Jamaica vs. USA: Players to Watch in World Cup Qualifier
With both teams currently level on points in the third round of the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers, Jamaica host the United States looking to take a dominant grip of Group A matter.
Kingston is usually known for its sunny climate and breezy beaches but the weather forecast reads for thunder and lightning, making for bad USA omens if you’re into superstition.
Currently top of the group on goal difference, it appears that the visitors will be without team regulars Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley, giving the hosts some space to breathe.
However, there are still plenty of players that will take to the pitch in the hopes of causing the opposition a problem, and are very capable of doing so.
Having recently sealed a loan move away from financially unstable Rangers to the sunnier climates at Racing Santander, Carlos Bocanegra can now focus on international matters.
The United States have conceded just two goals in their last four matches, friendly or otherwise, and while Bocanegra didn’t feature in all of those fixtures, his presence bodes well for the chances of that streak continuing.
Luton Shelton will surely be the main threat that the US veteran can stack up against in the Jamaican capital, and a lot will rest on whether or not Bocanegra can restrain his opposition’s target man.
One of several Jamaican internationals plying their trade with Norwegian club, Aalesund, Demar Phillips is looking to add to an already impressive international record.
The midfielder has made over 50 appearances for his nation and the 28-year-old is one of the most experienced among the current batch of Reggae Boyz.
Currently struggling with a leg injury, it’s touch-and-go as to whether or not Phillips will feature against the US at all.
However, if the former Stoke City player does make a recovery in time, he’ll give his nation some much appreciated width on the left flank.
While Carlos Bocanegra might have to deal with the attacking assets that Jamaica might boast, it will be up to Jermaine Jones to set the tone in the middle of the park, dominating from the off.
With Michael Bradley out through injury, the creative juices of the United States may not be flowing in their usual manner, so it’s vital that the team don’t suffer on the defensive side of things.
Jones has grown to become an important figure at the Velkins Arena with Schalke 04 and is arguably even more valued in US colours.
The 30-year-old provides a vital link between defence and midfield and will be important in breaking up any attacks that Jamaica may attempt to mount.
The closest thing Jamaica have to a Jermaine Jones replica, it will be Rodolph Austin’s job to ensure that the USA’s attack can’t get into any rhythm whatsoever.
Known as a tough-tackling midfielder, the 27-year-old recently earned himself a move to England’s second tier and is now impressing at Leeds United.
The 27-year-old will need to work his socks off if he is to cage the likes of Maurice Edu and Herculez Gomez.
Following a controversial final month at Craven Cottage, Clint Dempsey finally got his desired move away from Fulham on transfer deadline day, and is now where he wants to be with Tottenham Hotspur.
However, the US veteran will undoubtedly be struggling for match fitness after failing to play a part in any of the Cottagers' 2012-13 Premier League fixtures.
Regardless, Jürgen Klinsmann is likely to pick one of his best players if his side are to break a tradition of never having won a game in Kingston.
On his day, Dempsey can change a game all by himself and while he won't be at his playing best, his influence for the visitors can still be invaluable.
The attacker will be playing against a Jamaican side that favour the use of just three defenders at times, meaning there could be an imminent goalfest.
As Jamaica's highest ever goalscorer, it will be Luton Shelton that the Reggae Boyz look to on Friday night as they seek an edge in Group A.
The 26-year-old, currently playing in Turkey with Karabükspor, scored both goals in Jamaica's most recent victory which came over El Salvador in August.
With a packed midfield behind him, Shelton should have decent supply to score against the USA, but his side will need him to snap up even the slightest of opportunities if they are to stand any chances of victory.
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