The tables are turned as the United States heads into its first knockout match of the 2011 Gold Cup.
Their opponent, Jamaica arrives in DC with an industrious upstart moniker similar to the one affixed to the Yanks at World Cup 2010.
Jamaica has buzzed through its CONCACAF tourney competition thus far and, under the guidance of manager and former player Theo “Tappa” Whitmore, shed some of its stereotypical image as great athletes with little more. The Jamaican team is retooled with a stronger–though not faultless–backline, a resolve to maintain poise and possession that comes directly from Whitmore and, devoid of some of it’s biggest global starts, a stronger team ethos on the field than typically accompanies the Reggae Boyz.
Meanwhile, the United States rolls, nay, totters into Sunday with a somewhat “English” hue shall we say.
A group stage that was supposed to be a dress rehearsal for the Yanks instead exposed flaws in the main production. A sloppy win against Canada preceded a listless loss to Panama which preceded a “just-enough” effort against “powerhouse” Guadeloupe to see the Yanks pull themselves into the knockouts with all the grace of a 2nd-grader attempting his first pull-up.
Beyond the clunky display on the field, a late week announcement that the the Yanks two main offensive stars, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, would be foregoing practice to participate in their respective sibling’s wedding put the air of lack of focus and dedication around the group–warranted or not–at a time when it looks like the US could use all the stick-together that they can muster.
The US should be sweating Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz when they head into RFK on Sunday as the outlook from this vantage point has upset plastered all over it.
Let’s get to our customer TSG preview. As usual, it goes:
About the opponent: Jamaica
TSG What Are We Looking For
11 At The Whistle
About the opponent: Jamaica
Jamaica has been bullying teams like Buffalo Soldiers at Gold Cup 2011.
Seven goals, none conceded, and a quite a bit of conviction behind their style of play. Long known for having speed, uh, speed and athleticism abundance with little discipline, the Reggae Boyz have put it together this summer showing a build-up and possession game that has never been identified with their style of play, until now.
The Boyz opened the tourney by hanging a four spot on overmatched Grenada, followed up it up with a 2-0 victory over Guatemala and concluded the group stage with a convincing 1-0 war of attrition and substitution over Honduras.
The Reggae Boyz have deployed predominantly in a 3-4-3 at the Gold Cup, but against Honduras shifted to a 4-4-2 resting many of their key starters.
The difference in their Honduran schematic was the positioning of MLS striker-forward Ryan Johnson who shifted into a split forward deployment with Dane Richards. In the center, however, is Johnson’s key position this tourney. He has assumed the “big striker role” of injured Ricardo Fuller ; he’s in form and delivering the goods in Gold Cup 2011 with two goals and solid play.