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Three things to watch for US national team vs Jamaica

Jun 7, 2013, 2:53 PM EDT

Jozy Altidore, Fabian Johnson

Okay so with confidence relatively high after that friendly victory over Germany (we get it, it was their B squad but so what, still a good win) it seems as if Jurgen Klinsmann is going to go with the same starting lineup tonight in Kingston.

But this crucial World Cup qualifier is more than a game. The hostile atmosphere, bumpy pitch and hot conditions will combine to make this match an ordeal for the US national team.

That’s why Klinsi flew the squad in a day early for this game, after that qualifying loss in Honduras proved a lack of preparation in foreign environments can be extremely harmful.

But what are three things the US should focus on tonight to help them get the three points they crave? Let’s speculate.

The pace of Johnson and Mattocks can catch you out at any time

Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, Clarence Goodson or Geoff Cameron, whoever starts here has to remember one thing: keep an eye on your shoulder. Jamaica’s forwards aren’t the most skillful in the world but they do have electric pace. Vancouver’s Darren Mattocks goes missing for large spells during games and pops up to finish a chance or get in behind when you least expect it. The USA’s defender have to be on their toes as plenty of long balls will be flicked in behind them tonight.

Get the ball wide, attack Jamaica’s inexperienced full backs

Jamaica is hurting with injuries and absences and against Mexico they fielded 18-year-old Alvas Powell and inexperienced O’Brian Woodbine at full back. While German born Daniel Gordon, who was earning his first cap, played at center back. They are struggling defensively, so the US have to get the ball wide as early as they can and put deliveries in the box to cause mayhem and havoc for the newly assembled Jamaican back line. Plenty of second balls will drop out to Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley on the edge of the box to strike as the Reggae Boyz panic and make haphazard clearances. The US should expose Jamaica’s defensive weaknesses.

If the USA’s offense is to explode, Altidore must been found early and often

Against Germany everything went through the big man, and it worked. Jozy held the ball up superbly and spun to make great runs for return balls or to get on the end of crosses. But this will not work if Altidore gets into a position but then has to wait for the ball to reach him. The 23-year-old has got to stay active but he can’t keep making run after run in such humid conditions, he will post up in front of the defense and if a ball is played into him by the US defense or Jermaine Jones and Bradley, the rest of the offense can start clicking into place. Graham Zusi and Fabian Johnson will be able to push on and Dempsey can make runs in behind the defense. But it all starts with quality early balls into Altidore, then the rest is down to him.

(More: United States face desperate Jamaica in huge World Cup qualifier tonight)

  1. charliej11 - Jun 7, 2013 at 2:59 PM

    Mattocks can be a beast. Johnson torched Mexican defenders time and time again in Mexico. Mexico in many ways was lucky to hang on for a draw at home.

  2. kingarthur900 - Jun 7, 2013 at 7:39 PM

    “The pace of Johnson and Mattocks can catch you out at any time” – pace, alone, isn’t worth much. Like charliej11 said, Johnson got past the Mexico defenders in that game, but didn’t put anything in the back of the net, so all that pace amounted to exactly nothing. Speedy forwards who can’t finish aren’t any more useful than slow forwards who can’t finish; they both end up providing the team with nothing. Legendary German ace Gerd Muller had all the pace of a tree stump but scored goals relentlessly. The ability to score, not pace, is the measure of a forward.

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