THEY were primed to break the jinx at the CONCACAF Gold Cup last year, but were set back 0-2 at the RFK Stadium in Washington, DC.
So at 7:00 pm inside the National Stadium today, Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz renew their quest to register their first-ever victory over the United States in a top-of-the-table Group A CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying play-off clash.
The teams share joint leadership of the group, with four points from two games, and are three points ahead of both Guatemala and Antigua and Barbuda, who meet in the central American country today.
The return legs are slated for next Tuesday when Jamaica visit the US at Columbus, Ohio, and Guatemala journey to St John’s, Antigua.
In 20 matches between the countries, including two in Olympic qualifiers, the Reggae Boyz have never beaten the Americans, losing 11 times in the process.
However, the much more resourceful Americans have never tasted success on Jamaican soil in World Cup Qualifiers, and they, too, want to shed the proverbial ‘monkey’ off their back.
Both sides are expressing confidence heading into today’s high-stakes event.
“I’m very confident of a positive result because the players have assured us of that and we have seen it in the training sessions as well,” Theodore Whitmore, Jamaica’s head coach, told the Jamaica Observer.
“I’m very pleased with the intensity of the guys, you could see the whole attitude, everybody enjoying the practice session and everybody is getting in what we wanted out of the session,” he added.
His counterpart, German Jurgen Klinsmann, said: “We are in a good position at the moment in our group, but we are going into the games against Jamaica with the mindset that we want to win both.
“We feel very confident in the group that we have coming in. We are developing a lot of good chemistry and experience in the team, and now our goal is to become more and more consistent.”
Both teams started final preparations on Monday, with the Boyz here and the Americans at a three-day training camp in Florida.
The Jamaicans have had to withdraw Errol Stevens, due to a knee injury, reducing their squad to 23, while the Americans had to exclude the trio of Roma midfielder Michael Bradley, their ace midfield player, as well as Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder/forward London Donovan and Tijuana defender Edgar Castillo.
Still, they are loaded with quality players such as forward Clint Dempsey, who orchestrated a transfer move away from Fulham to Tottenham Hotspur, a move which resulted in him missing crucial playing time.
Others worthy of mention include goalkeeper Tim Howard of Everton, defender Carlos Bocanegra of Racing Santander, Steve Cherundolo of Hanover, Maurice Edu of Stoke City, Jonathan Spector of Birmingham City, Kyle Beckerman of Real Salt Lake, Jermaine Jones of Schalke 04, Jozy Altidore of AZ Alkmaar and Herculez Gomez of Santos Laguna.
The US are renowned as a disciplined, organised team which also possesses the talent of a players such as Dempsey who can win a game with his brilliance at any moment.
They are also solid in midfield, though the absence of Bradley and Donovan might unbalance them a bit. There is also tremendous experience at the back, but a cause for concern for Klinsmann could be the lack of real speed from these ageing legs against the Jamaican speedsters.
One thing is certain, the Americans won’t be giving away anything.
“We’re trying to get the players focused on going into Jamaica for the Friday night game and hopefully, pull off a victory,” Klinsmann told the media in Florida. “We’re confident of doing well and focused on our work. If I look at our team and our roster, I’m excited.”
The Boyz, too, have had their share of concerns, especially on the left side of the field in the absence of the energetic and wily Demar Phillips, who poses a serious threat in attack. Phillips, who scored the opener against Guatemala in the World Cup Qualifier on June 8, is recovering from a leg injury.
Whitmore and his technical staff have been tinkering with his formations and personnel as a result.
To match the Americans’ 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 formation, Whitmore could possibly employ a 3-4-3 or a 5-3-2 formation. He tried the latter in the Gold Cup last year but his players, particularly the midfielders, failed to cope with the rotation of the American forward men, which created added pressure of the defence. The ejection of Jermaine Taylor didn’t help the cause either.
Dwayne Miller of Syrianska in Sweden is expected to tend goal, with Adrian Mariappa (Reading), Nyron Nosworthy (Watford) and Taylor (Houston Dynamo) forming the defensive wall in front.
The midfield could comprise Jason Morrison (Aalesund), Rodolph Austin (Leeds), Lovell Palmer (Portland Timbers) and Je-Vaughn Watson (Houston Dynamo), with Luton Shelton (Karabukspor), Ryan Johnson (Toronto) and Kavin Bryan (Vicem Hai Phong) forming the front line responsible for beating Howard in the American goal.
“Regardless of the opposition we need three points from this... home game and we’ll do whatever we can to get it. We want to look at the positives and the fact that they’ve never beaten us here in a World Cup qualifier is a positive... We want to keep that standard going,” Whitmore said.
The third of four stages of CONCACAF qualifying for the World Cup comprises 12 teams divided into groups of four. CONCACAF includes North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
The top two teams from each group advance to the final qualifying stage and the first three teams from there book their ticket to the Brazil 2014 World Cup Finals.
Jamaica squad — Duwayne Kerr, Dwayne Miller, Jacomeno Barrett, Adrian Mariappa, Nyron Nosworthy, Shavar Thomas, Dicoy Williams, Jermaine Taylor, Andre Campbell, Lovell Palmer, Obrien Woodbine, Jason Morrison, Rodolph Austin, Je-Vaughn Watson, Ewan Grandison, Joel Senior, Dane Richards, Luton Shelton, Ryan Johnson, Darren Mattocks, Tramaine Stewart, Omar Cummings, Kavin Bryan.