If it feels like we’ve already been here before, it’s because we most definitely have.
During the last three years, Jamaica and Mexico have squared off at least once every summer. Back in 2015, El Tri was able earn a Gold Cup title through a 3-1 final victory over the Reggae Boyz. One year later in the Copa America Centenario, Mexico once again sneaked past the Caribbean side with a 2-0 win the group stage.
Then, last week, El Tri’s momentum stalled with an underwhelming 0-0 draw in the group stage of this year’s Gold Cup. Without enough spirit or aggression in the attack, Mexico failed to secure what could have been a fourth victory in a row over its CONCACAF rivals.
As for those who think that the draw was earned through another experimental roster from manager Juan Carlos Osorio, it’s important to point out that many of El Tri’s best Gold Cup options were given the start in the recent tie.
Talented names such as Orbelin Pineda, Elias Hernandez, Rodolfo Pizarro and Jesus Molina were all a part of the starting XI which couldn’t avoid a tedious 0-0 result.
On Sunday, will Mexico face similar problems in the attack? Will Jamaica be able to recreate the same kind of defensive magic seen from the last match?
In order to answer some questions from both sides, Caribbean soccer expert Nathan Carr will join us to preview El Tri’s semifinal against Jamaica.
Key to success for Mexico
Hernandez: It’s all about creativity and a sense of energy in the frontline — especially when you consider that a draw will go straight to penalties.
These solutions were nowhere to be found from El Tri in the 1-0 quarterfinal win over Honduras. Despite the fact that Mexico had a number of well-structured and proactive chances in the attack, the team proved to be far too cautious and passive once it entered Honduras’ 18-yard box.
Following last week’s draw, El Tri must hit the ground running with a high-pressing, risk-taking and threatening style.
Key to success for Jamaica
Carr: Same again, right? Frustrate Mexico by keeping things compact and cutting off space, making it difficult for their wide players to swing crosses in. Use speed on the transition in the form of Darren Mattocks, Romario Williams and Owayne Gordon who all have the capacity to stretch Mexico’s defense.
Mexican player to watch — Erick “Cubo” Torres
Hernandez: If Osorio is hoping to have a true No. 9 that can knock-in some crosses, he doesn’t need to look any further past Torres. The skilled 24-year-old is in need of a standout performance in the Gold Cup, and after only receiving one start so far in the competition, it wouldn’t be surprising if the manager gives him a chance to shine on Sunday.
Jamaican player to watch — Andre Blake
Carr: Blake has enjoyed a very good tournament and was pivotal to his country’s quarter-final win over Canada on Thursday, making several top quality saves in the second half. He will need to produce another strong performance in between the sticks in this semi-final.
Also look out for one of Mattocks or Williams – Theodore Whitmore might well opt for a lone striker – as they both have two goals each to their name in this tournament.
Predicted starting XI for Mexico
Hernandez: I’ll go with a 4-3-3. Corona in net, Alvarez at right-back, Ayala and Pereira as the two central defenders, Gallardo at left-back, “Burrito” Hernandez as the DM, Dueñas and Pizarro as the two attack-minded midfielders, “Dedos” Lopez on the right wing, Pineda on the left wing and finally Torres as the lone striker.
Benching Elias Hernandez might be a risk, but with the dangerous crosses that Lopez can provide, it might be practical to give the Pachuca player another start.
Predicted starting XI for Jamaica
Carr: Whatever formation is played, the back five is unlikely to change with Blake (C) in goal and Powell, Lowe, Taylor and Lawrence in front.
Things then start to become a little harder to predict in midfield and attack. Lambert is suspended so Binns or Grandison could partner Watson in central midfield in a 4-4-2. Francis will be hoping to keep his place on the left wing, Gordon/Burke on the right and Mattocks and Williams up front.
If Whitmore goes with a 4-5-1 like last time, though, one of Mattocks/Williams will have to be sacrificed for an extra midfielder. I think the latter formation is more likely.
Hernandez: After a tough match for both sides, Mexico will scrape by with a 2-1 victory.
Carr: Mexico 1-1 Jamaica. Mex to go through after penalties.
I think this will be another close contest with the pressure very much on El Tri to perform better than last time and progress to the final. Jamaica have exceeded many people’s expectations by reaching this stage and some players are quite inexperienced at this level in a match of this magnitude. So I can see Mexico taking it, but only just.