Oscar Ramirez’ men get the job done?

Skybet Match Result – Costa Rica to Win – 2/11

The bookmakers are not giving French Guiana much chance in this one. After defeat to Canada in a six-goal thriller, French Guiana went toe to toe with Honduras and will be frustrated they were unable to be more clinical. Striker, Sloan Privat, will be head coach, Jair Karam’s biggest threat. Privat scored in French Guiana’s first match against Canada; which was French Guiana’s first ever appearance at the Gold Cup. As aforementioned, French Guiana are huge outsiders for this match however impressed in that previous bore draw with Honduras. Can French Guiana pull of the biggest shock so far at the CONCACAF Gold Cup?

Skybet Match Result – French Guiana to Win – 14/1

Team News

Both left back, Bryan Oviedo, and winger, Joel Campbell, are doubtful ahead of this match due to minor injuries.

French Guiana have no fresh injury worries or suspensions to alter team selection.

Mexico vs Jamaica - Match Preview

Mexico vs Jamaica – Match Preview – Mexico will face Jamaica in the second round of group fixtures at the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Both nations earned three points in their openers and are occupying the top two spots in Group C. As we previously predicted, history did repeat itself for Mexico and El Salvador as the Mexicans once again were victorious 3-1 over their Central American opponents; three goals inside the first hour was enough to see them over the line. Jamaica were clinical in their 2-0 win over Curacao, with less shots and possession than their Caribbean opponents, however, two second half goals secured their first points of the campaign.

Elias Hernandez Photo Credit: espnfc.com

The Mexicans are favourites to lift the Gold Cup and showed exactly why in their previous outing; their young and uncapped fringe players took the initiative and were ruthless in attack. However, in typical Mexican fashion, weaknesses were exposed by El Salvador and will be manager, Juan Carlos Osario’s priority ahead of this showdown. Osario however will not be on the touchline for this match as he will continue to serve his six-match touchline ban following his misconduct during the Confederations Cup. Winger, Elias Hernandez, will be the Mexicans biggest threat after he turned plenty of heads with a stunning performance against El Salvador. The Morelia winger scored once and assisted twice; the pick of the bunch being a delightful set-piece delivery to Hedgardo Marin to score the games opener. Can Mexico secure their place in the next round?

Skybet Match Result – Mexico to Win – 2/5

Jamaica will be happy with their curtain raiser as they overcame their Caribbean rivals, Curacao, with a clinical, efficient performance that left manager, Winfried Schafer, a base to build on. However, a few rather alarming frailties were brought to the spotlight that would suggest they are going to struggle against the Mexicans. Although being victorious on the most important match statistic, the score line, the Jamaicans struggled to sync for much of the match and were lucky to not concede against a Curacao side that were frustrated with their lack of composure. Mexico will be able to expose these weaknesses with more finesse than Curacao did and could be a mountain too high for the Jamaicans to climb, but the bookmakers could be in for a surprise.

Skybet Match Result – Jamaica to Win – 7/1

Neither nation has any injuries or suspensions to worry about ahead of Friday’s match.

The last time these two met, Mexico won 2-0. After successfully tipping the score line for Mexico’s last match vs El Salvador, could history repeat itself yet again?

Skybet Correct Score – Mexico to Win 2-0 – 11/2

Costa Rica vs Canada - Match Preview

Costa Rica vs Canada – Match Preview – Costa Rica face Canada in the second group fixtures of their Confederations Gold Cup campaigns. Both nations were victorious in their curtain raisers which was expected when considering their opposition. The South Americans beat Honduras in a 1-0 win thanks to a first half goal from lone striker, Marco Urena. Whilst the Canadians had no issue finding the net in a thrilling 4-2 victory over French Guiana seeing them currently at the top of Group A.

Costa Rica will be looking to build on their win over Honduras and seem to be one of the tournament favourites on the outrights. With a strong squad consisting of Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell, they are also favourites to leapfrog Canada at top spot this Wednesday. It isn’t often that Costa Rica are in high scoring affairs, however, Canada’s attacking prowess will mean Costa Rica should throw the same amount of manpower at the Canadian defence. Often a very rigid, organised group with a ‘build from the back’ mentality installed by manager, Oscar Martinez, the South American outfit will expect to keep the Canadians quiet with Palermo’s, Giancarlo Gonzalez, at the heart of the defence.

Skybet Match Result – Costa Rica to Win – 4/6

Alphonso Davies could be Canada’s star man this tournament Photo Credit: usatoday.com

The Canadians will be looking to cause an upset with the bookmakers and hold their spot at the top of Group A this Wednesday. After bagging four goals in their previous outing, the North Americans will look to ride their goal-scoring momentum into this match against the tough Costa Rican side. Midfielder, Alphonso Davies, was in sublime form following a very impressive season at Vancouver Whitecaps after netting two goals in the second half that helped Canada create history; scoring four goals for the first time ever in a Gold Cup match. The Canadians will look to tighten up defensively however, as French Guiana provided a scare to the Canadian camp when scoring two goals in two minutes. Whilst the bookmakers fancy Costa Rica to come out victorious, this Canadian side will look to attack, attack, attack.

Skybet Match Result – Canada to Win – 5/1

Team News

Costa Rica are without forward, Johan Vanegas, whose match was cut short against Honduras with injury.

Canada have no fresh injury worries or suspensions to alter their team selection.

 

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USA vs Panama - Match Preview

USA vs Panama – Match Preview- The United States kick-off their Gold Cup by facing Panama at the Nissan Stadium in Nashville, hoping to reclaim the crown from Mexico.

Hosts for every tournament since the Gold Cup’s inception in 1991, the United States have a level of expectation on their shoulders. The winner of this tournament faces the previous winner of this tournament in a play-off match to reach the Confederations Cup – a massive prize for teams in this competition.

This expectation is heightened based on the fact USMNT are one of only three teams to ever win the title (alongside Canada and Mexico) and only one of two to ever be victorious more than once (five times, with Mexico’s seven).

The Stars and Stripes are second favourites for this year’s edition behind arch-rivals Mexico, and Bruce Arena will be raring to capture his first title since his return as United States manager. His side face a tricky opening task to start in winning ways against overachievers Panama. In fact, this fixture is a repeat of the 2013 final – where USMNT came away with a 1-0 and the trophy.

Panama will not be taken lightly, and in fact have a rather incredible record in this competition in recent times relative to their population size and general footballing stature.

Los Canaleros have reached the quarter-finals or better in all 6 CONCACAF Gold Cups since 2005, and reached the semi-finals in each of the last three tournaments, finishing in third place in 2015 after a victory over the United States in the 3rd place play-off on penalty kicks. Also, as mentioned above Panama were runners-up (to the same opponents) in 2013 – an astounding achievement.

Ominously though, Los Canaleros have only ever beaten USMNT once in normal play, in the 2011 Gold Cup Group Stage. Could a shock be on the cards?

Dom Dwyer celebrates with team mate Acosta Photo Credit: The Canadian Press

Team News 
U.S soccer has one true wonderkid in its ranks at present, Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic. However, the highly-rated midfielder hasn’t been named in Bruce Arena’s squad so will rely on other creative forces such as Dax McCarty and Gyasi Zardes alongside new faces such as forward Dom Dwyer and uncapped Cristian Rolden. Familiar faces in the 23 include Erik Lichaj of Nottingham Forest and ex-Aston Villa and Middlesbrough goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

Gabriel Gomez is Panama’s all time record appearance holder Photo Credit: MexSport

Panama’s team will be reliant on stalwarts such as all-time record appearance maker Gabriel Gomez in midfield (132 caps), Toronto’s Armando Cooper (86 caps) and San Jose Earthquakes’ Anibal Godoy (77 caps).

Full squads

United States:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (New York City FC)

DEFENDERS (8): Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca, MEX), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest, ENG), Matt Miazga (Chelsea, ENG), Justin Morrow (Toronto FC), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna, MEX), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana, MEX), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana, MEX), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

FORWARDS (3): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Dom Dwyer (Sporting Kansas City), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC)

Panama:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Jose Calderon (CD Marathon, HON); Orlando Mosquera (Tauro FC, PAN); Alex Rodriguez (San Francisco FC, PAN)

DEFENDERS (8): Roberto Chen (Deportivo Arabe Unido, PAN); Eric Davis (FC DAC 1904 DunajskA Streda, SVK); Fidel Escobar (Unattached); Roderick Miller (Atlético Nacional, COL); Michael Amir Murillo (New York Red Bulls, USA); Luis Ovalle (Unattached); Angel Patrick (Deportivo Arabe Unido, PAN); Jan Carlos Vargas (Tauro FC, PAN)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Edgar Yoel Barcenas (Cafetaleros de Tapachula, MEX); Miguel Camargo (New York City FC, USA); Armando Cooper (Toronto FC, CAN); Anibal Godoy (San Jose Earthquakes, USA); Gabriel Gomez (Atlético Bucaramanga, COL); Leslie Heraldez (Deportivo Arabe Unido, PAN); Josiel Nuñez (CD Plaza Amador, PAN); Valentin Pimentel (CD Plaza Amador, PAN)

FORWARDS (4): Abdiel Arroyo (Danubio FC, URU); Ricardo Clarke (Unattached); Ismael Diaz (FC Porto, POR); Gabriel Torres (FC Lausanne-Sport, SUI)

 

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