By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Jun 23, 2023) US Soccer Players – The USMNT begins its Gold Cup title defense against Jamaica on Saturday at Soldier Field in Chicago, with a chance to sweep the trophies on offer in the region this summer. To win another championship, the USMNT first needs to navigate its group in the Gold Cup.
Group A features a pair of teams they know well from past editions and World Cup qualifying, along with a newcomer to the competition that earned a chance to play in the continental championship via the confederation’s expansion of the Gold Cup qualifying process through the Nations League.
The known quantities are Jamaica, a team that has beaten the US in the Gold Cup before and reached two consecutive finals in 2015 and 2017, and Trinidad & Tobago, a team always capable of winning in Concacaf.
Jamaica bring a strong, experienced squad to the tournament. West Ham striker Michail Antonio is on the roster, as is a new face, 26-year-old Everton winger Demarai Gray, a former England U21 international who recently committed to Jamaica. Aston Villa’s Leon Bailey, another dual-national who chose to represent the nation of his heritage, could complete Jamaica’s front line.
Playing Mexico and Suriname in Nations League A group A, Jamaica finished 2nd to Mexico, with both teams finishing with no losses. Jamaica’s last game against the US was a 5-1 World Cup qualifying loss in Orlando on March 27, 2022. They last met at the Gold Cup on July 25, 2021 with the US advancing 1-0 on a Matthew Hoppe goal. Jamaica is 63rd in FIFA’s rankings, 6th in Concacaf, while Concacaf them in 7th-place in their separate rankings.
Trinidad & Tobago’s key players include Columbus Crew attacker Kevin Molino, the leading scorer on the team with 22 international goals. Former Sounders fullback Joevin Jones, now playing his club soccer in his home country, is the team’s leading cap-winner with 87. Forward Levi Garcia plays with AEK Athens in Greece, one of a handful of players playing outside of Concacaf.
After finishing a single point behind Nicaragua in Nations League B group C, Trinidad & Tobago was set for the qualifying round of the Gold Cup. With Concacaf disqualifying Nicaragua for fielding an ineligible player, Trinidad & Tobago qualified directly to the Gold Cup group stage and also won promotion to the 2023-24 Nations League A. Trinidad & Tobago prepared for the Gold Cup with a friendly against Guatemala on June 11, winning 1-0 on a second-half penalty from Alvin Jones.
January 31, 2021 was the last time the US and Trinidad & Tobago played, a 7-0 friendly win for the United States in Orlando to end that year’s January camp. Jesus Ferreira scored twice and assisted on both of Aaron Long’s goals. Long picked up an assist on a Miles Robinson goal with Jonathan Lewis also scoring twice. In the Gold Cup, Trinidad & Tobago and the USMNT met in the group stage of the tournament in 2019, with the US winning 6-0 in Cleveland. Aaron Long and Gyasi Zardes both scored twice, with Paul Arriola and Christian Pulisic rounding out the goalscorers. Trinidad & Tobago is 104th in the FIFA rankings, 11th in Concacaf, and also 11th in Concacaf’s rankings.
St Kitts & Nevis is the newcomer to the Gold Cup, earning the qualifier spot in Group A by beating French Guiana 4-2 on penalties after drawing 1-1 in regulation on Tuesday night in Fort Lauderdale. That narrow, dramatic win was the team’s second consecutive penalty shootout triumph in the two rounds of qualifying. Five days before booking a spot in the Gold Cup with that victory, St Kitts & Nevis prevailed on penalties against favored Curacao to move into the final playoff round. St Kitts & Nevis is 139th in the FIFA rankings, 14th in Concacaf, and 21st in Concacaf’s rankings.
The St Kitts & Nevis roster has Romaine Sawyers, a veteran of nearly 40 national team caps who plays for Cardiff City in the English Championship. A midfielder, Sawyer made 37 appearances for 21st-place Cardiff in the just-ended Championship campaign and has a season of Premier League experience on his resume with West Brom in 2020-21. 29-year-old Omari Sterling-James is the standout name up top. Born in England, Sterling-James is currently with Ebbsfleet United of the fifth-tier National League.
Number one goalkeeper Julani Archibald is the most experienced player in the St Kitts & Nevis squad. Archibald made important saves in both qualifying games in Fort Lauderdale to earn his country its first berth in the Gold Cup group stage. He’ll need to be just as good for St Kitts & Nevis to have a chance to take points off its opponents in Group A of this edition of the Gold Cup.
Jason Davis is the host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM.
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