Game: Mexico vs. Jamaica
Date: Thursday, June 9th
Time: 10:00 PM Eastern (9:00 PM Central, 7:00 PM Pacific, 2:00 AM UTC)
Venue: The Rose Bowl (Pasadena, California)
Referees: Referee: Wilton Sampaio (BRA), Assistant Referee 1: Gustavo Rossi (ARG), Assistant Referee 2: Alexander Leon (COL), Fourth Official: Ricardo Montero (CRC), Reserve Assistant: Octavio Jara (CRC)
Television: FOX Sports 1 (USA), Univision (USA), Univision Deportes (USA), SportsMax 2 (Jamaica), Sky HD (Mexico), TDN (Mexico), Azteca 7 (Mexico), Univision TDN (Mexico)
Streaming: FOX Sports GO, FOX Soccer 2GO, fuboTV
The last time these clubs faced off, it was a year ago right here in Philadelphia for the 2015 Gold Cup Final. Jamaica had knocked out the United States and faced off against a dominant Mexican side that had run roughshod over most every team they faced. Jamaica fought valiantly, but it was El Tricolor that eventually lifted the trophy.
These sides will be very different from the last time they met though.
How Mexico will look: After winning the Gold Cup, Mexico fired manager Miguel El Piojo Herrera after a dust-up with a reporter in the Philadelphia airport. Legendary Tigres manager Ricardo Tuca Ferretti was brought in as a caretaker until ex-New York Red Bulls manager Juan Carlos Osorio was hired on a permanent basis. JCO has been nothing short of miraculous since taking the reins, going 7-0-0 including a 3-1 beating of Uruguay on Sunday.
There are cracks in the facade though, as El Tri will be without one of its best players in PSV midfielder Andrés Guardado. Guardado was shown a second yellow card against Uruguay, so look for possible Manchester United transfer target Hirving Lozano or Jesús Dueñas to replace him on the left. Mexico is also prone to losing focus at times, as evidenced by the Uruguay goal after the Guardado red card.
No one marked Diego Godin on the set piece, and he was able to draw Uruguay level. These are the sorts of miscalculations that Jamaica feasts on, so Mexico can't afford to let their guard down against the Reggae Boyz.
Look for Alfredo Talavera to get the start in goal for Mexico. The Toluca goalkeeper played well against Uruguay, although Málaga's Guillermo Memo Ochoa is a the crowd favorite and there's a chance he will get the nod. In front of Tala, look for the same defensive setup of PSV left back Héctor Moreno, Santos Laguna center back Néstor Araujo, Real Sociedad center back Diego Reyes, and FC Porto (and former Club América) right back Miguel Layún. In the midfield, I'd expect Lozano to get the nod on the left, the ageless Rafael Márquez (yes, the same Rafa Márquez that played for Barcelona and the New York Red Bulls) in the center, and Layún's Porto teammate Héctor Herrera on the right. Up top, I'd be surprised if JCO made any changes, as Tigres forward Javier Aquino, Porto's Jesús Tecatito Corona, and Bayer Leverkusen's Javier Chicharito Hernandez looked dangerous against a good Uruguayan defense.
Mexico is skilled, tactically sound, and is playing with a home field advantage (don't kid yourself - even though the matches are in the United States, the crowds are pro-Mexico no matter who they play). Mexico can be cocky and arrogant too - and if they aren't careful that can be their undoing.
How Jamaica will look: Jamaica will also be without its captain and a key cog in their midfield, as Rodolph Austin was sent off against Venezuela for a questionable foul. They will also be without manager Winfried Schäfer, who confronted the match officials for the Venezuela match during halftime, asking if it was "normal for the referee to give calls only for South American teams." He was banished to the stands for the second half of the match and cannot be on the sidelines against Mexico. New York Red Bulls left back Kemar Lawrence is also out after injuring his groin, being substituted off for Leicester City's Wes Morgan - who was not supposed to play the first match because he was believed to be tired from partying (seriously, you can't make this stuff up).
One man who will be on the pitch will be the Philadelphia Union's Andre Blake, who had a great game against Venezuela. The one goal he gave up was not his fault, and he did more than enough to keep his team in the match - including this fantastic save on La Vinotinto's Wilker Ángel:
Blake will have to bring his best game against Mexico's deadly attack, however if there's one man on the Jamaican defense that can make that difference, it's him.
In front of Blake, I would expect Wes Morgan to get the start at center back, pushing the Portland Timbers' Jermaine Taylor out to the left back position. Crystal Palace's Adrian Mariappa and the New England Revolution's Je-Vaughn Watson should round out the Jamaican defense at center back and right back, respectively.
In the midfield, look for ex-Reading FC and current Leyton Orient midfielder Jobi McAnuff to push out to the left wing in place of Austin, while Chelsea's Michael Hector and Blackburn Rovers' Lee Williamson will most likely pair as a central defensive midfield tandem to help deal with the expected offensive assault. Garath McCleary of Reading FC will most likely round out the midfield on the right wing.
Up top, Giles Barnes of the Houston Dynamo and Clayton Donaldson of Birmingham City absolutely have to find the rhythm that was so elusive against Venezuela. These guys are fast and physical and can really torment the Mexican defense if they can get in sync - otherwise they're prone to turning the ball over with little to show for it.
What to expect: Mexico has to go out and play their game. They can't look past Jamaica - the scoreline against Venezuela was perhaps as misleading as the scoreline in last year's Gold Cup Final. They need to go out and do the job while simultaneously keeping the rhythm and feel going that has served them so well since their last loss - almost a year ago to Ecuador in the 2015 Copa América. They're a formidable foe, but they're not invincible.
Jamaica has to go out there with something to prove. They need to prove that they're better than the team that was on the wrong foot and lost what most had assumed was an easy win over Venezuela. They need to prove they belong in this tournament (they absolutely do), and perhaps most of all they need to go out and look to avenge the loss last year in the Gold Cup. If they can all get on the same page and have the defense frustrate Mexico's potent offense while letting Donaldson and Barnes go bull-in-a-china-shop on the El Tri defense, then there's a strong possibility they can pull what many might think is an upset.
Day 7 schedule:
Uruguay vs. Venezuela 7:30 PM Eastern at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA
Mexico vs. Jamaica 10:00 PM Eastern at The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA