The United States Men’s National Team continues their attempt to qualify for a seventh straight World Cup this weekend against Jamaica.
The teams will play a first game tonight (September 7th) in Kingston before returning stateside for a rematch Tuesday (September 11th) in Columbus.
And while these games are not life or death, they are critical.
In fact, the argument could be made that these are the most important games of the group for the United States. On top of that, the fact that these games are happening within a matter of days of each other escalates their significance still further.
Normally in a group with multiple match-ups against the same team, the games are spread out. For example, usually if the U.S. was playing Jamaica tonight, they would play the second game months from now.
Yet the Jamaicans will appear in Columbus only days from now, and they represent the greatest challenge to American supremacy in the group.
Jamaican soccer has always been underrated, having produced quality players for years who have competed in England and the MLS markedly well.
At the international level, Jamaica has always been on the precipice of greater things.
The reality has always measured up slightly short of the expectations though.
One World Cup appearance in its history has probably not been an appropriate representation of the island nation’s potential.
So seizing such a vital five day period, where two games against the mighty Americans take place, is a top priority for the Reggaeboyz manager Theodore Whitmore.
If they can snatch results in these games, their chances of advancing to the next round of qualifying increases exponentially.
Conversely, Jamaica represents the principal challenger to the U.S. winning the group. Defeating them twice will all but guarantee advancing.
A chance to step up
Landon Donovan will not play in these games, nor will Michael Bradley (both due to injuries). Clint Dempsey, fresh off his transfer saga which culminated in his landing at White Hart Lane, will probably play only as a substitute.
Therefore, the American team which Jurgen Klinsmann will field is devoid of several principle playmakers.
This only ramps up the desperation to secure results in these games. There has never been a better opportunity for a CONCACAF rival to poach points off the USA.
Yet if the American team can overcome poor timing and an under strength squad to secure two wins, they will be all but assured of being one step closer to Brazil 2014. That, is why both of these games are critical.