Friday night's World Cup qualifying face-off between the U.S.A. and Jamaica's Reggae Boyz has been cast as a major match to watch by critics as the underdog Caribbean team hopes to end a decades-long drought in its pursuit of a victory over the U.S.A. for the first time ever.
The American team is in Kingston, Jamaica today for what is the first of two matches – the teams are to meet again Tuesday, Sept.11 in Columbus, Ohio. The Jamaican national team has never beaten the Americans in the 18 years that they've played each other, their last meeting being five years ago. Needless to say, the Jamaicans have plenty to prove.
Jamaica and the U.S. have both emerged with a 1-0-1 record in Group A of the semifinals of CONCACAF, which could lead to a spot in the 2014 Brazilian World Cup if either team makes it to the finals.
"It's a confident feeling heading into the game. Everyone is looking forward to it. Obviously, they (the USA) are many people's favorites, but we are gunning for them," Reggae Boyz defender Adrian Mariappa told the Jamaica Observer.
Teammate Lovell Palmer agreed, telling the publication, "Everyone is really excited. We know we need to create history. We need to get points from the game. Everyone is happy to be part of the squad and players want to be in the starting team that is to create history."
"I'm sure anyone will be excited to score or help to keep a clean sheet against USA to give us that historic victory," he added.
Critics anticipating the outcome of tonight's game, broadcast live from Jamaica's National Stadium at Independence Park at 8 p.m. ET, have been taking Team U.S.A.'s recent, historic win over Mexico after 75 years as a good sign of what's ahead.
Sporting News soccer writer Brian Straus writes: "The Reggae Boyz boast talented offensive players who never really have been able to coordinate an attack that's equal to the sum of its parts. Nevertheless, forward Luton Shelton, who plays in Turkey, could give the U.S. defense fits, while the Americans will be familiar with the likes of Omar Cummings (Colorado Rapids), Dane Richards (Vancouver Whitecaps) and Darren Mattocks (Vancouver Whitecaps)."
Gordon Williams, writing for the Gleaner, sees things differently: "Jamaica hold(s) the edge at 'The Office' (nickname for Independence Park), where the crowd is usually loud, the atmosphere intense, temperature hot and players pumped up. Most of the U.S. squad never played in Kingston before, with (Carlos) Bocanegra the only one from the last time the countries clashed in a WCQ in 2004."
Steven Golf, reminds readers of The Washington Post: "The Americans have never won a qualifier in Kingston," noting that all four such matches resulted in a "draw." Asked by Golf "How will the USA fare against Jamaica tonight?" -- 59 percent of readers believe the U.S. will "win by a goal."
Just 18 percent think Friday's qualifying match will again result in a draw; 15 percent thinks Team U.S.A. will "win by multiple goals" while 6 percent think the Americans will "lose by a goal;" finally, 1 percent thinks the team will "lose by multiple goals." As of press time, 158 readers had responded to the poll.
As only BeIn Sport has broadcast rights for the match-up, viewers tuning in will only be able to watch via DIRECTV, DISH TV or Comcast. The official U.S. Soccer organization also reports on its website that the U.S.A. at Jamaica match will be shown at Official U.S. Soccer Bars across the country.