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United States vs. Jamaica | 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final Preview

United States vs. Jamaica
2017 Gold Cup Final
Levi's Stadium - Santa Clara, Calif.
Wednesday, July 26 - 9:30 p.m. ET
WATCH: FS1, Univision, UDN (USA) | TSN 1/3/4/5 (CAN)

This wasn't the final everyone expected. Maybe it should have been.

The United States are no stranger to the CONCACAF Gold Cup championship game, having last won the biennial tournament in 2013. After a couple of early hiccups in the group stage, they're on a run of three straight clean sheets and waiting to see whether Clint Dempsey can turn Wednesday night's title match into his own historic moment and become the Yanks' leading career scorer outright.

They'll have to get past a determined upstart to do it, though. But can you really call Jamaica a heavy underdog in this one?

After all, they are in their second straight CONCACAF Gold Cup Final, on the heels of a surprising runner-up finish in 2015 (when, it should be noted, they took down the USMNT in the semis). And after knocking on the door two years ago, the Reggae Boyz are looking to kick it in and become the first Caribbean side to win the confederation championship.

The US won't step aside for the sake of a heartwarming narrative and more regional parity, though.

“Getting our hands on that trophy is paramount for us,” goalkeeper Tim Howard told the Washington Post, “no matter who stands in our way.”

United States

Dempsey's hopes of breaking the record -- which likely would come in a supersub role, as it did when he tied Landon Donovan's career mark in Saturday's 2-0 semifinal victory over Costa Rica -- might not be the most compelling storyline for the Yanks on Wednesday.

The bigger question looks to be how US coach Bruce Arena will deploy in the defensive half to counter Jamaica's speed on the counter, which gave Mexico fits all night when the Reggae Boyz stunned El Tri 1-0 on Sunday night on Kemar Lawrence's late free kick. All it takes is one player in a bad spot, and suddenly the whole defense is facing the home goal and trying to recover.

That's also going to make possession in the middle and attacking third a premium, meaning Michael Bradley and Kellyn Acosta will have to be spot-on in their link-up and distribution.

Another monster night in goal from Howard wouldn't hurt, either -- because best-laid plans or no, Jamaica are going to get their chances.


Goalkeepers (3): Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids)

Defenders (8): Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca / MEX), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest / ENG), Matt Miazga (Chelsea / ENG), Justin Morrow (Toronto FC), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna / MEX), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders (8): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana / MEX), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana / MEX), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

Forwards (4): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC)

Manager: Bruce Arena (USA)


Speaking of goalkeepers, let's talk about Andre Blake for a minute.

Simply put, the Philadelphia Union's netminder is having a Golden-Ball-quality tournament. If not for his five saves in Sunday's goalkeeper duel with Mexico's Jesus Corona, the Reggae Boyz don't get past the 80th minute with a chance to win it.

"He’s athletic, he’s tall, has long arms, makes some big saves," Dempsey told the Post. "He’s good coming out on crosses and being brave. But at the end of the day, we have Tim Howard. Going up against him [in training], he prepares us for anybody.”

In front of Blake, Jamaica are putting paid to the idea that "athletic" and "organized" are mutually exclusive terms.

Yes, the Reggae Boyz have wheels for days. In a country that produces world-class sprinters year in and year out, that's no surprise. But you don't beat Mexico -- even with El Tri at less than full strength -- just by being really, really fast. It takes discipline, and the back line of Lawrence, Jermaine Taylor, Damion Lowe and Alvas Powell (note the preponderance of MLS names in that bunch) have been fantastic at holding their shape. 

“They’re a different kind of Jamaican team than we’ve seen in the past,” Arena said in the WaPo piece. “They have a lot of discipline. They are very strong defensively and they’re hard to play against. That, to me, is not what you typically see out of a Jamaican team.”


Goalkeepers (3): Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union, USA); Damion Hyatt (Arnett Gardens FC, JAM); Dwayne Miller (Valsta Syrianska IK, SWE)

Defenders (8): Sergio Campbell (Pittsburgh Riverhounds, USA); Oniel Fisher (Seattle Sounders FC , USA); Rosario Harriott (Harbour View FC, JAM); Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls, USA); Damion Lowe (Tampa Bay Rowdies, USA); Alvas Powell (Portland Timbers, USA); Ladale Richie (Montego Bay United FC, JAM); Jermaine Taylor (Minnesota United FC, USA)

Midfielders (6): Michael Binns (Portmore United FC, JAM); Shaun Francis (Montreal Impact, CAN); Ewan Grandison (Portmore United FC, JAM); Kevon Lambert (FK Vojvodina, SRB); Ricardo Morris (Portmore United FC, JAM); Je-Vaughn Watson (New England Revolution, USA)

Forwards (6): Cory Burke (Bethlehem Steel FC, USA); Owayne Gordon (Montego Bay United FC, JAM); Jermaine Johnson (Tivoli Gardens FC, JAM); Darren Mattocks (Portland Timbers, USA); Shamar Nicholson (Boys' Town FC, JAM); Romario Williams (Charleston Battery, USA) 

Manager: Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore (Jamaica)

Players to Watch

  • United States: F Clint Dempsey. Yes, he's chasing history, but Deuce would be in this spot regardless of his spot in the USMNT record books. The veteran attacker changed the US' semifinal win against Costa Rica, finding room to operate in between the lines en route to recording a goal and an assist against Los Ticos. It remains to be seen if he'll start or enter as a super sub on Wednesday; either way, expect him to again find that space in the middle of the attacking third and pull strings for Jozy Altidore and the US' quick, dangerous wingers.  
  • Jamaica: GK Andre Blake. If the Reggae Boyz pull the upset, it'll be because Blake stands on his head. The Philadelphia Union 'keeper has been excellent all tournament. He'll need to make a few more top saves on Wednesday for Jamaica to have a shot at hoisting their first Gold Cup. 
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