2 July 2016
MEXICO CITY – When the start time was announced for the match between the United States and Jamaica, the words “USA coming out on top” were on a billboard a few blocks from the Estadio Azteca, where the Americans would play their first match of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
They came out on top, but it wasn’t the most impressive performance of the tournament.
Jamaica was struggling at the same stage of the last Gold Cup, and so was the U.S. But the Gold Cup tournament follows the UEFA Champions League, and each country knows a weak opponent is just around the corner.
And, as an opponent, Jamaica seems to be all but forgotten, even though the victory may prompt them to compete against their rivals.
In fact, back in 1991, the USA defeated Jamaica 3-0 in a World Cup qualifier.
But Mexico’s defeat of Jamaica in 2007, back when the Samba Boys didn’t seem to get over the shock of their semifinal loss to Croatia, puts the two teams in a very difficult place at the Gold Cup.
Mexico now has the Americans in its sights as the two remain evenly matched. Mexico is just ahead of the U.S. in the top-five of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table, and if the two could meet next fall, it would very likely be in the second round of the World Cup qualifiers.
And while Mexico has done poorly in recent matches against the likes of Trinidad and Tobago and Costa Rica, none of those teams are so solid that beating them would be a massive shock.
But the USA has more than enough reserves to score goals against very tough teams, and with impressive play against Jamaica, they don’t look like a team that needs many lessons learned.
The only problem is they have learned too many and they have even been exposed in one such instance. They need to improve drastically, and with the big matches starting against Jamaica and then Trinidad and Tobago, they face an even greater challenge to avoid getting exposed again.
USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann needs to say some harsh words. He needs to see that they need to change their approach, for not playing inside the penalty area has put them in an almost insurmountable position.
USA looks like a team that is playing to lose rather than to win. And that is the wrong approach against powerful opponents.
We say the same thing about the other teams, and those teams are coming very close to securing the Gold Cup title. So don’t forget who is standing in their way. And don’t underestimate the draw against Honduras in the semifinals.
If we look at it this way, it was exactly the opposition that the USA could have seen before facing Mexico, if they had a different approach.