The matchup that many fans wanted for the final of the Gold Cup didn’t materialize, but don’t tell the United States that playing upstart Jamaica instead of heated rival Mexico on Wednesday in Santa Clara, Calif., is a letdown.
“I could care less who we play in the final. We just want to win a trophy,” U.S. coach Bruce Arena said.
His team upheld its end of the possible dream match with a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica on Saturday, but Jamaica shocked Mexico 1-0 in the other semifinal on Sunday.
Jamaica, which lost the 2015 final to Mexico, has a chance to join Mexico (seven titles), the United States (five) and Canada (one) as the only Gold Cup champions.
“That’s a cycle we want to break,” Jamaican coach Theodore Whitmore said after Sunday’s match. “That’s something we sit and discuss. It’s always Mexico, U.S. We want to be in that group. We want to be a team, a country that someone can talk about, and that’s what we’re working toward.”
Jamaica has had success against the U.S. team, beating the Americans 2-1 in the 2015 semifinal.
Yet, the Reggae Boyz failed to reach the final round of World Cup 2018 qualifying, making their run in the Gold Cup a bit surprising.
The transformation began when Whitmore, like Arena, was brought back for a second stint with the national team.
“They’re a different kind of Jamaican team than we’ve seen in the past,” Arena said on Monday. “They have a lot of discipline. They are very strong defensively and they’re hard to play against. That, to me, is not what you typically see out of a Jamaican team.”
Arena’s biggest decision is whether to start forward Clint Dempsey, who came off the bench vs. Costa Rica to assist on the winning goal by Jozy Altidore and then score his 57th international goal to tie Landon Donovan for the most by an American male.
“It’s whatever the coach decides,” Dempsey told the media Monday. “All I can do is make sure I put myself in the best position if I get called upon and make an impact in the game. The most important thing is the team wins.”
As of Monday afternoon, more than 60,000 tickets had been sold for the match at Levi’s Stadium, but many likely had been purchased by Mexican fans anticipating a title defense.