U.S. Men's National Team vs. Jamaica
Friday, Feb. 3 | 6 p.m. CT | FS1, UniMas, UDN
Finley Stadium | Chattanooga, Tennessee
The U.S. Men’s National Team ventures eastward to face regional rival Jamaica in Friday’s friendly at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Sporting Kansas City duo Benny Feilhaber and Graham Zusi are among the 21 players available to Bruce Arena, who is looking for his first win in his second stint as U.S. MNT head coach following Sunday’s 0-0 stalemate against Serbia.
Friday serves as the Americans’ final tune-up before continuing World Cup qualifying next month with a pair of crucial matches versus Honduras and at Panama. As such, the game gives a roster of mostly MLS players one last chance to impress Arena and claim a national team spot well into 2017. With kickoff slated for 6 p.m. CT on FS1 and UniMas, we examine some of the game’s most relevant narratives.
The door may have opened for Feilhaber to claim a starting spot in the U.S. MNT lineup. New York Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan got the nod on Sunday, but departed camp the following day for the expected birth of his child. Arena just might hand the playmaking keys to Feilhaber, who was active and involved in his 13-minute cameo off the bench versus Serbia. Should the Sporting KC talisman fare well on Friday, he will likely be receiving another call from Arena in March.
'Right' Where He Belongs
Zusi’s first cap at the right back position was steady and solid. His 90-minute shift on the backline drew praise after the match from Arena, who remarked, “The Zusi experiment at right back was productive today. He played really well.”
Another convincing performance would boost Zusi’s bid as a viable defensive solution, not only for the U.S. but for Sporting Kansas City, as well. With no other natural right backs on the current roster, he stands a good chance to retain his starting spot Friday.
Pack a Punch
The U.S. managed just one shot on goal in Sunday’s scoreless draw and conjured a limited number of chances against a young and stubborn Serbia side. Whether Arena’s 4-2-3-1 formation changes in personnel or shape remains to be seen, but a major priority for the Yanks will be increased sharpness in the attacking third — preseason rust aside.
Any one (or combination) of Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo and Jordan Morris will lead the forward line. Feilhaber and a host of other midfielders — Alejandro Bedoya, Sebastian Lletget, Darlington Nagbe, Chris Pontius — could be tasked with providing the service.
Although Jamaica failed to reach the Hexagonal, 2017 remains a big year for the Reggae Boyz with June’s Caribbean Cup and July’s Gold Cup on the horizon. Like the U.S., Jamaica will be without its European-based players on Friday. As a result, head coach Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore has called upon seven MLS players to join the 20-man squad, including Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake, Portland Timbers defender Alvas Powell, New England Revolution midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson and Atlanta United forward Romario Williams.
The U.S. holds a decisive edge over Jamaica historically, going 13-2-8 in the fixture dating back to 1988. The Reggae Boyz pulled off a stunner in the most recent battle, however, claiming a 2-1 win in the semifinals of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Jamaica hasn’t played on American soil since 2006, when the sides played to a 1-1 draw.
The MNT is making its first-ever visit to Chattanooga — and its maiden trip to Eastern Tennessee, for that matter — on Friday. An expected capacity crowd of 20,000 at Finley Stadium will make for an excellent atmosphere.
GOALKEEPERS (3): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls)
DEFENDERS (8): DaMarcus Beasley (Unattached), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Greg Garza (Atlanta United FC), Chad Marshall (Seattle Sounders FC), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna | MEX), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union)
FORWARDS (3): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC)
GOALKEEPERS (2): Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union), Ryan Thompson (St. Louis FC)
DEFENDERS (7): Sergio Campbell (Unattached), Oneil Fisher (Seattle Sounders), Rosario Harriott (Harbour View), Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls), Damion Lowe (Tampa Bay Rowdies), Alvas Powell (Portland Timbers), Ladale Richie (Montego Bay United)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Dwayne Ambusley (Montego Bay United), Michael Binns (Portmore United), Ewan Grandison (Portmore United), Omar Holness (Real Salt Lake), Kevon Lambert (Montego Bay United), Je-Vaughn Watson (New England Revolution)
FORWARDS (5): Cory Burke (Bethlehem Steel FC), Jourdain Fletcher (Montego Bay United), Owayne Gordon (Montego Bay United), Shamar Nicholson (Boys’ Town), Romario Williams (Atlanta United FC)