Preview: USMNT vs Jamaica The USMNT plays Jamaica on Wednesday in an international friendly that's the first of two warm-up games for the 2019 Gold Cup. The game at Washington, DC's Audi Field (7pm ET - FS1) is an opportunity for the USMNT. Coach Gregg Berhalter told members of the media on Tuesday that there are still Gold Cup roster spots in question. That roster is due at midnight on Wednesday.
Exactly which spots Berhalter and his staff still need to fill wasn't likely to get a specific answer. This version of the USMNT is the first to play games that count in the Berhalter era. There is a lot riding on this performance for all involved, and it starts with how players show in a friendly setting.
With that in mind alongside the caveat that the Gold Cup camp proper only started on Sunday, here are five things we're looking for on Wednesday night in DC.
It's a fair assumption that Berhalter will tip his hand with his starting eleven. If he's auditioning players, he might as well see how they do from the outset. What that means for his system we already know. Berhalter has shown himself to be a system first coach, carefully organized and stressing his tactics drilled into the squad through training. That meticulousness is important, with players expected to respond within that system. What we've learned so far is that the players do respond. Berhalter's process and the players' receptiveness may not make his Gold Cup choices any easier over 90 friendly minutes against Jamaica.
Ethan Horvath is coming off of an impressive season with Molde both domestically and in the Champions League. He's turned the corner on a reputation for lapses, showing that he can win a place at a strong club and perform against notable teams like at Borussia Dortmund last fall in the Champions League group stage. Now, he needs to prove that at international level. Also looking for minutes is Zack Steffen, reportedly going on loan from Manchester City to Fortuna Dusseldorf in the Bundesliga. With Brad Guzan not called into Gold Cup camp, the competition right now is between Horvath, Steffen, and LAFC's Tyler Miller to show that they can make the difference. All should see it as an opportunity, with the goalkeeping depth chart a question Berhalter needs to answer.
The back line
It almost wouldn't be a USMNT camp if there wasn't a defensive issue. DeAndre Yedlin's absence due to injury creates an issue for the coaching staff and an opportunity for another player. Of the nine defenders in camp, only Omar Gonzalez (49), Tim Ream (28), and Matt Miazga (12), have double-digit caps. It's not exactly surprising that those three started against Chile during the March window. Injuries and availability means holes to fill and choices that need making. Considering the level of competition at the Gold Cup, it's an interesting situation for the USMNT.
Drawn into Group D and opening at home in Kingston against Honduras, it's going to be interesting to see how Jamaica responds. They've got their own set of issues and a tendency to let games against good teams get away from them. The expectation is that they will allow the USMNT to dominate possession while waiting for an opportunity to spring Philadelphia Union forward Andre Blake. That only works if the score is close. Otherwise, they'll have to take offensive risks that could further expose that defense. Jamaica's roster has one player from a big European league, five from MLS, and a few more from USL clubs. That creates an experience issue that favors the bigger teams in the region. How they address that starts with this friendly.
The rest of Group D
Photo by John Dorton - ISIPhotos.com