The United States Men’s National Team is back in action for World Cup qualifying as they take on Jamaica tomorrow at Q2 Stadium in Austin. The United States are hoping to start this window out in a big way against a Jamaica team that entered the Octagonal with high expectations but only took 1 point from their first 3 matches. The USMNT, in 2nd place in the standings, hope to make it a big October to solidly maintain their place in the top 3.
The USMNT are short a couple of their star players, including Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, and John Brooks. Still, they need to take care of business against a team that will have in almost all of their main players.
W (4-1) - Honduras - World Cup Qualifying
D (1-1) - Canada - World Cup Qualifying
D (0-0) - El Salvador - World Cup Qualifying
W (1-0) - Mexico - Gold Cup Final
W (1-0) - Qatar - Gold Cup Semifinals
D (1-1) - Costa Rica - World Cup Qualifying
L (0-3) - Panama - World Cup Qualifying
L (1-2) - Mexico - World Cup Qualifying
L (0-1) - United States - Gold Cup Quarterfinals
L (2-0) - Costa Rica - Gold Cup Group C
What To Watch For
Fight the physicality. The last time the USMNT played Jamaica was the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup. In that match, the Reggae Boyz really brought the pressure and intensity as they had the Americans flat-footed for most of the match. These matches between the two teams are always physical, and Gregg Berhalter will have to make sure his guys are prepared to withstand that physicality. In March, they did just that in a 4-1 friendly victory over Jamaica. They did a poorer job of it during the Gold Cup, so they’ll need to learn from that and be stronger on the ball.
Utilize the flanks. The successes that the USMNT have had in both matches this year against Jamaica have come from the flanks. Those advantages continue to be there, and if they can use that to feed balls into the box and create offense, Jamaica will have a tough time with it. It will also tire out the Jamaican defense, which will lead to more holes down the stretch.
Midfield needs to have a good day. The midfield has to not only be the engine, it has to be the brick wall. They also have to be the heartbeat of the team, making sure the link between defense and offense remains constant. That was missing last window for vast stretches, so it should be a key focus during this match.
There are a few ways that Gregg Berhalter can go for his lineup, especially with some key players not in camp due to injury. Still, there are some options that he can call upon, but he likely goes with this lineup:
The biggest story will be who starts in goal for the USMNT. Zack Steffen and Matt Turner both have staked claims to the job, but Steffen has not sat in a competitive match when healthy under Gregg Berhalter. Because he also will not be able to play in Panama, he gets the start here over the hot Turner.
The back line is a little more composed, with Antonee Robinson and Sergiño Dest occupying the fullback positions. At the centerback spots, the Walker Zimmerman-Miles Robinson combo worked during the group stage of the Gold Cup, and it’s likely we see that duo start.
In the middle, Weston McKennie is back and will once again start in that box-to-box role, with Tyler Adams continuing his role at the 6 (where he belongs). Sebastian Lletget is the 3rd midfielder, as he’s done a great job of combating the physicality a USA-Jamaica match brings.
Up front, Ricardo Pepi gets the start at the 9, with Gyasi Zardes coming in to relieve him at some point. Brenden Aaronson and Tim Weah take the wings, but don’t be surprised to see Paul Arriola on the field instead of one of Aaronson and Weah (likely Weah) if Berhalter wants another worker on the wings.
This is a match that will have a great atmosphere, a lot of emotion, and will be a battle on the field. The USMNT don’t struggle, but Jamaica makes it a match until a USMNT goal in the middle of the 2nd half opens things up. They add another one before the final whistle blows to make it a 2-0 USA victory.