The U.S. Men’s National Team closes out January Camp with an encounter with regional rival Jamaica on Friday, Feb. 3 at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Here’s what you should know about Friday’s opponents:
With Friday’s friendly taking place outside of the FIFA international calendar, Jamaica has called up a roster of players mostly based in their domestic league, as well as seven players that ply their trade in the United States.
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Headlining the Jamaica roster is 2016 M.L.S. Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake and New York Red Bulls left back Kemar Lawrence. Relatively new on the Reggae Boyz scene, Bethlehem Steel striker Corey Burke has grabbed recent headlines after scoring in both of Jamaica’s Caribbean Cup victories against Guyana (4-2 a.e.t on Oct. 11) and Suriname (1-0 on Nov. 13).
GOALKEEPERS (2): Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union, USA), Ryan Thompson (unattached)
DEFENDERS (8): Dwayne Ambusley (Montego Bay United), Sergio Campbell (unattached), Oniel Fisher (Seattle Sounders FC, USA), Rosario Harriott (Harbour View), Kevon Lambert (Montego Bay United), Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls, USA), Damion Lowe (Tampa Bay Rowdies, USA), Ladale Ritchie (Montego Bay United)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Michael Binns (Portmore United), Omar Gordon (Montego Bay United), Ewan Grandison (Portmore United), Omar Holness (Real Salt Lake, USA), Andrew Vanzie (Portmore United)
FORWARDS (5): Cory Burke (Bethlehem Steel, USA), Jourdaine Fletcher (Montego Bay United), Shamar Nicolson (Boys’ Town FC), Allan Ottey (Montego Bay United), Romario Williams (Atlanta United FC, USA)
There are a number of club connections between the two sides.
Blake is teammates with U.S. midfielders Alejandro Bedoya and Chris Pontius, while Lawrence works with goalkeeper Luis Robles at the New York Red Bulls. Out west, Jamaica midfielder Oniel Fisher plays with Brad Evans, Chad Marshall and Jordan Morris at Seattle Sounders FC, while 22-year-old Omar Holness teams with Nick Rimando at Real Salt Lake.
Lastly, the game could present a first meeting between incoming Atlanta United FC teammates Romario Williams and U.S. left back Greg Garza.
Having first met in 1988 during qualification for the 1990 FIFA World Cup, the U.S. holds a 13-2-8 all-time advantage against Jamaica. The MNT also has a healthy 10-1-3 edge against the Reggae Boyz on home soil, though that lone defeat came in the last meeting between the two nations, a 2-1 loss in the CONCACAF Gold Cup Semifinals on July 22, 2015.
Where They’re At
Jamaica will continue to wait for a return to the World Cup after failing to advance from the Semifinal Round of 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying last year. Currently led by former international Theodore Whitmore, the Reggae Boyz have shifted focus since qualifying for the knockout stage of the 2017 Caribbean Cup where they’ll play French Guiana on June 22, and by doing so automatically book their place at July’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Following their friendly against the U.S., Jamaica will play the MNT’s upcoming World Cup Qualifying opponent Honduras in a friendly on Feb. 16 in Houston.
National Team History
Founded in 1910, the Jamaican Football Federation actually pre-dates the U.S. Soccer Federation by three years, but didn’t play its first international match until 1925 and didn’t earn its FIFA affiliation until declaring independence from the United Kingdom in 1962.
Jamaica became one of the bigger footballing forces in CONCACAF during the 1990s when Brazilian Rene Simoes took over as head coach. While the squad improved at home, Simoes successfully sought out English-born players with Jamaican heritage to represent the Reggae Boyz as they aimed to qualify for the 1998 FIFA World Cup.
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In 1996, Jamaica won FIFA’s “Best Mover” award for their ascent up the World Rankings, and the following year they became the first English speaking Caribbean nation to qualify for the FIFA World Cup. Though they fell 3-1 to Croatia and 5-0 to Argentina, Jamaica closed out their trip to France ’98 with a 2-1 victory against Japan – the nation’s first and only victory at the tournament.
Jamaica hasn’t been back to the World Cup since, but has continued to be a power in CONCACAF’s Caribbean region, most recently going to the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final which resulted in their qualification to Copa America Centenario last summer.