Image: CONCACAF.com/ AFP Services
Goalkeeper Andre Blake has been the fort in front of the net for the Jamaican National team in the 2017 Gold Cup tournament. Allowing only two goals, one of those coming off of a penalty, the Mexico shutout was no surprise. Philadelphia Union 2016 MLS Goalkeeper of the year, Blake had punched his Gold Cup ticket long ago when his 32 MLS regular season starts helped lift his side to a playoff berth for the first time since 2011.
Blake’s relentless vision for the ball mixed with a humble band of Reggae Boyz on his back, will walk into a Gold Cup Final against a familiar foe Wednesday evening in Santa Clara, California. Coach Theodore Whitmore hinted that his team have been aiming to get into that high-level conversation of teams that make it to the Gold Cup Final, saying “It’s always U.S and Mexico, we’ve been working to break that cycle and be with one of those top teams.”
Set to face the prowess of Andre Blake we find a United States Men’s National team poised for a rematch of the 2015 semi-final in which Jamaica upset the Yanks. Although the sting still lingers for Michael Bradley, who scored the lone goal in the 2015 match, he feels optimistic with his own revived clan of U.S Boyz.
Bradley made it clear what his guys were feeling Saturday night in front of 45,516 in attendance at AT&T stadium in Arlington when he said “playing inside, in this stadium, makes a big difference.” The US team showed a dominant performance with possession 57% of the match overall, and a 2-0 victory against a Costa Rican team that was called a silent-sleeper that had an edge in their pocket. The edge wasn't apparent Saturday night. Bradley goes on to say “I thought the atmosphere was incredible, the field played really well, and it makes for a big occasion. Tonight feels like a big game, and I think guys feed off of that in every way.” It was a big occasion in the second half when the usual suspects showed up. Altidore and Dempsey respectively forged goals ten minutes apart in the 72’ and the 82’ to give the U.S team their final plane ticket of the tournament, bayside. Dempsey came in the game in the 66’, and only 16 minutes later he captured his 57th goal and tied Landon Donovan for the most goals scored in USMNT history.
Dempsey will look to break the record in Santa Clara on Wednesday.
After a semi-final weekend, both Jamaica and the U.S left their Gold Cup Final footprint in the grass, and as they collectively look beyond the 49er-riddled backdrop at Levis Stadium, there’s a scent of a familiar fracas not far away. It’s not very often teams get the chance for redemption, and the chance to pounce on missed opportunities for a Gold Cup title is a blessing in disguise. Wednesday evening the Northern California winds will bring a rivalry to the bay area where both teams will look to guarantee their chance at Gold Cup glory.