Jamaica v USA: Tight tussle anticipated in Nashville

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THE CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-finals conclude on Wednesday night and James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) shares his thoughts as Jamaica take on USA in Nashville.

Jamaica v USA | Thursday 4th July 2019, 02:00 | FreeSports

The CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-finals conclude when Jamaica and USA take to Nissan Stadium in Nashville, with a place in the weekend final in Chicago versus either Haiti or Mexico to come.

USA are the second-highest FIFA ranked nation at this tournament, with only Mexico higher, whilst Jamaica are 24 spots behind their upcoming opponents. USA are odds-on shots to get the job done inside 90 minutes here, but Jamaica will not be easily defeated.

These two sides took on one another in a warm-up friendly contest prior to the Gold Cup, and Jamaica came out 1-0 winners away from home at Audi Field; the home of DC United. One thing is for certain, there was no fluke about that win for the Reggae Boyz. They were most impressive on the night.

A word of caution however is that USA were trialling a new system for that game, and Gregg Berhalter has since ditched any prospect of returning to a 3-5-2 formation. They’re comfortable in something of a 4-2-2-2 shape, but their last round win over Curacao was anything but comfortable.

USA underwhelming?

USA are one of only two teams at this competition to currently hold a 100% record, the other being fellow surprise package Haiti. Winning 4-0 and 6-0 over Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago are scores that quite frankly they should be achieving, but those matches were only 1-0 at half time and they can become a little frustrated at times against these sorts of opponents.

Edgy 1-0 wins over Panama, and then in the knockout stages to Curacao followed. They were certainly tested in those clashes, which offers Jamaica plenty of encouragement prior to this semi. It was an uninspiring performance considering they were priced at 1/10 with one bookmaker pre-game to defeat a Curacao side ranked 79th in the FIFA rankings.

Curacao had more possession and more shots than USA, and nobody could’ve complained if that went to extra time. They did, of course, get the job done, but a tougher test awaits.

Jamaica suit underdog role

Jamaica remain unbeaten in this Gold Cup cycle, but these have all been close and tight matches that they’ve been involved in. Their campaign began with a fine win over tournament disappointing Honduras by a 3-2 score. A drab draw with El Salvador followed, before another draw with Curacao, who equalised in the 93rd minute to take them into the knockout round.

Jamaica went into the quarter-final clash with Panama ranked as the outsiders of the two, but the 1-0 win was certainly rewarded following a good display. They were heavily second-best in possession however and did rely on a penalty to get the job done, but it was good preparation to face the USA, knowing a similar sort of test likely awaits. Jamaica can adopt an underdog mentality and tactical approach in this one, which should suit them fine.

Outright betting

As mentioned, USA are odds-on (14/25 Marathon) shots to get the win in this one. You can get 13/2 (Sky Bet) on Jamaica, which does represent good value considering they won the most recent encounter as recently as last month. Jamaica has lost only three of its last 17 overall, but USA did win 2-1 versus the Reggae Boyz in the 2017 Gold Cup final.

Mexico and USA are by far the two most successful nations in the history of this tournament, and they have a pedigree which often leads them to the final at the very least. That is the minimum expectation for Berhalter’s side, meaning all the pressure and weight of expectation is upon them. Jamaica has been runner-up in two of the last three editions however, so they’re no mugs and will hold their own.

Players to watch

Inspiration from a USA perspective on the pitch is likely to come from now Chelsea forward Christian Pulisic. He is very much the bright spark in this roster and the one who gets fans on the edge of their seats. He only has one goal to his name so far, but could have so easily had another few more. Weston McKennie of Schalke 04 has also shone, as well.

From the outside, many will suspect Leon Bailey of Bayer Leverkusen to be the star man in this Jamaica squad, and on paper he is, but he has generally had a bit of a quiet tournament so far. He is still very much getting used to being in this setup. Goalkeeper and captain Andre Blake will need to have a good game for Jamaica to progress, and he has been one of the standout goalies in the MLS for a while now.

Shamar Nicholson in attack has taken the eye too, and whilst he still has a lot to learn and is very raw, he is still a potential match winner. Jamaica will be missing key centre back Damion Lowe, which is a huge blow for head coach and former Hull and Tranmere midfielder Theodore Whitmore.

The best bets

This promises to be a very close game, as that has tended to be the case over the years when these sides have met. The last 10 renewals have the following scores: 0-1, 2-1, 1-0, 1-2, 2-0, 1-2, 1-0, 2-1, 0-2 and 1-1. USA’s last two games are a fairer reflection rather than their heavy wins in their first two of what is more likely to come. Jamaica’s only higher-scoring contest was their first match of this 2019 Gold Cup, and things have settled down since then.

USA are the more likely winner as they should be the ones dictating the game and forcing the issue. Breaking Jamaica down is another issue, and they will offer a threat on the counter.

USA Double Chance and Under 3 Goals looks worthy of a play at 4/5 (Bet365), whilst the Half Time Draw priced at 29/25 (Marathon) will surely have some legs given how stubborn this Jamaican team are, and that USA have been slow to get into their stride in this tournament to date.

Best Bets

Jamaica v USA – Half Time Draw (29/25 Marathon)

Jamaica v USA – USA Double Chance and Under 3 Goals (4/5 Bet365)

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