The United States men’s national team would very much prefer if this international break isn’t the one where it all comes together for the strengthened Jamaican men’s national team.
Well, maybe that’s fine if it happens after Thursday’s match in Austin, Texas.
Theodore Whitmore’s Reggae Boyz have added a host of Europe-based multi-nationals to the fold, including West Ham’s Michail Antonio, Brentford’s Ethan Pinnock, and Rangers’ Kemar Roofe (though Antonio has pulled out of the team for this break).
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Charleroi’s Shamar Nicholson and unattached Adrian Mariappa are the only players of the dozen Reggae Boyz in the squad to boast more than eight caps.
The Yanks are fortunate that Aston Villa’s Leon Bailey isn’t fit for the break, but Jamaica’s talent pool has made a big leap over the past 18 months.
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So far, the results have been mixed thanks to unfamiliarity but also a very difficult start to qualifying that saw trips to Mexico (2-1 loss) and Costa Rica (1-1 draw) and a visit from Panama (3-0 loss).
That means the Reggae Boyz and their World Cup-hungry new charges will be in desperate shape for Thursday’s visit to the USMNT, Sunday’s home match with Canada, and an Oct. 13 visit to Honduras’ San Pedro Sula.
USMNT lineup vs Jamaica
Matt Turner starts in goal behind a back four of Sergino Dest, Walker Zimmermman, Miles Robinson, and Antonee Robinson.
The midfield is strong, with Tyler Adams captaining a unit with Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah, while Ricardo Pepi leads the line flanked by Brenden Aaronson and Paul Arriola.
3 Points at Home. Let's get it. 🇺🇸
Lineup Notes: https://t.co/hsMAUByxW3#OnlyForward #SoloPaLante pic.twitter.com/crw0vrJZmg
— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) October 7, 2021
How to watch USMNT and CONCACAF World Cup qualifying
CONCACAF World Cup qualifying: NBC’s Telemundo Deportes and Universo + ESPN2, TUDN
USMNT vs Jamaica — 7:30pm ET — NBC’s Universo
Honduras vs Costa Rica — 8pm ET — NBC’s Universo
Mexico vs Canada — 9:40pm ET
El Salvador vs Costa Rica — 10:05pm ET
USMNT qualifying so far
El Salvador 0-0 USMNT – 3 THINGS | PLAYER RATINGS
USMNT 1-1 Canada – 3 THINGS | PLAYER RATINGS
Honduras 1-4 USMNT – 3 THINGS | PLAYER RATINGS
How will Jamaica challenge the USMNT?
Aside from the immense battle that will be a John Brooks-less defense facing an agile bull like Antonio, Whitmore will likely deploy a 4-4-2 with a pair of physical center mids.
Left back Kamar Lawrence, goalkeeper Andre Blake, and winger Cory Burke were the only players to start all three of September’s World Cup qualifiers.
Nicholson and Antonio are in very good form. Lawrence will be happy to trade blows with the USMNT’s chosen right back while Alvas Powell will feel similar about the American left side.
The biggest question is whether Walker Zimmerman and Miles Robinson will win the battle for the heart of the 18 versus Antonio and Nicholson, but how the Yanks link holding midfielder Tyler Adams to the forward group is intriguing as well.
That’s because Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna are out with injuries, meaning the U.S. will have a challenge to get the ball to forwards regardless of whether Berhalter opts for Gyasi Zardes, Ricardo Pepi, Matthew Hoppe or Timothy Weah atop the attack.
Yunus Musah is a promising ballmover and Weston McKennie can create chaos for the opposition, but it may come down to Brenden Aaronson and Sebastian Lletget to unlock the backs (as well as a healthy dose of crosses and danger from Sergino Dest and Antonee Robinson at fullback).