Game: Jamaica vs. Venezuela
Date: Sunday, June 5th
Time: 5:00 PM Eastern (4:00 PM Central, 9:00 PM UTC)
Venue: Soldier Field (Chicago, Illinois)
Television: FOX Network, Univision, Univision Deportes (United States), SportsMax 2 (Jamaica), DIRECTV Sports Venezuela (Venezuela)
Jamaica quick primer: This is 55th ranked Jamaica's second trip to the Copa America, having been invited (along with Mexico) to participate in the 2015 Copa America tournament. The Reggae Boyz lost all three matches in that tournament by the score of 1-0 to Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina. Jamaica has a mixed record this year, drawing Costa Rica 1-1 in Kingston, losing to Costa Rica 3-0 in Costa Rica - both of which were in the Qualifying Round of the 2018 World Cup, defeating Cuba 3-0 and defeating third ranked Chile 2-1 in Viña del Mar, Chile on May 27 in friendlies.
Venezuela quick primer: 74th ranked Venezuela is attending their sixteenth Copa America, with their best finish coming in the 2011 tournament where they finished fourth behind Peru (who beat them in the third place match 4-1), Paraguay, and Uruguay. 2016 has not been a good year for Venezuela, with their only win being a February friendly against Costa Rica. Since then, they've drawn Peru and lost to Chile in World Cup Qualifying, drew Galicia, Panama, and Guatemala, and lost to Costa Rica in friendlies.
How Jamaica will look: On their last outing, Jamaica coach Winfried Schäfer was able to defeat Chile by focusing on the basics. ""I talked to my players before the game and I told them that we needed to get back what was our strength at last year’s Copa America and Gold Cup, which was our tactical teamwork and discipline in the field," Schäfer told the Jamaica Observer after the match. They were able to defeat the third best team in the world even with their star goalkeeper Andre Blake on club duty with the Philadelphia Union. Blake has been the go-to goalkeeper during the World Cup Qualifying, however he was on the bench behind former Pittsburgh Riverhounds and current FC St. Louis goalkeeper Ryan Thompson after suffering a knee injury injury in practice. DuWayne Kerr of Iceland's Stjarnan saw 45 minutes of action against Chile, however is expected to serve as third keeper.
The Jamaica defense is anchored by three names familiar to MLS fans: Jermaine Taylor of the Portland Timbers, Kemar Lawrence of the New York Red Bulls, and Je-Vaughn Watson of the New England Revolution. The back line also has three players currently playing in England, with Michael Hector playing with Championship side Reading FC, Adrian Mariappa playing with Crystal Palace in the Premiership, and Wes Morgan of English Premier League Champion Leicester City. Rounding out the defensive corps are Rosario Hariott of Harbour View and Damano Solomon of Portmore United, both of which are in the Jamaican Premier Division.
The Jamaican midfield is anchored by captain Rodolph Austin, who plays professionally with Denmark's Brøndby IF. Usually joining Austin is Chelsea's Michael Hector, Reading FC's Garath McCleary, and Blackburn Rovers' Lee Williamson, although both Simon Dawkins of the San Jose Earthquakes and Jobi McAnuff of League Two side Leyton Orient also have seen significant time for Jamaica. Also with the team are Andrew Vanzie of Humble Lions, Michael Binns of Portmore United, and Chevone Marsh of Cavalier - all of which are in the Jamaica Premier Division.
The potent Jamaican attack consists of Giles Barnes of the Houston Dynamo, Dever Orgill of Finnish side IFK Mariehamm, and Clayton Donaldson of English Championship's Birmingham City, with Alan Ottey of Montego Bay United looking to further his international career.
How Venezuela will look: In their 1-1 draw with Guatemala in Fort Lauderdale, FL Tenerife goalkeeper Dani Hernández got the start in front of Malaga's Mikel Villanueva and Roberto Rosales, FC Nantes Oswaldo Vizcarrondo, and Wilker Ángel of Venezuelan side Deportivo Táchira on defense. In the midfield was Arquímedes Figuera of Venezuela's La Guaira, captain and Genoa midfielder Tomás Rincón, Luis Seijas of Colombia's Independiente Santa Fe, and Alejandro Guerra of Colombia's Atlético Nacional, with Juan Pablo Añor of Malaga and Salomón Rondón of West Bromwich Albion. Torino's Josef Martínez, Spanish side Huesca's Alexander González, and Granada's Adalberto Peñaranda all made appearances during the friendly as well.
What to expect: Jamaica is a well put together team, and Winfried Schäfer's men will most likely look to play to their strengths: good ball movement and good discipline. Venezuela is not a very good team, but the Reggae Boyz can't afford to look past them to Mexico or Uruguay. In order for Venezuela to get any points from this, they'll need to somehow rattle Andre Blake and the Jamaican defense. If they can get an early lead and bunker, they might find themselves in a good position to steal points, otherwise Jamaica could feast on La Vinotinto.