Jermaine Jones #13 of the United States and Eric Vernan #5 of Jamaica battle for possession during Gold Cup. USA takes on Jamaica in CONCACAF 2014 World Cup Qualifying on September 7, 2012. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
The U.S. heads to Jamaica for a key World Cup qualifying match.
There are two ways to look at the United States' trip to Jamaica for Friday's World Cup qualifier. There is the positive view, that the U.S. has never lost in Kingston, and there is the negative view, that the U.S. has never won a qualifier in Kingston.
The U.S. has visited Jamaica four times and all four times they came away with draws, but the Americans are coming off of a win over Mexico at Estadio Azteca and the atmosphere at Independence Park in Kingston will pale in comparison. The Jamaicans are gearing up for their biggest match of qualifying in hopes of qualifying for their first World Cup since 1998, but Azteca is on a whole other level and at the very least, the U.S. has the confidence of winning in Mexico.
All is not well for the Americans, though. Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley will both miss the match due to injuries so the U.S. will have to head on the road without two of their best players. For a team that was unsettled as is in the midfield and struggling to sort out roles, the last thing they needed was to be without two of their best players.
Making matters worse is the form of Clint Dempsey, which is a complete question mark. The Americans' best player spent the summer trying to leave his club at Fulham and was excluded from preseason training for a while, did not play in the team's first two league matches and then once he did move to Tottenham, couldn't play in their match last week.
The result is a player who has not played a competitive match since early June. It would be unreasonable to assume that he will be in form so what kind of form will he be in? Will he be fit enough to start? These are all questions that nobody really has an answer to, Jurgen Klinsmann and Dempsey included.
Luckily for the U.S., they are still the better team. Luton Shelton, Dane Richards and Ryan Johnson have the pace to give the American defense trouble, but the Jamaicans are also a banged up bunch. Demar Phillips will miss the match through injury, leaving a gaping hole on the left and James Morrison is battling a knee injury and will not be 100% if he plays.
The U.S. got a standout performance from Geoff Cameron against Mexico and are relatively settled at the other three spots along the back line. Meanwhile, the depth of the American midfield should carry them even without Bradley and Donovan, while Jozy Altidore, Terrence Boyd and Herculez Gomez are all in some of the best forms of their lives.
If the U.S. is going to get their first win in Kingston, Friday could be it. Even down a couple players, they are the better side, are riding a wave of momentum and despite high expectations heading into qualifying, Jamaica has far from impressed early on in qualifying. This could be the Americans' chance to grab three points and take control of Group A.
Check out SB Nation's video preview of the match