America is usually one to dominate the World Cup qualification from the CONCACAF region, which is filled with Caribbean island nations and Central American teams. Currently in the second round of qualifiers, America is joined in a group with Guatemala, Jamaica, and Antigua and Barbuda. Though on paper these teams hardly pose a threat, the reality of the situation is that through three games played America has earned one win, one draw, and most recently a loss when they played Jamaica in Kingston.
This leaves them tied for second in a group where only two teams will progress to the final round to decide who makes it to Brazil 2014. For a team like America, this is unacceptable. As the youth team learned when they were denied a place at the 2012 Olympics, there is little room for error and complacency in these high-stakes matches.
Yes there are excuses to be heard, such as the injuries to Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley that prevented them from playing in the Jamaica matches. Yes, Clint Dempsey is way out of form because of his summer transfer saga that saw him refuse to play for Fulham while he secured a move to Tottenham. Dempsey played 90 minutes in the Jamaica loss, and although he triumphantly scored a tap-in goal after only 30 seconds, he didn’t do much else and looked sluggish. I’m not sure how much he will be able to play during the home match tomorrow, nor am I certain that he will be able to influence the game. So, yes, without three key players, the Americans are hardly the lively bunch that they usually are.
But the other players need to win this game against Jamaica on Tuesday. They will have the home support and typically perform much better at home. Players like Jozy Altidore, Brek Shea, and Herculez Gomez need to seize upon this opportunity and earn a crucial win. Anything less and America will head into their final two matches with everything on the line, and it could prove troublesome.
Jamaica will have strong belief coming off of their historic victory, which was produced from two fine free kick efforts. They are on top of the group and will be ever hungry to reproduce another victory that would likely push them through.
I do see the home field advantage being a huge benefit to America here. The crowd in Jamaica was ruckus and definitely helped swing the momentum to their favor. Such crowd support will be in America’s favor and could possibly help them to a big victory. I predict that America will earn a solid 3-1 win and help ease the fears of fans across the nation.