• The United States has already qualified for the 2014 World Cup, regardless of the results in its final two matches against Jamaica and at Honduras. Meanwhile, Jamaica is in last place in the final group, with just four points out of eight matches.
• Jamaica gave Colorado Rapids forward Deshorn Brown his first international call-up for the match. The U.S. will be without forwards Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson. Dempsey is recovering from an injury, and Johnson left camp early with a fresh groin strain.
The United States hosts Jamaica on Friday (6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN) with World Cup qualification already secured. Now, head coach Jürgen Klinsmann and his staff can begin fine-tuning their roster and deciding who they will take to Brazil next summer.
Jamaica hardly has any chance to earn fourth place in the CONCACAF Hexagonal and face New Zealand in a two-legged playoff for a spot in the tournament. The Reggae Boyz, in sixth right now, need two wins against the U.S. and Honduras and Mexico and Panama to lose their final match after tying each other on Friday.
That doesn’t mean Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., will be a relaxed atmosphere. Jamaica proved to be a difficult opponent in both of the last two rounds of qualifying, with the U.S. needing a last-gasp winner from Brad Evans to secure all three points back in June. Each of the last three games between the teams have been decided by one goal.
With an injury-depleted squad, Klinsmann’s lineup on Friday will likely be different than what fans are used to seeing. In his press conference on Thursday, the coach hinted that Geoff Cameron could start at center back in place of the injured Omar González, and he said Eddie Johnson was due to start at forward until he picked up an injury.
That could open the door for Aron Jóhannsson to get his first start for the U.S. since filing for his one-time switch from Iceland. He has been on a tear for AZ Alkmaar, scoring four goals in his last four appearances and seven overall to start the season. For Jamaica, Deshorn Brown could get his first start during his Rookie of the Year-candidate season in Major League Soccer.
Predicted U.S. lineup (4-4-2): Tim Howard — DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, Brad Evans — Alejandro Bedoya, Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi — Landon Donovan, Jozy Altidore
What they’re saying
U.S. head coach Jürgen Klinsmann on putting together a roster with qualification in the bag: “The thought process was the same as all the previous qualifiers. We want to win these games. … These games already count toward the World Cup in 2014 in terms of the internal competition and the mentality we are trying to build.”
Jamaica assistant coach Vin Blaine on his team’s chances to advance: “We are aware that we are in a difficult situation, and we have to depend on other results to stand a chance to advance, but when we take the field on Friday, we will only be focused on what we have to do. … I really don’t think the USA are going to come and play us hard knowing that they already qualified for the World Cup. I don’t think they will come and play with the same intensity as if they were trying to qualify.”
U.S. left back DaMarcus Beasley on the team’s mentality: “Right now, there are spots for Brazil, and everyone knows that. There’s 23 spots that go on the plane next summer. You want to be one of them that’s on the plane.”
Jamaica really needs a win, but its quality has sorely lacked for much of the Hexagonal round. The U.S. has enough quality that it should expect to take all three points, regardless of whether they are needed or not. Anything less than a U.S. win, especially in a raucous atmosphere in Kansas City, would be shocking and worrisome.