Boca is back, the boss is bursting with confidence and suddenly free kicks are all anyone wants to talk about.
The United States men's national team is ready for its rematch against Jamaica in Columbus, Ohio. So ready, in fact, that manager Jurgen Klinsmann is refusing to consider the possibility of losing.
"No, we won't (lose)," Klinsmann told reporters Monday (Associated Press via USA Today). "Don't worry."
Klinsmann, whose team lost 2-1 to Jamaica on Friday, said those words with a smile, but make no mistake: Tuesday night's rematch is serious business.
Friday's loss dropped the U.S. into a second-place tie with Guatemala in Group A of the semifinal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. The top two teams advance to the final round and the U.S. has three matches left.
So if the Jamaica game isn't a must-win, it's certainly a must-not-lose. Guatemala faces Antigua and Barbuda again the same night, and if Guatemala replicates its 3-1 win from last week, the U.S. would need a victory of its own just to keep pace.
As part of the American effort to redeem Friday's loss to Jamaica, Klinsmann and the team have targeted improvement in the area of free kicks. Both of Jamaica's goals came directly from free kicks, cancelling out Clint Dempsey's first-minute goal.
Klinsmann said the team's approach to free kicks must improve in the rematch.
“Step one, you don’t want to give (free kicks) away,” Klinsmann said (via MLSSoccer.com). “Step two, a little bit more organization in the wall. Every time you analyze a free kick, you read the wall. Who jumps up how? Who’s really tense? Good body tension has this kind of hunger to block the shot. You see people jumping up. You see people don’t jump up. You can have a whole half-hour discussion about a wall.”
The return of two defensive stalwarts to the lineup should help as well. Full-back Steve Cherundolo sat out Friday's match with a calf strain, nor did captain and central defender Carlos Bocanegra feature at any point.
Both are set to return to the starting lineup, and Bocanegra will reprise his role as captain, according to MLSSoccer.com.
American keeper Tim Howard—who served as captain in Bocanegra's absence—sustained a contusion on the lower part of his right leg when he collided with a Jamaican player early in the second half last week. He sat out practice Sunday, but Klinsmann told the Associated Press that Howard is expected to play Tuesday.
If all that weren't enough to make American fans optimistic about Tuesday's match, there's more good news. The U.S. is 4-0-2 all-time in World Cup qualifiers in Columbus.
"We're excited about the challenge and everybody's ready and the focus is to get these points," said Dempsey.
Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET. Check back for B/R's live coverage of the match.