What the US Should Fear Most from Jamaica in World Cup Qualifier
Yet another important stretch of the Jurgen Klinsmann era begins on Friday as the United States men's national team travels down to Kingston to play Jamaica in a CONCACAF World Cup qualifying match.
On paper, the United States have the better team, and if they play with the confidence that they played with against Germany on Sunday, they could easily come away with a victory.
But this is a CONCACAF qualifying match, and as we have learned from the past, anything can happen in the most unpredictable soccer region in the world.
The last time the United States made the venture down to the Independence Park, it was September 7, 2012, and they lost.
As the United States look to avenge their loss from the third round of qualifying, they must be wary of the threat that the Reggae Boyz pose on set pieces.
Back in September, Jamaica scored both of their two goals off of free kicks. With plenty of issues still surrounding the American back four, the host side, who will be playing with a nothing-to-lose mentality, will look to take advantage of that on set pieces.
Out of all the players in the United States starting 11, Jermaine Jones is the player to worry about the most when it comes to conceding free kicks. Jones has developed a Scholesian propensity for picking up yellow cards in the defensive midfield since his time with the Stars and Stripes began in 2010.
With the ever-present concern of Jones' tackling in midfield always out there, American fans should be worried about what the sometimes unpredictable midfielder will do on the pitch, especially if Jamaica dictates the pace of the game again.
Luckily for the United States' cause, the stabilizing force known as Michael Bradley, who missed the match in September, will most likely be partnering Jones in the defensive midfield.
Against Germany on Sunday, Bradley and Jones played well together, and the strong, irresponsible tackling of Jones seemed to disappear for most of the match.
What Result Will the United States Earn on Friday?
With the concern about Jones being somewhat diffused with the presence of Bradley, the concern about the ever-changing back four and how they defend set pieces is always out there as well.
The play of Omar Gonzalez at center-back has been the only constant in the back four at the moment and with a revolving door of defenders comes a lack of communication, which is something that has reared its ugly head more than once in the last year or so for the Americans.
Gonzalez should be partnered with Matt Besler, who, like Bradley, will provide some sense of normalcy to his partner in the lineup.
However, Besler and Gonzalez are young players, and the environment in Jamaica could rattle them. Just like any young defenders they are susceptible to make mistakes, especially on set pieces.
If the Americans can find a way to control their temper in midfield and can communicate well on defense, the threat of set pieces from Jamaica could end up being nonexistent.
However, if there is one thing we have learned from the United States under Klinsmann it is to expect the unexpected.
With the great equalizer of set pieces looming large at some point in the match, Jamaica could easily replicate their September success and leave American fans and players alike disappointed by the end of Friday night.
Follow me on Twitter, @JTansey90.
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