As the U.S. Men’s National Team arrived in the Bay Area for Wednesday’s Gold Cup Final, it returned to the place that in many ways helped spark the team’s resurgence after two difficult defeats to Mexico and Costa Rica in the Final Round of 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying.
“Four months ago we were rebuilding our program – a program that was in desperate shape for being in position to qualify for the World Cup and all other things,” U.S. MNT head coach Bruce Arena said following Monday’s training session.
Facing Honduras at San Jose’s Avaya Stadium on March 24, the U.S. made an emphatic statement against Los Catrachos, using a hat trick from Clint Dempsey and single strikes from Sebastian Lletget, Christian Pulisic and Michael Bradley to earn a resounding 6-0 win.
“I think we’ve made great strides over the last four months, and this is a great opportunity for us to continue to make progress,” Arena continued.
When it takes the field on Wednesday in Santa Clara, it won’t meet the Mexico or Costa Rica sides that gave the USA its early blows in the Hex. Instead it will take on a Jamaica team that has been on a recent tear in the Gold Cup, going unbeaten in 10 of their last 11 games in the tournament and reaching its second-straight confederation Final on Wednesday.
And let’s not forget they arrived in the 2015 championship game thanks to a 2-1 Semifinal win against the USA. Just like two years ago, the Reggae Boyz deserve their place in the Final, combining a tournament-best two goals conceded with a strong ability to take advantage of special moments, with the latest being Kemar Lawrence’s 88th minute free kick to defeat Mexico 1-0 in the Semifinal.
That win came two weeks after Jamaica played the tournament co-favorites to a 0-0 draw in the Group Stage, a point Bruce Arena made to reporters on Monday.
“I think in the tournament they’ve done very well,” he said. “I think they’re a different type of Jamaica team than we’ve seen in the past. They have a lot of discipline, they’re very strong defensively and they’re hard to play against. That to me is not what you typically see out of a Jamaican team.
Having featured in two previous Gold Cup Finals, goalkeeper Tim Howard echoed Arena’s comments on Jamaica’s run to the championship match.
“They’re in the Final based on merit,” he said. “They’ve done very well. They’re a powerful team, very athletic, and they’ve shown they defend very well. They get out on the break and they cause problems with their pace. It’ll be a tough game for us. I think the last two games have been tough for us. This one is no different.”