In recent qualification campaigns this particular stage of the journey has been nothing short of a formality. Now, in almost an unfathomable fashion, the United States faces what many are calling a must-win match at home against Jamaica only four days after losing to the Reggae Boys in Kingston.
With such a quick turnaround between matches, perhaps the biggest storyline in Columbus tonight will be how head coach Jurgen Klinsmann shuffles the lineup. With Clint Dempsey still not at 100% and several others fighting off minor knocks, the decisions made tonight may have a huge impact on the United States' qualification campaign.
Here at The Bent Musket we are going to take a break from our Revs duties and bring you some top-class coverage of tonight's pivotal matchup. First off, let's get you up to speed and give you a quick preview ahead of tonight's clash as well as some links to other great coverage around the web to get you all primed up before kickoff!
WHERE THINGS STAND: Halfway through the six-match round robin, the United States are sitting on 4 points, tied with Guatemala in just about every way (teams are even on GD, GF, and GA). The biggest thing the United States has going for it is that two of their last three matches are at home. Jamaica sits at 7 points, so a victory tonight for the Yanks, especially a somewhat convincing victory, would work perfectly for the United States.
THE LINEUP CONUNDRUM: Injuries always seem to play a part when matches are so close together, and this team is no different. Clint Dempsey, perhaps the Yanks' most dangerous player, is still battling to return to full fitness. After a grueling performance on Friday night, it will be very interesting to see just how much the Tottenham Hotspur star will play.
In light of the quick turnaround, Klinsmann did seem to take a rather cautious approach on Friday night, but almost all of the major characters played big parts in the match. Maurice Edu and Jozy Altidore were subbed off late in the second half, but with veteran players like Dempsey, Jermaine Jones, and Clarence Goodson all getting significant minutes, how Klinsmann handles the lineup tonight is massive.
Expect to see the return of Carlos Bocanegra tonight with Goodson being suspended for his accumulation of yellows. Also back in the mix will be veteran wing-back Steve Cherundolo, who missed Friday's match with a calf injury. The re-introduction of two World Cup veteran defenders will be a huge boost for the United States' at the back in a match where a clean sheet would be a huge step towards earning qualification to the final round of qualifying.
As for the final third, I wouldn't expect too much to change, really. Everyone knows Dempsey is an absolute gamer, and there's no doubt he understands the importance of this match. Jozy Altidore did come off the field late in the match, so perhaps the target man will have enough in the tank to earn the start.
TOO COMPACT?: One of the biggest debates coming out of Friday night's loss was the United States' shape and style of play. Several pundits have claimed that the US was too compact, and needed a wider shape. With the introduction of Brek Shea in the 79th minute the style of play changed, and the Yanks began to attack with more success using the flanks.
Given the speed that Klinsmann has at his disposal, it wouldn't be difficult to see a switch to a more fluid, attacking style of play. With the midfield trio of Kyle Beckerman, Edu, and Jones, the midfield is a bit heavy at times, and more defensive. The addition of a dynamic playmaker, like a Jose Torres or Danny Williams could work wonders for the United States attack. With a victory an absolute must tonight, the lineup needs to reflect the urgency and need for goals. Look for the midfield to appear a bit different tonight, with only one thing in mind: getting forward, and creating goal-scoring opportunities.
HOW ABOUT A PREDICTION?: Friday night was the United States' first EVER loss to Jamaica in qualifying. Expect an inspired American team to come out with a reinvigorated hunger, and a much more offensive approach. The addition of Cherundolo and Bocanegra will be much more important than you think, and will stabilize the back line and give Tim Howard a much-needed veteran presence. The goals will come, and so will a clean sheet. UNITED STATES 2 - JAMAICA 0.
THE LINKS: USMNT COVERAGE FROM AROUND THE WEB
U.S. faces test of nerves against Jamaica - ESPNFC
Roger Bennett takes a look inside the American camp ahead of the match.
U.S. knows it can't afford another setback to Jamaica - ESPNFC
Team USA and coach Jurgen Klinsmann are well aware of the stakes in Tuesday night's Jamaica rematch.
U.S. MNT Looks to Rebound in FIFA World Cup Qualifying Rematch Against Jamaica on Tuesday - U.S. Soccer
The U.S. Men’s National Team will have the home crowd in its corner when it faces Jamaica in a 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying rematch at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Sept. 11, at Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. A sellout crowd will be on hand for the fourth match of the Semifinal Round of CONCACAF
USA Vs. Jamaica: Americans' Backs Are Against The Wall - SBNation.com
The U.S. hosts Jamaica in a crucial World Cup qualifier that could put them on the verge of elimination.