The CONCACAF Qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup are well underway and the USA will play two matches against Jamaica this week. The United States naturally is the most dominant force in the qualifying area and will be looking to win both matches and qualify smoothly without any hiccups. As the youthful USA Olympic team learned the hard way, qualification isn’t a guarantee and every match is simply 11 vs. 11, so the team will need to be in top form to avoid embarrassment. Pressure will surely be on the squad chosen by Jurgen Klinsmann which features a good amount of young faces.
The Americans started off this round of qualification in solid form drawing Guatemala away and managing a win against Antigua and Barbuda at home this past June. However, Jamaica has also been solid so far, also earning a win and draw against the same teams. Both nations reside on top of the group with four points, and Jamaica will be eager to hold onto that spot to earn a place in the final qualifying round.
Jamaica has not reached the World Cup since 1998 and will be desperate to earn a trip to Brazil. America had better not overlook these matches. The first game will be in Jamaica, meaning a tough trip. The small nations of CONCACAF are known for their less-than-glamorous stadiums and pitches. Therefore, the away matches usually provide a hard task for Americans. The first game will be the away with the home match coming a few days later.
Further providing difficulties for the USA will be their lineup. Both Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan are unavailable because of minor injuries, which will greatly hamper our goal-scoring exploits. Superstar Clint Dempsey will play with the team, but one has to question the form he will be in. Dempsey was recently embroiled in a transfer fiasco at his former club Fulham, which escalated to the point of his refusal to play with the team. He eventually earned a deadline-day move to Tottenham, but he has yet to play a competitive match this season. The last time he played was in June for the United States so it will be interesting to see what kind of shape he is in and if he will even be a starter.
Overall though, America has a vastly superior side, even without our key men. Jozy Altidore has been stellar at AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands, and has already scored four goals in only two matches. Also, experienced goalie Tim Howard is a rock on the opposite end of the pitch. I am also excited to see more of Brek Shea, whose incredible run paved the way for the historic American victory in Mexico last month. Shea is a youngster with huge potential in the national side.
Let’s hope that the USA can stroll through these two games. I predict a draw in Jamaica, and a blowout victory when the nations play stateside. America is simply too good for the Caribbean island nations of CONCACAF.