The United States has only ever lost one match to Jamaica, but tonight's Gold Cup semifinal will be the toughest match they've faced in this tournament. In four matches in the last World Cup qualifying cycle, the USMNT played three one-goal games with the Reggae Boyz, and Jamaica's performances in CONCACAF's championship event indicate that the trend will continue. Jamaica is on a 323 minute shutout streak in this Gold Cup, having not given up a goal since the 37th minute of their first match.
After a group stage featuring two wins, one draw, and zero satisfactory performances the US was handed by far the easiest game they'll face in the Gold Cup against Cuba in the quarterfinals. The ensuing 6-0 victory may not have been the ideal dry rehearsal for today's game, but it probably did the US some good to see the ball going into the back of the net so many times and to have fewer complaints from fans and media afterward.
Still, it's safe to say that good vibes aren't going to do the job on their own. The USMNT is facing a very organized, determined opponent today. Jamaica has been growing in confidence under Winfried Schaefer and will be treating this as more than just a knockout game. The Americans will have to match their intensity while playing sharp, intelligent soccer all over the field. The days of Jamaica shooting themselves in the foot or playing naively are over.
USMNT Projected Starting 11: Woe be to the person who absolutely needs to predict a Klinsmann lineup correctly. Fortunately no one punishes me for not being able to guess the actions of our baffling national team boss. Brad Guzan will be in goal, of course, and I think today's the day that #PleaseNoChandler finally works out. The back four should be Fabian Johnson, Omar Gonzalez, John Brooks, and DaMarcus Beasley (though I suspect we'll see Ventura Alvarado start over Gonzalez). The midfield will remain in place. Look for Kyle Beckerman holding sort of alongside/sort of behind Michael Bradley depending on the situation, with Alejandro Bedoya and Gyasi Zardes on the wings. Up top, Clint Dempsey will partner Aron Johansson.
Off the bench, I think we'll see Alan Gordon (he wasn't called up just to hang out), and DeAndre Yedlin is a safe bet to come in regardless of what's happening in the game. Klinsmann has brought Brad Evans on a few times, but I think today we're more likely to see Mix Diskerud step in. That's just a hunch, by the way, rather than an endorsement of Diskerud's Gold Cup play.
Match previews: USsoccer.com's preview is chock full of factoids, while Matt Doyle's tactical preview for MLSsoccer.com underlines Jamaica's team speed. Our preview talks about how "General Bradley" needs to have a big game, while Rob Usry's preview for Stars and Stripes FC cautions the USMNT to watch out for Giles Barnes.
What are you drinking: I am out of beer at home and probably won't have time to stop and get some before kickoff, so this is tough. Maybe a Catoctin Creek Rye on the rocks?
Prediction: I see a tense, difficult game for the USMNT where one mistake could easily turn into a goal. I do expect the US to take the lead - via Dempsey, of course - before said mistake pops up. The game goes to extra time, where the US wins the game on a set piece. Let's say Brooks bags the crucial goal. 2-1 USA, AET.
This is your place for pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion.