With Mexico's clutch 1-0 win over Jamaica on Wednesday evening, El Tri jumped to first place in the CONCACAF Hexagonal standings, albeit, with a game in hand over four other teams. That will put the pressure on the United States to at least earn a draw when traveling to Jamaica on Friday night.
What can the Americans learn from Mexico's crucial win? What aspects of Mexico's strategy for the match-up can the United States duplicate? How should the team approach this dangerous Jamaica side?
Let's look back at Wednesday's contest and offer a few strategical suggestions for the Americans.
Allow Jamaica Space Horizontally, Condense Around the Box
The Jamaicans are an athletic bunch and are best suited spreading teams horizontally and creating spaces to run into. They did so well against Mexico, but ran into one problem—once they got around the box, the attack seemed to fall apart.
From soccer scribe Jason Davis:
The Jamaicans are doing a good job stretching Mexico horizontally, but they inevitably bog down around the box. Ugly.— Jason Davis (@davisjsn) June 5, 2013
Condensing around the box means Tim Howard and the back four will have to be very sturdy against crosses, but Jamaica didn't manage to score against Mexico playing with width. If Jamaica finds space to operate around the box, they will be much more dangerous than they are basing their attacks in wide positions.
Win the Possession Battle and Protect the Ball
Jamaica is a very dangerous counter-attacking team, so I wouldn't be surprised to see the United States come out in a similarly cautious manner to how Mexico approached the first half. Controlling possession and avoiding costly turnovers will be a major key in this game.
Having Michael Bradley should help in that facet immensely. The United States is more poised side with Bradley running things from his midfield post, and how he performs will be a major factor in this contest.
Fans may find the United States early game plan a bit boring, but the easiest way to beat Jamaica is to avoid beating yourself.
Attack Jamaica on the Wings
In the second half, Mexico adjusted its approach on the wings, as wide-men Pablo Barrera and Andres Guardado didn't cut in toward the box on attack as much and instead kept their width. That proved especially fruitful on the left side of the attack, as the team had success attacking 18-year-old right back Alvas Powell.
Such an attack eventually led to a goal, as an overlapping Carlos Salcido sent a cross into the box and found the head of Aldo De Nigris.
Without Landon Donovan available, I wouldn't consider wing play one of the United States' strengths, but whichever wide-men Jurgen Klinsmann starts will need to put pressure on Jamaica's left- and right-backs.