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Jamaica’s Bailey says Bayer Leverkusen aiming high

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Bayer Leverkusen got its young speedster back at the right time.

Leon Bailey’s cut through Bayern Munich on Saturday, scoring twice in 63 minutes for a picture perfect return from a two-match red card suspension.

Both goals showed his knack for using the right angles to execute runs with his blazing speed, as the 22-year-old Jamaican scored his 20th and 21st career Bundesliga goals to lift Bayer to within six points of first place Borussia Monchengladbach via a 2-1 win at the Allianz Arena.

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It looks like an open league. And Bailey wants to see his team finish higher than its fourth place standing of the 2018/19 season.

“I see our team being at the highest level,” Bailey tells ProSoccerTalk three days after his big performance in Munich. “We have, of all the teams right now, the best chance to be in the Top Three this year.

“The Bundesliga level is high right now and the points are very close, and even the teams that are behind are doing their best to beat teams ahead of them which makes it more complicated but it’s a very intense league and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Bayer hasn’t had Bailey for much of the season, the Bayern match his sixth league appearance in 13 opportunities thanks to the aforementioned red card suspension and a muscle injury.

He’s also managed just two 45-minute appearances in Bayer’s UEFA Champions League run, which is still alive against the odds.

Bayer lost its first three matches of the group stage and had most leaving it for dead, but beat Atletico Madrid and Lokomotiv Moscow to set up a final match day visit from Juventus.

And Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. aren’t scaring Bailey’s teammates, who need to beat already-qualified Juve and see Atleti drop points at home to Lokomotiv.

“We enter with the same approach toward every game, go into it with 100 percent focus and hopefully we can beat them here at home,” Bailey said.

It’s been a wild ride for Bailey, who started his career with Genk in Belgium, amassing 15 goals and 21 assists in 77 matches.

He’s continued to deliver following a move to Germany, posting 21 and 12 in 92 appearances. That’s seen him linked with a lot of big clubs, including Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

And at long last he’s debuted for Jamaica, earning six caps since the start of the Gold Cup in June.

Bailey assisted against the USMNT in the Reggae Boyz’s 3-1 semifinal loss, and got his first goal in a September win over Antigua and Barbuda in the CONCACAF Nations League.

“It made me learn a lot and I’m grateful that I can actually help my country, be there for them right now, and hopefully we can make it to a World Cup,” he said.

Jamaica’s the fourth ranked team in CONCACAF and will be contesting the Hex in a bid to land its first World Cup bid since 1998, its only appearance in the tournament.

“It would mean everything to me, of course for the country,” Bailey said. “Right now we have a good team, Since I joined the team a lot of English players came and I think we have a good possibility to make it.”

That, most likely, would mean getting the best of Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT.

Bailey says he sees some comparisons between what Bayer did against Bayern and what the Reggae Boyz will need to do to the Yanks.

“They have a lot of quality players and they have a system that reminds me a little bit of how Bayern Munich plays, but we can defeat them if we put our minds to it like we did against Bayern Munich.”

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Jamaica women’s team on strike after not being paid

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Just months after reaching the nation’s first-ever Women’s World Cup, the Jamaican women’s national team has refused to play or train, claiming they have not been paid.

The notice became public as midfielder Khadija Shaw posted on Instagram that the team is “in a position where we we are literally fighting just to get paid by legal agreements.”

Jamaica became the first Caribbean team to reach the World Cup this summer and scored a goal in its group stage finale in a 4-1 loss to Australia. The team also competed at this summer’s Pan American games and finished seventh, beating Peru 1-0 in its final match.

“This ain’t just about money, it’s about change, change in the way women football is viewed especially in Jamaica,” Shaw wrote on Instagram. “We deserve more and they can do better. For this reason, I along with my teammates won’t be participating in any future tournaments until being paid.”

Defender Allyson Swaby also posted the same graphic on her account, writing, “The monetary incentives can be small and are often not a reflection of the time and dedication we put into our sport. We fought for change and became the first Jamaican women’s football team to sign contracts with our federation. These contracts symbolize the respect we deserve and intend to receive.”

Neither Swaby or Shaw were on the Pan American Games roster – which consisted of many players who were not part of the World Cup – indicating the possibility of internal turmoil for some time before things went public.

The team’s qualification for the 2019 Women’s World Cup alone was a fantastic achievement, given the recent history of the Jamaican team. In 2010, the country cut funding for the women’s team, leaving it unable to participate in World Cup qualifiers and unranked by FIFA. A fundraising campaign resurrected the side in 2014 and only returned to the FIFA rankings in 2018 during the run to World Cup qualification.

McKennie, Pulisic lead USMNT over Jamaica to Gold Cup final (video)

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It hasn’t always been pretty, but for the second-straight time, the U.S. Men’s National Team will be playing for a continental title.

Christian Pulisic scored a brace and Weston McKennie had a goal and an assist as the USMNT defeated Jamaica, 3-1, Wednesday evening in Nashville to advance to the 2019 Gold Cup final. The U.S. will face Mexico in the Gold Cup final on Sunday evening in Chicago.

[READ: All the latest USMNT News and Notes]

The semifinal, which started at 8:30 p.m. locally, didn’t finish until around midnight, local time, after the game was delayed for 90 minutes after 17 minutes of action due to severe weather in the area. The game resumed at around 10:20 p.m. local time and continued, despite lightning strikes continuing in the central Tennessee region.

Whether due to the uneven performance against Curacao or the fact that his main starting XI was about to play its third game in a week, Berhalter opted to make a few changes, and two of the changes, Jozy Altidore and Reggie Cannon, played instrumental roles in the opening goal.

Both Jamaica and the U.S. looked lively to start the match, but it was the USMNT which would hit first in the ninth minute. Michael Bradley spotted Cannon making a run down right wing and drilled a 40-yard pass on the money to Cannon in stride. Cannon one-touch crossed it into the box, which seemed to take Jamaica by surprise. Altidore held off Michael Hector, which allowed McKennie to ghost into the box, take a touch to control and fire past star Jamaica goalkeeper Andre Blake.

The match really lacked a rhythm after the long delay and it took until the next halftime break for both teams to begin to look their normal selves.

It only took until the 52nd minute for the USMNT to double the lead. The American attackers, which floated across the front three and caused a lot of problems for the Jamaican defense, opened space that Jordan Morris took advantage of. Right in the midfield circle, McKennie saw Morris open and played a ball down the middle but to Morris’ right. Morris dribbled to his right and fired a shot across his body towards the far post. Blake parried it away, but it went right into the path of Pulisic, who couldn’t miss from five yards out.

Berhalter brought in Gyasi Zardes for Altidore in the 55th minute, and McKennie again played a perfect pass to Zardes a few minutes later to put the Columbus Crew striker through on goal. Instead, Zardes somehow missed. In the 69th minute, the oft-criticized USMNT striker played a role in Jamaica cutting the deficit to one. Zardes turned the ball over in his own half and after the ball made its way to Bayer Leverkusen winger Leon Bailey, Bailey delivered a great cross that Shamar Nicholson headed home to make it 2-1.

Despite some nervy moments late and both teams fatigued in the heat on a long night, Pulisic put away a second rebound, this time off a strike from Arriola that was blocked before the boy wonder scored his 13th international goal.

The U.S. wasn’t always the best, but it was clearly a better performance for Berhalter’s side. McKennie and Bradley were outstanding together in midfield while Cannon impressed down the right side, essentially allowing Jordan Morris to move up alongside Zardes and Altidore (while he was in) as a second striker. Pulisic was much better in a floating role, where he could get the ball out wide and take on defenders to create goal-scoring opportunities.

Mexico started the Gold Cup strong and has kind of faded over the tournament, while the U.S. has grown into it game after game. We’ll see which USMNT squad makes it on the field against Mexico, but at this point, another title is in both team’s reach.

FOLLOW LIVE, Gold Cup: USMNT takes on Jamaica for place in final

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The U.S. Men’s National Team faces a crunch semifinal against Jamaica on Wednesday, with the title on the line as well as a chance to show that the team has grown since an embarrassing 2-0 defeat to the Reggae Boyz in early June.

USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter has made four changes from his side’s 1-0 win over Curacao, in which the team was outplayed for large portions of the match. Into the starting lineup is Jozy Altidore up top, Jordan Morris, along with Matt Miazga and Reggie Cannon on the backline.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT takes on Jamaica in Nashville]

Cannon will likely get the assignment of marking Bayer Leverkusen speedster Leon Bailey, but Jordan Morris and Cannon will be important for the U.S. to break through the Jamaica backline and create goal-scoring opportunities.

Hit the link above to follow along for the next two hours, and check back on PST for a full recap and in-depth analysis after the final whistle.

Jamaica beats Panama to reach Gold Cup semis; USMNT up next?

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) Darren Mattocks scored on a penalty kick in the 75th minute and Jamaica beat Panama 1-0 on Sunday to advance to the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals.

Mattocks converted after Michael Murillo was whistled for a handball in the box in the first game of the doubleheader at Lincoln Financial Field. Mattocks, a forward for FC Cincinnati in Major League Soccer, had entered the game two minutes earlier.

Andre Blake, the Philadelphia Union’s All-Star goalkeeper, made two big saves in front of his local fans, including one on Abdiel Arroyo in the 43rd minute en route to the shutout.

Panama goalkeeper Luis Mejia had a good stop on Junior Flemmings in the 58th minute.

Jamaica, a finalist in the 2017 Gold Cup, advanced to play the United States or Curacao in the semifinals Wednesday night in Nashville, Tennessee. The Reggae Boyz have made it to the semifinal round in three straight Gold Cups.