It’s finally here: the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup final will be played on Wednesday between host nation USA and repeat finalists Jamaica. This was decided after USA’s 2-0 win over Costa Rica and Jamaica’s 1-0 win against Mexico in the semifinals.
These teams have actually faced each other in the last edition of the Gold Cup two years ago, in the semifinals. Thanks to a sensational free kick goal from Giles Barnes after a Brad Guzan handball, Jamaica won 2-1 and booked a spot in the finals.
They went on to lose 3-1 against Mexico, so you could say there’s some room for improvement at the moment.
USA So Far: No Brakes on This Train
USA started the tournament looking like favorites to win it all, and they just got better from there. They have won every game except for their initial 1-1 draw against Panama, and USA’s apparent weaknesses have been improved upon by their tactically sound manager Bruce Arena.
They have certainly had no trouble scoring goals, with the likes of Jordan Morris, Dom Dwyer, and surprisingly, Omar Gonzalez contributing to an impressive 11 goals in five matches.
The inclusion of players such as Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, and Michael Bradley in the knockout rounds proved to be a wise choice by Bruce Arena to bolster USA’s attack. These players had a big role in USA’s 2-0 wins over El Salvador and Costa Rica in the last two rounds.
Speaking of the semifinals, that match was a perfect example of what the USA are capable of and what Jamaica can expect to see in the final. Costa Rica did well to stifle USA for 70 minutes, but some smart substitutions from Bruce Arena saw USA run out as winners.
It’s the mark of champions to be able to put two goals past a team that had only conceded once before in the tournament. But we’ll see how Jamaica have their own way of measuring up.
Player to Watch:
Although Darlington Nagbe has looked unpolished at times during this tournament, he has the clear head necessary to dictate the tempo in midfield and get the ball from the defenders to the attackers. Jamaica would do well to contain the Portland Timbers midfielder.
Jamaica So Far: Homegrown and Full of Surprises
Jamaica have had their moments in this Gold Cup and fully deserve to have a place in the final. Although they only won one match in the group stage, they displayed maturity and defended well at every opportunity. This was especially apparent in their 0-0 draw with Mexico.
After defeating a very composed Canada side in the quarterfinals, Jamaica used the knowledge they gained against Mexico to end up as winners in their rematch for the semifinals. The match was a perfect demonstration of how each side had changed throughout the tournament.
Mexico was incredibly disorganized in attack and conceded chance after chance, while the Reggae Boyz had come back stronger than before. Keeping a clean sheet over 180 minutes against this Mexico side is quite the achievement. But to score a goal, it took something special.
An incredible 88th minute free kick goal from Kemar Lawrence, curled into the top corner of the net, delivered a fatal blow to Mexico and gave Jamaica a date with the hosts. All of the work from Jamaica’s mostly homegrown players paid off in the best way.
Player to Watch:
In the last few games it seemed like every Jamaican attack flowed through Darren Mattocks. The man has bags of energy and is always willing to take on his man, so he may be able to trouble some of the American defenders.
It remains to be seen if Jamaica have what it takes to keep out the USA’s best attackers and take advantage of their opportunities to score. And at the same time, the hosts will aim to score early and limit their defensive mistakes. On Wednesday, we’ll find out which one will come out on top.