A new CONCACAF Gold Cup champion will be crowned tonight as the United States take on underdogs Jamaica. Jamaica pulled off an incredible upset in the semifinals, beating Mexico 1-0 thanks to a late Kemar Lawrence free kick. The USMNT advanced to the final after defeating Costa Rica 2-0.
Since 1988, Jamaica holds a 2-14-9 record against the USMNT. However, the Reggae Boyz did defeat the USMNT 2-1 in the 2015 Gold Cup semifinals. In their most recent meeting, a February 3, 2017 friendly, the United States won 1-0.
Goalkeepers: Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union), Damion Hyatt (Arnett Gardens FC), Dwayne Miller (Valsta Syrianska IK)
Defenders: Sergio Campbell (Pittsburgh Riverhounds), Oniel Fisher (Seattle Sounders), Shaun Francis (San Jose Earthquakes), Rosario Harriott (Harbour View FC), Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls), Damion Lowe (Tampa Bay Rowdies), Alvas Powell (Portland Timbers), Ladle Richie (Montego Bay United FC), Jermaine Taylor (Minnesota United FC)
Midfielders: Michael Binns (Portmore United FC), Ewan Grandison (Portmore United FC), Kevon Lambert (FK Vojvodina), Ricardo Morris (Portmore United FC), Je-Vaughn Watson (New England Revolution)
Forwards: Cory Burke (Bethlehem Steel), Owayne Gordon (Montego Bay United FC), Jermaine Johnson (Tivoli Gardens FC), Darren Mattocks (Portland Timbers), Shamar Nicholson (Boys' Town FC), Romario Williams (Charleston Battery)
Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore is expected to deploy a 4-4-2, like he did in the quarter and semifinals. Jamaica could be a tough matchup for the USMNT as they are one of the few CONCACAF teams that may be more athletic than the U.S.
Jamaica’s defense is backstopped by star goalkeeper Andre Blake. Blake, the reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, has incredible reflexes and is extremely consistent. He has a few obvious weaknesses, but will have to be in top form to lead his average defense.
Minnesota United’s Jermaine Taylor will be one of the starting center backs. Taylor is very strong in the air and while his distribution out of the back is impressive, his one-on-one defending could be better. Damion Lowe will partner with Taylor at center back. Lowe is arguably Jamaica’s weakest defender. He plays in the USL and simply isn’t good enough to be an international defender. Lowe does has good size 6’2’’, strength, and is very aggressive. His problem is that he doesn’t read the game well and is often caught out of position playing at this level.
Semifinal hero Kemar Lawrence will get the nod at left back. Lawrence is a good one-on-one defender who will pick his moments to get into the attack and deliver dangerous crosses. Lawrence seems to suffer from occasional lapses in concentration, but he is usually very dependable.
Portland Timbers man Alvas Powell will get the nod at right back. A good tackler with excellent composure, Powell has electric pace but struggles passing out of the back. Je-Vaughn Watson is a solid and versatile veteran who can play just about anywhere in defense or midfield. Watson has been playing as a central midfielder, and often dropping into a defensive midfield role. He is physically strong and excellent at intercepting passes. Watson receives too many cards (none in this tournament, but 5 in just 4 MLS starts and 7 substitute appearances) and offers little to the attack.
Central midfielder Kevon Lambert is a skilled dribble and ferocious tackler, yet he struggles to deliver effective crosses and is quite poor in the air for someone who is 6’3”. Shaun Francis is deployed at left back for the San Jose Earthquakes, but has been featuring as a left midfielder during this tournament. Francis is a good dribbler, despite being a defender, and is great at closing down opposing wingers. His primary weaknesses is that his passing isn’t at the level of a natural wide midfielder. Right midfielder Owayne Gordon accelerates very quickly and has a stellar first touch, but is not much of a scoring threat. Despite playing as a forward for Jamaican side Montego Bay United, Gordon has yet to find the back of the net at the international level (0 goals in 13 games).
The Reggae Boyz attack will be led by Portland Timbers forward Darren Mattocks. Mattocks has been the team’s best player as well as its leader in both goals (2) and assists (2). Mattocks has incredible pace, a high work rate, and is a good dribbler. Despite his two assists in the Gold Cup, he isn’t known for his passing. If the USMNT can shutdown Mattocks then it should win.
Mattocks will be supported by Charleston Battery striker Romario Williams. Williams is leading the USL in goals scored (14 in 15 games). He has a high work rate, constantly pressuring defenders in the final third. Williams is a crafty finisher and good free kick taker, and is tied with Mattocks for the team lead in goals scored (2). At times, he seems to have trouble keeping up with the speed of international play, but he has played well this tournament.
Jamaica has been in better form than the United States but will still be considered the underdog tonight. The USMNT has the superior roster and will have a large crowd supporting them, and they should be able to defeat Jamaica. I anticipate a close game and I’m predicting a 2-1 United States victory.