Jamaica

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Usain Bolt holds out hope for Man United dream deal

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It’s not uncommon for an athlete to change sports, and the world’s greatest sprinter remains hopeful that he can follow in the footsteps of greats like Bo Jackson and Michael Jordan to be the next two-sport athlete.

[ MORE: Forest stuns Arsenal in FA Cup action ]

Jamaican world-record holder Usain Bolt says he will have a trial with Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund in March, which could determine his future as a professional footballer.

Bolt, 31, won eight Olympic gold medals in track and field throughout his illustrious career as a sprinter, but has long been attached to the game of soccer and desired a move to Premier League side Manchester United.

“The injury is now fine and I’m back fully fit,” Bolt told the Express. “In March we’re going to do trials with Dortmund and that will determine what I do with that career, which way it goes. If they say I’m good, and that I need a bit of training, I’ll do it.

“It makes me nervous. I don’t get nervous but this is different, this is football now. It’ll take time to adjust but once I play a few times I’ll get used to it. It was the same when I started track and field.

“I was nervous for a while until I started getting used to the crowd, people and everyone around and it falls into place.

“One of my biggest dreams is to sign for Manchester United. If Dortmund say I’m good enough, I’ll crack on and train hard. I’ve spoken to Alex Ferguson and I told him he needs to put in a good word. He told me if I get fit and ready, he will see what he can do.”

Perhaps Bolt’s ties to former United boss Sir Alex Ferguson could give the Jamaican an inside track towards an Old Trafford move if his trial in Germany goes well, however, that would be a long shot.

[ MORE: USMNT vet Eric Lichaj stuns Arsenal with brilliant volley ]

Still, it’s great to see one of this generation’s top athletes pursuing a dream of his, which is something the child in all of us wishes to do.

Union’s Blake explains why Premier League move fell through

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Several of Jamaica’s top talents currently play in Major League Soccer, but it’s those same talents that have drawn interest from abroad, including the Premier League.

[ MORE: Assessing USMNT, BVB star Pulisic on his 19th birthday ]

Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake — widely seen as a top five shot-stopper in MLS — and New York Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence have seen their stocks rise significantly in the United States’ top flight, but have had moves to England derailed by their national team’s standing in the world soccer.

Jamaica, currently ranked 61st in FIFA’s World Ranking, isn’t seen as a top priority in terms of global club’s granting working permits for its players, and as a result, Blake and Lawrence have been denied the opportunity to play in England.

In Blake’s case, Goal has reported that the 26-year-old had “multi-million dollar offers” from both Brighton and Crystal Palace over the summer after performing well at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Blake recently explained why his move to England’s top flight fell through, but remains hopeful that a transfer to Europe remains in his future.

“I knew everything all the way, and it’s such a tough situation,” Blake told Goal USA. “But I can’t get too worked up over it, even though it’s a very good opportunity I’m missing out on. Maybe it’s not time yet, or maybe it wasn’t meant to be. I’ve just got to keep working hard and maybe some day, some how, if it’s supposed to be it will happen.”

Lawrence, who is now in his third year with the Red Bulls, has proven on multiple occasions in MLS that he has the talent to play either left back or in the midfield, making him a coveted player.

For the Kingston native, he says it’s difficult to accept the rules currently set forth by FIFA, but he continues to play each match in hopes that he can eventually make the leap.

“It’s hard to know that you want to play in that top division, that top league, and you can’t get to go because of stipulations like that,” Lawrence said. “It’s their rules and you have to live by it.

“We talk about it on a regular basis, but these things take time,” Lawrence added. “More than one time opportunities like that have presented themselves for me, but we already know that if they’re not talking about a $10 million or $11 million transfer it’s a no-no for Jamaican players in England.”

VIDEO: USMNT leads Jamaica on Altidore free kick

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A Jozy Altidore free kick has the United States men’s national team 45 minutes from a Gold Cup title.

His 39th U.S. goal, Altidore is now 16 goals behind joint-USMNT all-time leaders Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Stats, scores from Gold Cup Final ]

The early stages were more about fouls than chances, as Jamaica took several chances to plow into the favored U.S.

Je-Vaughn Watson could’ve seen red for a cleating of Jordan Morris, and Jorge Villafana was felled by a vicious bit of work from Romario Williams.

The first threat on goal came from Jozy Altidore and friends, as the Toronto FC man tore into a 25-yard shot that Andre Blake saved before being injured denying Kellyn Acosta’s rebound chance.

Blake was taken from the game with an ugly-looking hand injury, and Ryan Miller took his place between the sticks.

Though the U.S. controlled the game, there were dicey moments, to be sure, as Graham Zusi was cooked by Darren Mattocks and the U.S. conceded a corner kick it was able to send clear of danger.

Continued U.S. pressure led to a dangerous free kick, dead center, 30 yards from goal. Enter Altidore.

FOLLOW LIVE: Lineups as the USMNT goes trophy hunting

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Levi’s Stadium is the scene as the United States men’s national team looks to wrestle the Gold Cup back after Mexico claimed the 2015 championship.

Jamaica is the opponent, and an incredible story all things considered, as the Reggae Boyz hope their second-straight tournament final is the occasion for their first Gold Cup crown.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Stats, scores from Gold Cup Final ]

Kickoff is slated for about 9:45 p.m. ET, with the pageantry from California getting started at 9:30.

There are no real surprises in the XI, aside from Bruce Arena’s continued use of Graham Zusi at right back. Omar Gonzalez pairs with Matt Besler in the heart of the defense, with Michael Bradley, Kellyn Acosta, Darlington Nagbe, and Paul Arriola combining for an industrious midfield.

Jozy Altidore and Jordan Morris are up top, while Jorge Villafana fills out the lineup at left back with Tim Howard in goal.

Clint Dempsey is on the bench, perhaps awaiting another super sub performance.

And what about the Reggae Boyz? History awaits

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Being an American site whose readership celebrates USMNT coverage, we’ve dealt with the U.S. side of Wednesday’s Gold Cup Final in Santa Clara.

Yet the opponent is truly staring down history with little to no expectations. Jamaica enters its second-straight Gold Cup Final also hoping to put one leg in the 2021 Confederations Cup in Qatar.

[ MORE: Gold Cup Final preview ]

The Reggae Boyz are 8:1 underdogs against the United States tonight, and that figure would likely be even bolder if the U.S. was performing to its capabilities. Jamaica enters the game with red-hot Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake, a half-dozen MLS players, and the rest of its roster comprised of Jamaican-based or lower-tier U.S. club players.

And as for leaving players behind, as the U.S. clearly did for this tournament, this is not a Jamaican team boasting Premier League players Wes Morgan, Adrian Mariappa, and Michael Hector.  Consider that manager Theodore Whitmore has qualified for a final with a far less impressive-looking roster than the one that fell to Mexico in 2015. That tournament roster had only six players from outside the MLS, the Premier League, and the English Football League system.

Jamaica boasted third- and fourth-place finishes in 1993 and 1998, and remains the only team from the Caribbean Football Union to make it to a final. It has a chance to become just the fourth Gold Cup winner in 14 tournaments (Mexico has seven, the USMNT five, and Canada won the 2000 tournament).

Jamaica’s ELO rating is 66th in the world. It’s FIFA ranking is 113, behind Cuba, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Haiti. Behind Antigua and Barbuda.

To win this tournament, whatever you think of the Gold Cup, would be an amazing achievement. But what Whitmore has done in calmly guiding his men to this point is already remarkable. That he’s done it like he’s been there before is even more laudable.