Michael Hector (yellow jersey) points to the sky in celebration after Jamaica defeated Haiti in the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals on July 18, 2015, in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo: Mexsport)
ATLANTA, Georgia -- The pressure will be at full throttle on Wednesday as the defending champion United States faces Jamaica in the opening match of a 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal doubleheader at the Georgia Dome.
Here are Three Points to consider ahead of the game:
1) “David vs. Goliath”
That’s how Jamaica manager Winfried Schafer characterized Wednesday’s collision between his Reggae Boyz and the five-time champion United States. Having won 13 of 21 head-to-head match-ups, the U.S. has undoubtedly been on the better end of the all-time series. The Jamaicans, however, have been terrific so far at the 2015 Gold Cup and now appear poised to give the Americans a run for their money. After a series of high-quality performances earned Schafer and company top-honors in Group B, the Jamaicans then dispatched upstart Haiti, 1-0, in the quarterfinals. Be as it may, the Caribbean champion will be facing a different level of competition at the Georgia Dome, taking on an American outfit that is 20W-4D-6L all-time in Gold Cup knockout matches. Can the U.S. continue its recent dominance, or will the ascendant Jamaicans spring a surprise? Only time will tell.
2) Can Jamaica slow Dempsey?
Clint Dempsey is a man on fire. With six goals in four matches – including a hat-trick against Cuba over the weekend – Dempsey is the clear front-runner for the tournament’s Gold Boot award. Since relinquishing the captain’s armband to teammate Michael Bradley prior to the competition, Dempsey has once again played with the same trademark hunger and tenacity that saw him net twice at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. At his current clip, stopping the Nacogdoches native looks like mission impossible, but if Jamaica is going to beat the U.S. for just the second time in team history, that’s exactly what they will have to do.
3) Electric atmosphere
A sell-out crowd will fill the Georgia Dome on Wednesday, marking what could be the largest-ever crowd to watch a soccer game in Atlanta. While the Dome – originally opened in 1992 – has played host to numerous international friendlies in recent years, this will be the first time either the United States or Jamaica has ever played at the venue. The 2015 Gold Cup has been averaging an impressive 39,448 fans per game through the opening 22 matches of the tournament, although that number is sure to rise following Wednesday’s action.
- Seven players were a part of the USA team that won the Gold Cup in 2013: DeMarcus Beasley, Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, Mix Diskerud, Omar Gonzalez, Nick Rimando and Chris Wondolowski.
- After sitting out the Reggae Boyzquarterfinal victory over Haiti, the influential Je-Vaughn Watson returns to the fray for Jamaica on Wednesday.