U.S. Soccer: What They Must Do to Defeat Jamaica in the Gold Cup Quarterfinals
After a disappointing group stage, where they picked up their first loss ever in the group stage in the history of the Gold Cup, the United States national team will take to the pitch on Sunday, June 19th to face a strong Jamaican side.
During their own group stage of the Gold Cup, Jamaica played their best football since they qualified for the 1998 World Cup. Jamaica currently are the only team in the Gold Cup to not concede a goal and also pick up all nine points in their three group stage matches.
Now Jamaica will travel to RFK Stadium in Washington DC to take on the United States in their first match there since a World Cup qualifier in 1997. Jamaica drew 1-1 in that match with the US to take a massive step towards qualifying for the 1998 World Cup.
However, in order to try to qualify for the 2013 Confederations Cup, the United States must win this match and their next two matches, which will also, in all likelihood, include a match against a Mexican side that was dominant in the group stage.
Here is what the United States must do to beat Jamaica in this Gold Cup quarterfinal.
Get off to a Strong Start
How often have we seen the United States go behind early in a big match?
During three of four World Cup matches last year, the US was down early in the first half, and in the only match in which they didn't go down early, Algeria's Rafik Djebbour should have scored but hit the crossbar in an eventual 1-0 American win.
But in both Gold Cup wins so far, Jozy Altidore scored an early goal that eventually led to an American victory.
If the US are going to advance onto the semifinals, a great start to the match will be extremely important.
Play a Strong Defensive Game
Another important key for the United States will be to play a strong defensive game.
The US defense looked solid against Guadeloupe, especially with Steve Cherundolo moving out from central defense to the wing and Eric Lichaj getting a start over Tim Ream. Lichaj was responsible for the penalty against Panama.
But against Jamaica, the US will have to do more than it did against Guadeloupe. With Demar Phillips and Ryan Johnson leading a strong Jamaican attack, the US will have their hands full from start to finish in this match.
With that in mind, the US defense will need to be lights out for 90 minutes.
Have Defensive Backs Make Long Runs Down the Sides
One of the biggest successes for the United States, during the match against Guadeloupe, were the runs down the side by the US defense (most notably by Steve Cherundolo).
Even though these runs did not lead to any American goals, the crosses supplied by the American defense were good enough that the US should have beaten Guadeloupe by three or four goals.
By having the defenders do this, the US has added a whole new dimension to their attacking game. Continuing these attacking runs could well be the difference in this match.
So far, the biggest problem in this Gold Cup for the USA has been their failure to convert scoring chances into goals.
This started to become a major issue against Panama, late in the match, when the Americans continued to miss some golden opportunities to score. It was only magnified during the last match, when Clint Dempsey missed multiple chances that would have put that match out of reach.
In this next match, Dempsey and the striking core will need to finish their chances. If they put together another performance like they did against Guadeloupe, the US will be out of the Gold Cup.
Don't Be Afraid to Shoot
One of the problems the United States has continued to showcase, throughout the last several years, is a negligence to shoot from outside of the penalty area.
Before Jozy Altidore's strike against Guadeloupe, the last time an American scored from outside of the penalty area came a little more than a year ago in the first match of the 2010 World Cup. In that match, Clint Dempsey's shot trickled through the legs of Robert Green in a 1-1 draw with England.
If the United States can start to show some courage and take shots from outside of the penalty area, they will open up a new facet of their offensive game and will put even more pressure on opposing defenses.
Play Attacking Football
One of the biggest problems with the philosophy of American soccer is that the Americans play defensively after taking a lead.
Whenever the United States goes into a defensive shell, they hurt their game tremendously and teams have found ways to score as a result of this.
But if the United States plays attacking football from start to finish in this match, they will have a better chance of winning against Jamaica.
Finally, the United States must go into this match with the belief that they are a better team than Jamaica.
Even if the US allows an early goal, the US has to continue to show confidence and will need to show that they are the better side in this match by playing a better overall game than Jamaica.
If the United States fails to do this and should they go down early, they will find themselves out of the 2011 Gold Cup.