Soccer: USA vs Jamaica Gold Cup Semifinal Preview & Predictions

Clint DempseyWith a 6-0 rout against Cuba in the quarterfinals, the USMNT finds itself in the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal for the 12th time in 13 tournaments today (6pm ET, Wednesday). They will be facing Jamaica, who edged out Haiti with a 1-0 win, a team that hasn’t been in the semis since 1998.

While the USA are favorites to reach their sixth straight Gold Cup Final, they would be wise not to overlook their opponent as Jamaica is a physical and strong team with great speed and the ability to move the ball down the field.

Both countries have impressive teams and both are ready to shine at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, with a spot in the championship game, to be played against the winner of the Mexico-Panama semifinal, on the line.

Surprises in Group Play

For the US, the surprise was not that they won the group nor that they emerged without a loss, but that in the eyes of their head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, they really didn’t play well.

Overall that argument is not invalid. The USMNT entered the Gold Cup on a bit of a run, having shut out Guatemala in the final pre-Cup friendly and having gotten a rare win against Germany just a month prior. With Mexico in flux, USA entered as championship favorites.

Getting through group play didn’t prove to be particularly challenging, but it was how the USA played that gave Klinsmann pause. The team lacked that same intensity and that same ease of offense that they had prior to the Cup. But given that the USMNT is the best team in CONCACAF right now, these inconsistencies weren’t insurmountable.

The US swept through group play, with two one-goal victories and a surprising draw against Panama. Klinsmann was unhappy with how his team worked, noting that improvement was necessary if USA hoped to advance.

And improve they did. The USMNT defeated Cuba 6-0 in the quarterfinals, marking the largest defeat by the US men in Gold Cup history. The same team that blanked Guatemala 4-0 before the start of the tournament and who defeated Mexico 2-0 in April had returned. Defensively, they forced Cuba into their pace of play and didn’t allow them to get anything going. Cuba had just one shot on goal the entire game. Offensively, Clint Dempsey (pictured) continued his Gold Cup brilliance, notching his fourth, fifth and sixth goals of the tournament.

For Jamaica, the surprise came in the fact that they overcame World Cup quarter-finalist and 41st ranked team in the world according to the FIFA Table, Costa Rica, to win Group B.

The Costa Ricans, who many believed pre-tournament could challenge the USA for the title, opened the Gold Cup with a group play game against Jamaica. The teams played to a 2-2 draw, which was a good result for Jamaica, who hadn’t been expected to win or even secure a single point in a tie. Jamaica then went on to blank Canada and El Salvador by 1-0 scores to advance to their matchup with the Gold Cup’s Cinderella story, Haiti.

Flashes like this from Jamaica have not been uncommon as most recently, in their final Gold Cup tune-up, they played Mexico to a 2-2 draw. However, prior to that, they failed to notch a single win in a 0-3 performance at Copa America.

USA vs Jamaica Preview’s Betting Picks Predictions

Just like pre-tournament, the USA enters this final four as the short odds favorite (4/6) to win the whole thing outright. Mexico, who has been playing much better as of late, is second-favorite at 6/4. Panama, who plays Mexico is at 12/1 and Jamaica is the outsider at 18/1.

The US is clicking right now and they’ve really picked up their level of play. They should be headed for a collision with Mexico in the finals, as these two teams really have been the best of the CONCACAF for quite some time. As for the USA’s clash with Jamaica, just a few things to consider:

  • Clint Dempsey. He’s a goal scorer and he’s on fire. Jamaica has yet to face anyone with the kind of explosiveness and intelligence on the pitch as the US veteran. He’ll be one to watch out for as he’s already notched a Gold Cup-leading six goals in just four games. He’s failed to score in just one game this entire tournament.
  • Home sweet home. Just like the rest of their Gold Cup games, the US has the benefit of being the host to their semifinal against Jamaica. The USMNT return to Atlanta for the first time since 1977 and will be looking to defend a 25-match unbeaten streak on friendly soil.
  • 131-8. It’s been a pretty uneven rivalry between the two countries as Jamaica has only bested the USA once in the 22 meetings. They have played to eight draws however and have been close to getting more than just that one win on several occasions including the team’s last meeting in 2013. That was won by the US by a goal as late as the 92nd minute, in a game played in Kingston, Jamaica.

Although USA is a short price for the straight up win, I think that is the play here and they can be bet at best odds of -209 with 5Dimes Sportsbook on the moneyline. However I wouldn’t put anyone off being a little bit more optimistic and taking USA -1 goal on the spread @ best odds of -120, also with 5Dimes.

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