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Jamaica has made the CONCACAF Gold Cup crazy once again.
The Reggae Boyz were tremendous underdogs against Mexico in the second semifinal match in the Gold Cup, yet they were the ones celebrating in one of the biggest moments in their history. Kemar Lawrence's 88th minute strike on a free kick was celebrated with a solemn moment as if the Jamaicans expected to be there and beat El Tri. Yet inside and back home, you can bet everything donning the black, green and gold was elated beyond belief.
Jamaica has done everything it has had to do in the Gold Cup. Andre Blake has been a fantastic organizer in the back and has arguably been the MVP of this entire tournament. The Jamaicans have gone huge stretches without possession of the ball as well. In fact, they've had less than 40 percent of possession for the entire tournament, and that's after dominating the ball against Curacao in the opening fixture in Group C.
But the bottom line is that Jamaica has taken its chances when they've come, and the defense has stayed organized. Just the fact that it was able to go 180 minutes against Mexico in this tourney without relenting is a tremendous accomplishment for a nation that has never won a major event like this in its history.
The USA, though, isn't going to just lay down and tie for the up and comers. The United States clearly has bigger fish to fry in the form of getting into the World Cup for 2018, but this is a tournament it would have expected to win at the outset. Now, the pressure is arguably ratcheted up another notch. Should the U.S. have lost to Mexico in a presumptive final, it wouldn't have been the end of the world. But losing to Jamaica after getting dismissed by the Reggae Boyz by this same team in the 2015 semis of the Gold Cup? That would be inexcusable.
That said, Bruce Arena has pushed all the right buttons when it has mattered most in this tourney. The memories of blowing a 1-0 lead against Panama and a 2-0 lead against Martinique are distant memories now. The Americans have scored the last eight goals in their games overall, and as a result, they've got four straight wins after that suspect draw against Panama.
Better was always expected out of the Yanks in the knockout rounds after calling up five legitimate starters. Of course, Clint Dempsey didn't end up starting against Costa Rica in the Gold Cup semis, but in the minimal time he was on the pitch, he assisted on the game-winning goal and scored the one that put the 2-0 triumph away.
Jozy Altidore looked great against Los Ticos as well, while Michael Bradley is the perfect captain for this young squad. Darlington Nagbe has provided a true pace in the midfield that cannot be matched by most teams at this level, while Tim Howard has yet to relent after his predecessor, Brad Guzan allowed three goals in three matches in the group stage.
The United States is a -250 favorite on the moneyline to capture the Gold Cup inside of 90 minutes. To hoist the cup, the Americans are -500 choices, while Jamaica is a +400 longshot.
Wednesday night's match will be played at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, where there should be a tremendous pro-USA crowd on hand.
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