Tonight, USA and Jamaica meet at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara for the final game of the biennial CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Team USA failed to appear in the final of the 2015 tournament, their first early exit since 2003.
After a shaky start in this year’s group stage, USA has been on a tear as of late, with three straight clean sheets and seven goals in their last three matches. Much of the credit for Team USA’s success belongs to forward Clint Dempsey, who enters tonight’s match a goal away from breaking the record for most goals scored for the USMNT in a career.
“He’s always been a reserved guy, but he has a new excitement of playing from a year ago when he almost lost the game” said USA head coach Bruce Arena.
Since taking over as head coach last year, Arena has managed to put a little pep back in the step of an underperforming Team USA. Players have responded well to his tactic changes and coaching philosophy, and it has been reflected in their success on the pitch.
In a press conference yesterday afternoon, Arena told the media “It’s been fun to put these pieces together with the #USMNT. At this point of my career, this is the best challenge I could hope for”.
USA is considered the favorite for tonight’s match, however, overcoming Jamaica will be no easy task. The Jamaican National Team advanced to this year’s championship match after knocking off Mexico, the most successful team in Gold Cup history, who defeated the Jamaicans in the 2015 Final.
The extremely athletic and fast-paced Jamaican attack is backed up by keeper Andre Blake, who has been in top-form all tournament. He has allowed only two goals in the tournament, surviving an onslaught by the Mexican strikers.
“Jamaica has been able to defend well, been opportunistic with goals and worked real hard to get to the Final. My guess is they have the best defensive record in the tournament. They’ve been dependent on their defending, have a great GK” Arena said Tuesday.
It was the Jamaicans that defeated Team USA in the semi-finals of the 2015 tournament, knocking them out for the first time in nearly a decade. However, this is a different, more prolific USA squad, hungry to bring the Gold Cup back to the stars and stripes for the first time since 2013.
Veteran keeper Tim Howard told the Washington Post, “Getting our hands on that trophy is paramount for us, no matter who stands in our way.”
Kickoff is tonight at 6:30 p.m. You can watch the match live on Fox Sports 1. Should be quite the battle.