In my first article, I said that the likely final would be between the US and Mexico. However, for consecutive tournaments Jamaica upset a CONCACAF giant. Even if it was Mexico’s B-team, give the small island credit for standing tall defensively and finishing when it mattered. Also, credit Andre Blake for outstanding goalkeeping (look out to see a possible move from the MLS to Europe). USA had a shaky start to the tournament, but it won’t matter if they win tonight.
USA looked good in their last match against Costa Rica, but they’ll look to play even better in the final. Jamaica is no Mexico, but a sub-par performance from the US will lead to a loss. The US has to control the tempo of the match, and pressure Jamaica into making mistakes. They also need to be aware of the fast counter attacks from the nation known for their sprinters. The US will come out looking to avenge their loss in the 2015 Gold Cup semi-final. If they play like they did against Costa Rica, then they’ll be holding the trophy at the end of the night. Clint Dempsey also tied Donovan’s goal record, and will look to break it tonight.
Jamaica reached the final in 2015, but fell short to Mexico. A Gold Cup victory will show a nation progressing in soccer, and shine a positive light on their players. Two upset wins against CONCACAF powerhouses will soften the blow of missing next year’s World Cup. In order to win, they’ll need another spectacular performance from Blake. Also, the backline will need to keep the likes of Altidore, Morris, and Dempsey in check. Finally, the Jamiacan speed up front will need to be clinical when called upon.
USA Line-Up Prediction
Goalkeeper: Tim Howard
Defenders: Jorge Villafana, Matt Besler, Matt Miazga, and Graham Zusi
Midfielders: Darlington Nagbe, Michael Bradley, Kellyn Acosta, and Paul Arriela
Forwards: Jozy Altidore and Jordan Morris
Normally, I’d say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but what’s the fun in that? Gonzalez has come a long way in terms of performances, but he struggles against pacey strikers. In my opinion, Matt Miazga would be able to handle them better. Lichaj could replace Zusi, but I think Arena will choose Zusi, who has more experience with the team. Other than that, expect nothing new and Dempsey to come off the bench.
Score Prediction: 2-0 USA (Clint breaks the goal record and seals victory).
P.S. Apologies for the short preview, but I’ve been typing this on the beach. “No days off,” is the motto for US soccer.