Monday, August 09, 2004


Matchday One: Destination Kingston

The United States National Team kicks off the semifinal round of World Cup Qualifying next Wednesday against Jamaica. I will add the roster once it is announced, but for now, keys to the semi round and the Jamaica match:

Semifinal Group points:

* It is INTENSE! For all the glamour ties that happen in the Hex (US/Mexico and US/Costa Rica to name a couple), it is the semifinal round that is the most intense and dangerous for its twelve combatants. With six matches in the span of ninety days (the first half of those over just 21 days), a team must find its form right away and ride a good run for all it's worth. The semifinals are also the stage where teams that could very well make it to the World Cup get eliminated because of a tough group. Group B this time invovles four sides that ALL have legitimate claims for Germany (Canada, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Honduras), but only two will make it out of that group to the Hex.

* If you are home to open the round, YOU MUST WIN! There is no room in the round for dropping points at home, especially right off the bat.

* That said, the home team must also SHUT OUT the opposition. Those of you who follow club competitions with aggregate scoring know the value of away goals. It is the same in group play (though not a tiebreaker in advancement). Every match in qualifying is played on a 1-0 edge for the home side and giving up a goal might cost you two points that cannot be made up.

* Group play can be broken down into a series of home-and-away battles, so that if you win more of those battles than you lose, you will advance. The United States won two of the three series in their semifinal group in 2000 (losing the one to Costa Rica while beating both Guatemala and Barbados) and went 2-0-3 in the series in the 2001 Hex (split with Mexico, Honduras, and Costa Rica while beating Jamaica and Trinidad/Tobago). We should win the series over El Salvador and Panama, thus making the Jamaica one all about working out game plans for the two matches against them in the Hex.

US/Jamaica points:

* A tie is a good result from this point, but three points can be had. Kingston is the tamest road venue in the semifinal round for the US and they have never lost to the Reggae Boyz. In addition, a win on Matchday One would in theory secure their advancement to the Hex (Panama and El Salvador will NOT win in the States).

* The US will be aggressive but focused. The goal of this game is to secure the draw and then attempt to get out with three points. The US has been known to take early leads in qualifiers, and an early tally here will surely help in pulling off a result.

* The tactic will be possession-oriented combined with interplay amongst Donovan/Beasley/Reyna to wreak havoc against Jamaica's lack of a defensive midfielder (Whitmore and Williams are both attack-minded central midfielders and will be the middle pair for this match in all likelihood).

* This is the toughest match of the round for the United States. Our other two opponents are at least one step below Jamaica in quality despite being tougher road venues for us. Jamaica NEEDS the win in this match and will play with high intensity to secure it. The merged roster of in-form players from Major League Soccer and our European-based players who are just starting their season could make for a messy match on our part.

Unofficial roster: Kasey Keller, Jonny Walker; Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Cory Gibbs, Frankie Hejduk, Eddie Pope, Greg Vanney; Chris Armas, DaMarcus Beasley, Cobi Jones, Eddie Lewis, Claudio Reyna, Earnie Stewart, Kerry Zavagnin; Brian Ching, Landon Donovan, Eddie Gaven, Ed Johnson, Brian McBride.

Prediction: United States 2, Jamaica 1

is it just me or is the roster announcement a little late this week?
I JUST got an unofficial roster from SoccerTimes this evening after a lot of head-counting from other sources. Was waiting for it before I added that to the blog and made final edits to the piece.
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