US men face tough test vs. Jamaica in World Cup qualifier
Kingston, Jamaica (4E Sports) – The United States men’s soccer team battles Jamaica tonight in Kingston, Jamaica in the first of a two-game playoff series in the qualifying round of the 2014 World Cup.
The two teams will meet again Tuesday at Crew Stadium in Ohio.
The Americans and Jamaicans are tied for the lead in the four-team group from the CONCACAF region of North and Central America and the Caribbean.
“I guess you look at it as a playoff fixture, in the sense of a home and away leg,” American midfielder Clint Dempsey told USSoccer.com. “That’s how we’re going to look at it: Make sure we get the points because they’re vital, and make sure we qualify for the next round.”
The Americans settled for a 1-1 draw with Guatemala on June 12 after beating Antigua and Barbuda, 3-1, four days earlier. For their part, the Jamaicans battled the Antiguans to a scoreless draw June 12 after beating Guatemala, 2-1.
The top two teams will advance to the round of six and the top three in that phase will earn automatic spots in the 2014 World Cup, and a fourth will have a playoff against a team from the Oceania region.
Despite leading the series with 10 wins and eight draws, the 33rd-ranked Americans are not taking the 60th-ranked Jamaicans lightly as they have never won a qualifier in Jamaica, where the U.S. is 0-0-4 with one goal scored.
The US needs four points from the two games against Jamaica to guarantee its spot atop the group with two games remaining in the semifinal round. The Americans have never lost in Crew Stadium (5-0-3)
“I’m obviously excited about playing in Columbus on Sept. 11,” US coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “It’s a very special day and moment, so we’re looking forward to that.
“(But) nobody should even think for a second about the home game. Everybody has to focus only on the game in Kingston. Once that game is over, we can focus on the home game. It’s tricky, but it’s tricky for both sides. If we win there, which we’ll try to do, then you fly back and you’re confident enough at home to try to repeat it,” he added.
The Americans are fresh from impressive friendly win over Mexico on Aug. 15 and they also defeated Italy for the first time in February in an exhibition game.
“The Mexico game really showed we have some depth,” Klinsmann said. “We have some players that can step up and can make a surprising performance and surprise the opponent.”