FIVE THINGS TO KNOW: Jamaica
The U.S. Men’s National Team opens the international window with a friendly against Concacaf foe Jamaica on Wednesday, March 25 at Stadion Wiener Neustadt in Wiener Neustadt, Austria (1pm ET; ESPN2, UniMás, TUDN).
Here are five things to know about the Reggae Boyz.
A power in Concacaf’s Caribbean region, Jamaica’s rise began in the late 1980s leading to the nation’s first major championship when it lifted the 1991 Caribbean Cup, a tournament they’ve won six times.
The Reggae Boyz shining achievement was finishing third in Final Round Qualifying for the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, earning them their first appearance on the world’s biggest stage. While they were bested in their first two matches to Croatia and Argentina, the side which featured current head coach Theodore Whitmore won its first World Cup match when it defeated Japan 2-1 in the group finale.
Though they haven’t qualified for the World Cup since, Jamaica has performed exceptionally in Concacaf Gold Cup play of late, advancing to the semifinal in each of the last three tournaments, and finishing as runners-up in 2015 and 2017.
In 2015, the Reggae Boyz defeated the USA 2-1 in the semifinal before falling to Mexico in the championship match. Two years later, the USMNT got some revenge, using a Jozy Altidore free kick and Jordan Morris’ 88th minute strike to take a 2-1 victory and its sixth Gold Cup title.
The USA’s most recent meeting with Jamaica came in that semifinal on July 3, 2019 in Nashville. An early strike from Weston McKennie gave the USMNT a 1-0 lead, before a long break for severe weather. The teams traded goals on the other side of halftime, Christian Pulisic giving the USA a 2-0 lead in the 52nd before Jamaica’s Shamar Nicholson responded seven minutes later. Pulisic iced any hopes of a third-straight final for Jamaica with a second strike in the 89th minute.
Head Coach: Theodore Whitmore
One of the most heralded players in Jamaican football history, Theodore Whitmore recorded 120 caps and 24 goals for the Reggae Boyz, good enough for third all-time in both categories.
A member of the 1998 FIFA World Cup squad, the midfielder also played part of his career in England with Hull City and Tranmere Rovers, as well as a short stint with Scottish club Livingston.
Having previously coached Jamaica from 2009-2013, Whitmore returned to the post in 2016 and was at the helm as the Reggae Boyz advanced to the 2017 Concacaf Gold Cup Final.
History vs. USMNT
Since first meeting in 1988, the U.S. Men’s National Team holds a 16-3-8 overall record in 27 matches against Jamaica.
While a majority of Concacaf begins the first round of World Cup qualifying this month, the USA and Jamaica are two of five nations in the region to already claim a place in the final round set to begin in September. Finding themselves in similar boats this window and with a lack of other options due to World Cup qualifying in the rest of the world, the USA and Jamaica will play the first neutral-site match of the series in Wiener Neustadt, Austria in preparation for a busy year ahead.
Jamaica of Late
Following their last meeting with the USMNT in July 2019, Jamaica took on Concacaf Nations League play that fall, finishing atop their League B group of Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba and Guyana to earn promotion to League A during the next iteration of the tournament in 2022.
The Reggae Boyz defeated Bermuda, 2-0, on March 11, 2020 – just days prior to the shutdown caused by the global health pandemic last year. Like the USMNT, they didn’t return to action until November, playing a two-game set with Saudia Arabia in Riyadh – a 3-0 loss on Nov. 14 and 2-1 win on Nov. 17.
Head coach Theodore Whitmore selected a 19-man roster made up of players based in England and Jamaica.
His roster this month notably features eight first-time players, six of which are English-born and feature for clubs there: defenders Amari Bell (Blackburn Rovers), Wesley Harding (Rotherham United), Liam Moore (Reading), Ethan Pinnock (Brentford FC), Curtis Tilt (Wigan Athletic) and forward Andre Gray (Watford).
While mostly inexperienced on the international level, the roster also features veteran defenders Adrian Mariappa (Bristol City) and Michael Hector, currently teammates with Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson at Fulham.
The full roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Kemar Foster (Portmore United; 0/0), Shaven Paul (Mount Pleasant; 2/0), Jeadine White (Cavalier; 2/0)
DEFENDERS (8): Amari’i Bell (Blackburn Rovers/ENG; 0/0), Wes Harding (Rotherham United/ENG; 0/0), Michael Hector (Fulham/ENG; 32/0), Adrian Mariappa (Bristol City/ENG; 49/1), Liam Moore (Reading/ENG; 0/0), Ethan Pinnock (Brentford/ENG; 0/0), Curtis Tilt (Wigan Athletic; 0/0), Renealdo Wellington (Montego Bay United; 0/0)
MIDFIELDERS (4): Omar Holness (Darlington/ENG; 4/0), Kevaughn Isaacs (Mount Pleasant; 5/0), Luca Levee (Harbour View; 0/0), Ricardo Morris (Portmore United; 18/3)
FORWARDS (4): Andre Gray (Watford/ENG; 0/0), Jabari Hylton (UWI; 0/0), Jama Lowe (Swansea City/WAL; 0/0), Chavany Willis (Portmore United; 8/2)