As the US prepares for its critical quarterfinal Gold Cup match tomorrow at RFK, Bob Bradley appeared calm and focused at the pre-game press conference when discussing his team’s progress during the Gold Cup.
“The Gold Cup all along has been circled as the championship of our confederation, an opportunity to qualify for the Confederations Cup,” said Bradley. He added, “we’ve played against some very very good teams and that helps us move in the direction we want.”
The match, which is sold out, will be the 18th time that the US and Jamaica have met in international play and the first time Bob Bradley has managed against them. Jamaica advanced by winning Group B in dominating fashion while the US enters this match with many questions about its team and its head coach. In what some are calling a “must win” for Bradley, he was surprisingly nonplussed. “In any tournament, you can’t mention [the word] championship… what we have to do is do our homework on Jamaica”
This will be the third time the two nations have played in the Gold Cup with the U.S. holding a 2-0-0 advantage. In fact, the U.S. has never lost to Jamaica (9-0-8) nor has it ever lost in the Gold Cup quarterfinals in regulation (5-0-1 with the only loss coming to Columbia on penalty kicks). But in a tournament where the U.S. has already lost for the first time in group play and struggled against CONCACAF minnow Guadeloupe, the team cannot take any opponent lightly. Especially a team with such known talent: Jamaica has more MLS players (7) than the U.S. national team (6).
With Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey away at family weddings, it was up to captain Carlos Bocanegra to give a players’ perspective at today’s press conference. But his comments were pretty straightforward, emphasizing the team was excited and ready to face Jamaica. When asked about Dempsey’s availability after a long flight, Bradley stated he would be evaluated just like any other player in terms of match fitness before the match. I asked about the team’s overall health and fitness; some starters have now played four matches in two weeks plus travel across the U.S. Bradley responded that the team was overall fit and he was happy with their health.
Bradley’s right that the key for the U.S. is containing Jamaica’s speed. The U.S. has not faced a team as fast as the Reggae Boyz in the Gold Cup and the teams with speed they face they have struggled. For the U.S. to win, it needs to maintain good passing lanes, convert on its chances, and maintain their assignments on defense. Do that, and they will extend their undefeated streak against Jamaica while reestablishing some momentum to a possible Panama rematch. Lose, and the vultures circling over the national team will become even more apparent.