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Gold Cup Semifinals Recap: Moments of brilliance have led us here

The US and Jamaica will face off in the Gold Cup finals for the first time ever

Soccer: 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup-Costa Rica at USA Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

While the United States took care of business against Costa Rica, Jamaica pulled off a massive upset against Mexico. Let’s rewind to see how they got here.

United States 2-0 Costa Rica

A back and forth match for the better part of the game, the United States left it late and scored two goals in the final 18 minutes to advance to the Gold Cup finals. Their match almost started out perfectly, as Jordan Morris nearly scored within the first minute of the game, but hit the upright. Coincidentally, it would be quite a while before there was another chance as good as that one.

The difference in this game, which I predicted in the Quarterfinals recap, was Clint Dempsey. Dempsey, who came on in the 66th minute for Paul Arriola, made an immediate impact. 6 minutes into his evening, Dempsey took a brilliant touch, made a sublime run, and set up Jozy Altidore’s 38th career international goal. Then, just ten minutes later, Dempsey took a free kick, and the rest is (literally) history:

With his goal, Clint Dempsey tied Landon Donovan for the most goals scored in USMNT history with 57. He’ll have his sights set on having the top spot to himself with a goal against Jamaica in the finals.

Don’t underestimate the magnitude of this win for the United States. Yes, Costa Rica were without Joel Campbell; but the Yanks, without some first team players, were able to knock off a team ranked 10 spots higher than them in the FIFA World Rankings. It was a massive win for Bruce Arena and his squad.

Mexico 0 - 1 Jamaica

Finally, an upset! Jamaica did exactly what they did in their last match against Mexico, but this time, they found a way to score a goal. Possession? Keep it, the Reggae Boyz don’t need it. Corner kicks? They were outdone by Mexico 7-2 in that category. But when you have a goalkeeping performance like they did, and a moment of brilliance from a set piece, you don’t need to win the stat-counting categories.

Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake stood on his head to keep Mexico goalless. The 26 year old made save after save, and kept Jamaica in the match. Here’s one series of the saves he made:

With Blake keeping Jamaica close, they needed to find the moment they couldn’t in the first match against Mexico. That moment came courtesy of Kemara Lawrence:

With the goal from the Red Bull defender, there was no time for Mexico to come back. The shocking upset gives Jamaica their second straight Gold Cup finals appearance.

DaxWatch: Semifinals Edition

Hey! McCarty got some playing time in this one. He came on in the 85th minute for Kellyn Acosta. Dax looked comfortable playing next to Michael Bradley as the US closed out a 2-0 victory. He had a few good passes and the commentators pointed out his great control on a few occasions. He probably won’t get the start in the finals, but another substitute appearance is possible.

Tale of the Tape: United States vs. Jamaica

Let’s not be bashful about this matchup: the United States will be heavily favored. With their initial Gold Cup lineup, maybe not so much, but with the additions of Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Tim Howard, and Darlington Nagbe, there’s no doubt that Jamaica will yet again be the underdogs in this game. Furthermore, the United States have only lost two of their twenty-four all-time matches against Jamaica. However, the last time Jamaica beat the US, it was in the semifinals of the 2015 Gold Cup, so recent history may be on their side.

Soccer: 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup -Mexico  at Jamaica
Jamaica will be tested against a strong US side
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

A victory would mean so much for both nations. Jamaica are on their way to establishing themselves as a legitimate contender in CONCACAF, and a win Wednesday night would firmly cement themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Keep in mind, Canada are the only nation aside from Mexico and the United States to win a Gold Cup, and that was in 2000. This win would be monumental for Jamaica.

For the USMNT, they simply have to win this game. Head coach Bruce Arena is trying to completely flip the script since their embarrassing 4-0 loss to Costa Rica last year. This win would help catapult them towards a vital stretch of World Cup Qualifying matches. At this point, winning this tournament and qualifying for the 2018 World Cup is the bare minimum required from USA supporters.

Soccer: 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup-Costa Rica at USA
Bruce Arena is on a mission to get his side to Russia in 2018.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The key for Jamaica is to stick to the recipe that got them this far. Play solid defense with great goalkeeping and find a way to score a late goal. The Reggae Boyz need to frustrate the Yanks early and often. If they can clog the midfield and defend set pieces, they’ll have a shot late in the match or possibly on penalties.

The key for the United States to win this game is getting on the board early. They were able to leave it late against Costa Rica, but they’ll want to get on the scoresheet earlier Wednesday night. If they can grab an early goal, they can rattle their Jamaican opponents and coast to their 6th all-time Gold Cup triumph.

Prediction: United States 1 - 0 Jamaica

The Yanks are the hosts, they’re playing better each round that they advance, and they have their big guns out to win this tournament. Bruce Arena is making the moves I truly don’t think Jurgen Klinsmann had the cojones to make, starting the perfect mix of youth and experience, and bringing in Dempsey very late in a close match. Experience and momentum should be enough for the United States to take home the Gold Cup trophy, and sprint into the final stretch of the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers.