The United States Men’s National Team plays its first pre-Gold Cup friendly on June 5th against Jamaica at Audi Field in Washington, DC. While the USMNT will be favored, Jamaica is certainly capable of springing an upset if its star players perform to their full potentials.
The Reggae Boyz are 3-2 in their last five matches, although those victories have come in the CONCACAF Nations League against the Cayman Islands, Bonaire, and Suriname. Jamaica holds a 2-15-8 all-time record against the USMNT.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union/USA; 32/0), Amal Knight (UWI; 4/0), Dwayne Miller (Syrianska/SWE; 34/0)
DEFENDERS (7): Shaun Francis (Louisville City FC/USA; 16/3), Michael Hector (Sheffield Wednesday/ENG; 24/0), Kevon Lambert (Phoenix Rising/USA; 10/0), Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls/USA; 46/3), Damion Lowe (IK Start/NOR; 19/1), Alvas Powell (FC Cincinnati/USA; 37/0), Jamoi Topey (Bethlehem Steel/USA; 1/0)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Leon Bailey (Bayer Leverkusen/GER; 0/0), Andre Lewis (Portmore United; 1/0),Tyreek Magee (Harbor View; 0/0), Alex Marshall (Cavalier SC; 7/0), Ricardo Morris (Portmore United; 14/2), Peter-Lee Vassel (Los Angeles Football Club/USA; 10/5), Devon Williams (Louisville City FC/USA; 5/0), Je-Vaughn Watson (OKC Energy FC/USA; 78/4)
Forwards (5) Brian Brown (FC Reno 1868/USA; 2/0), Maalique Foster (Rio Grande Valley Toros FC/USA; 3/1), Darren Mattocks (FC Cincinnati/USA; 44/17), Shamar Nicholson (Domzale/SVN; 5/0), Dever Orgill (Ankaragucu/TUR; 10/0)
Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore often deploys a 4-4-2; however, he may opt for a more defensive 4-5-1 against the USMNT. Jamaica is an athletic team that will be dangerous on the counter-attack.
Andre Blake is the team’s clear #1 and has been a top MLS goalkeeper for several years now. He is a good shot-stopper with quick reflexes. Damion Lowe and Michael Hector will likely be the starting centerbacks. Lowe is very athletic, but is poor on the ball and will likely be the Jamaican defense’s weak link. Hector, who spent this season on loan with EFL Championship side Sheffield Wednesday, from Chelsea, is perhaps Jamaica’s best defender. He stands 6’4’’, is dominant in the air, and is an excellent tackler. His passing, however, leaves much to be desired.
Kemar Lawrence is a solid 1-on-1 defender, incredibly fast, and will look to join the attack. His only real flaw is that he isn’t physically strong. Alvas Powell will likely get the nod at right back. Powell is perhaps even faster than Lawrence and excels at dribbling and tackling. His often poor positioning and passing are his main weaknesses.
Je-Vaughn Watson should get the nod at defensive midfield. At 35, Watson is a veteran who will help to guide the team. He intercepts countless passes and is good at linking the defense to the midfield, with intelligent short passes. However, his tackling has become significantly worse in recent years, and he commits far too many fouls.
Expect Peter-Lee Vassell to start in central midfield. Vassell has played sparingly for LAFC this year but is a tenacious midfielder with solid passing and dribbling abilities. While he is a natural #10, he is often asked to play as a two-way midfielder but offers little defensive help. Leon Bailey, of Bayer Leverkusen, is Jamaica’s most dangerous attacker. Bailey is an excellent dribbler, solid crosser, and is always a threat to score from distance. His major flaw is that he contributes little defensively. I know almost nothing about Maalique Foster, and as a result, I can’t provide an assessment of his abilities. He is one of the only natural right midfielders on the roster and therefore has a decent chance to feature in the starting XI.
Look for Darren Mattocks and Dever Orgill to feature as strikers. Mattocks is an incredibly quick poacher who seems to have not fully lived up to his potential. He disappears in games and fails to make an impact too often. Orgill had a good year after moving from the Austria Bundesliga to the Turkish Super Lig in January and subsequently scoring six goals in fourteen appearances. Orgill is a deceptively good dribbler and is quite strong, but drifts offside too frequently and is rather slow.
While Jamaica will hope that a good result from this match can spark a strong Gold Cup campaign, I believe the USMNT will overpower the Reggae Boyz. I’m predicting a 3-1 U.S. victory.