After a week-long break, the United States Men’s National Team returns to action at the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Gregg Berhalter led his team through Group B and now faces off against Jamaica at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The pursuit of a seventh title continues, requiring a three-match sprint over eight days.
This is the 29th all-time meeting between the two nations, with the USMNT holding a 17-3-8 advantage. After qualifying for the tournament through the CONCACAF Nations League, Jamaica reached the quarterfinal round with a second-place finish in Group C. The Reggae Boyz defeated Suriname (2-0) and Guadeloupe (2-1), but the deciding third fixture resulted in a loss to Costa Rica (1-0).
This is Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore’s second tenure in charge of the national team, assuming the position as an interim in September of 2016 and signing a four-year extension in 2018. Since his return, he has compiled a 22-12-9 record. The Gold Cup has been a routinely successful endeavor for the 48-year-old Montego Bay native, reaching the final and semifinal in 2017 and 2019, respectively.
Squad Announcement— Official J.F.F (@jff_football) July 1, 2021
The Boyz are ready for @GoldCup
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Whitmore named a 23-player roster for the competition, with no reported changes for the knockout rounds. Featuring fewer England-born call-ups, this is not quite the same composition of the squad that the USMNT defeated in March. However, the ongoing dual-national recruitment program appears to have yielded a smaller, immediate talent infusion.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union), Dillon Barnes (Queens Park Rangers), Dennis Taylor (Humble Lions)
DEFENDERS (8): Michael Hector (Fulham FC), Amari’i Bell (Luton Town), Alvas Powell (Philadelphia Union), Liam Moore (Reading), Oniel Fisher (LA Galaxy), Damion Lowe (Al-Ittihad), Adrian Mariappa (Bristol City), Kemar Lawrence (Toronto FC)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Lamar Walker (Miami FC), Blair Turgott (Östersund), Daniel Johnson (Preston North End), Ravel Morrison (Unattached), Tyreek Magee (Eupen), Devon Williams (Miami FC)
FORWARDS (6): Leon Bailey (Bayer Leverkusen), Cory Burke (Philadelphia Union), Bobby Decordova-Reid (Fulham FC), Shamar Nicholson (Charleroi), Junior Flemmings (Birmingham Legion), Andre Gray (Watford)
Jamaica has lined up in a variety of formations, utilizing a 4-4-2 during the Gold Cup. Whitmore generally stuck with the same lineup for the first two matches, identifying his preferred players to secure advancement. The third fixture featured heavy rotation “to keep everyone sharp.” Expect the former group to do battle with the USMNT.
After a few years out of roster, Andre Blake made his return to the starting goalkeeper position. The 30-year-old has earned 47 caps for the Reggae Boyz and served as captain for the group stage. The two-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year fills the highlight reel with saves, specializing in stopping long-range efforts that would be untouchable by many other players at this level.
The same back line played together for the first two group matches. Damion Lowe is a stalwart at center back since debuting in 2016, appearing at every international competition. The 6’3” Al-Ittihad defender steps into tackles, plays accurate long balls, and has no issues shutting down counter attacks in isolation. His partner is a former England youth international, Liam Moore, who joined the program in March. He recently completed his fifth season in the Championship with Reading, displaying a measure of technical ability that is perhaps a step above the normal level for CONCACAF.
Another addition to the squad, left back Amari’i Bell recently moved to Luton Town on a free transfer following three-and-a-half seasons with Blackburn Rovers. The 27-year-old possesses “really good athleticism” and thrives in short distance link-up play. The USMNT will also have to monitor his concealed back post runs. Alvas Powell will likely man the right side of the field. Fleet of foot and an aggressive tackler, Jamaica requires a solid performance on both ends from him.
There was a time when Michael Hector was considered one of the better defenders in CONCACAF. His Fulham tenure has been “error prone,” resulting in a mere eight appearances last season. With the national team, his performance has been better, serving instead as a central midfielder who can drop into the back line when necessary. Providing a counterbalance, Daniel Johnson of Preston North End is a more creative presence with “dribbling ability and vision that helps him pick out a teammate.” He is a constant scoring threat, often stepping into the free space from 20 yards out or making a late run into the box. A massive addition to the Jamaica program last year, the 28-year-old Kingston native could be a key player during World Cup qualifying with the individual talent to secure points.
Bundesliga star Leon Bailey is recovering from a toe injury but still managed to start two matches. Whitmore expects him to play a big role befitting of the 23-year-old Bayer Leverkusen winger, who is one the world’s most sought after transfer targets. Aided by “elite acceleration,” he is another standout dribbler, cutting inside to create shots and open passing lanes. The opposite side of the field is manned by Östersund’s Blair Turgott, a surprisingly physical winger that will tirelessly pressure opponents and shoulder defenders off the ball. His advanced positioning can occasionally put him in the position of a striker, but he will also play through balls from a deeper area.
Forward Shamar Nicholson of RSC Charleroi has been the most prolific player for Jamaica in recent year with eight goals in 19 appearances. He is a prototypical target man, outjumping defenders and always managing to find the ball in the final third. If given too much space, there is also a tendency for long shots. Now back with the squad after three negative PCR tests, Bobby Decordova-Reid should be the likely lineup inclusion, having notched what is the tournament’s best finish against Suriname. The Fulham attacker looks to combine with the midfield and move vertically. Philadelphia Union target man Cory Burke could also be in the starting lineup, providing another towering option on crosses and set pieces.
Jamaica is undergoing a massive building process in a fairly fast time period, attempting to recruit and coalesce capable international players ahead of World Cup qualifying. Right now, the whole of the team may be less than the sum of its parts, a talented squad that needlessly struggled in the group stage and is missing a few of the bigger potential names. The lack of cohesion is most apparent on the back line, which has proven a little disjointed and highly susceptible to the odd counter attack. The USMNT should advance to the semifinal but looking past this opponent would be a mistake.
The match is scheduled for Sunday, July 25th at 9:30 p.m. Eastern, 6:30 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include Fox Sports 1, TUDN, Univision, and FUBO TV (free trial).