Team USA vs. Jamaica Men's World Cup Qualifier Preview
Here are three big questions heading into Friday's World Cup Qualifying match between the United States and Jamaica:
1. Will the U.S. Earn Their First WCQ Victory in Jamaica?
The US has never won a WCQ match in Jamaica with its four previous attempts resulting in draws. Injuries to key veterans, Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley, and fitness questions surrounding Clint Dempsey and Carlos Bocanegra definitely does not help their chances of re-writing history.
However as the Yanks proved in Mexico, the team has the depth, confidence, and toughness to grind out a result.
I believe enough pieces are in place for the U.S. to come out on top Friday. The aforementioned "pieces" I am referring to include Jozy Altidore, who is in mind blowing form (4 goals in 4 league matches), Fabian Johnson, who continues to get important minutes in the Bundesliga, and Geoff Cameron, a man who just secured a move to the EPL and started right out of the gate for Stoke City (showing well in 2 league matches thus far). All in all, the U.S. will rise to the occasion and squeak out a one goal victory.
2. Will Clint Dempsey Play?
Clint Dempsey's publicized transfer drama finally came to an end on Deadline Day with the former Fulham-man moving to Tottenham Hotspur. However, Clint's fitness is definitely a question mark at this point, as he has not played a competitive match since the June qualifying games.
Klinsmann has made it clear that he is open to throwing Dempsey right into the starting 11 if the staff determines he is indeed in 90-minute form, but a more likely scenario would see Dempsey coming off the bench in game 1 and then starting in game 2 at home.
Since Fulham exiled the American after he expressed a strong desire to leave the club, Dempsey has been training on his own, not with the club. I would suspect his fitness to suffer as a result. Even if that isn't the case, the basic fact of not appearing in a match since June will keep Dempsey out of the starting 11 on Friday in my opinion.
I do still expect him to be an impact player for the Yanks over this two game stretch and a goal from the Texan would not surprise me to say the least.
3 Who Will Start in the Back?
An infinite number of questions concern the U.S. backline right now. Is Carlos Bocanegra in form despite his recent deadline day move to Spain? Can Geoff Cameron and Maurice Edu handle the center-back duties? Will Oguchi Onyewu ever become a dominant player again following numerous injuries and club switches? When will it be time for Steve Cherundolo to pass the mantle? I can go on and on, but let's try to assess the possible defensive lineup for Friday's match....
I see the backline starters looking like: Cherundolo - Cameron - Bocanegra - F. Johnson ....now if Bocanegra's form is not there (I think he'll be O.K. because he was starting for Rangers consistently before the move to Racing Santandar, albeit playing in the Scottish 3rd division) I believe Klinsmann will give the nod to Clarence Goodson due to his experience playing the position at the international level.
Serious consideration needs to be given to Edu as well, since his lateral quickness matches up nicely with Jamaica's speedy counter-attack offense. Again though fitness questions surround Edu, who was not playing for Rangers before his official switch to Stoke City on Friday.
Despite Goodson's lack of foot speed, his size is critical in guarding against Jamaica's wide play, which results in numerous crosses into the box. In the end a healthy Bocanegra surpasses both Edu and Goodson on the depth chart, as his positional awareness and "captain-ness" can't be replaced when it comes to a CONCACAF road qualifier.