After a relatively easy win against El Salvador in San Diego, El Tri look to book their place in the knockout phase of the 2017 Gold Cup, when they take on Jamaica in Thursday’s match at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver.
If the Reggae Boys are a familiar opponent to many El Tri fans, that is because they are. El Tri, then under the direction of Miguel ‘Piojo’ Herrera, defeated them to win the 2015 Gold Cup. However, this Reggae Boys side is significantly different, with only five of the 23 players from Winifried Schaefer’s 2015 team being a part of manager Theodore Whitmore’s 2017 selection.
Jamaica come into the match on a high note, having defeated Curacao 2-0 in their opening match in San Diego. But that 2-0 win for the Reggae Boys, which put them in a position to potentially qualify to the knockout phase on Thursday themselves, presents many opportunities for El Tri to exploit.
Like El Tri at times against La Selecta, the Reggae Boys’ collective tended to have lapses in concentration in which their opponents were able to correct chances. Unlike El Tri, whose lapses in concentration and submissiveness on the buildup and in defense were relatively short. The Reggae Boys had to get lucky that Curacao could not find the final finishing touches against Dwayne Miller in the first half.
The simple superior vision and individual ability of Orbelin Pineda down the midfield and Elias Hernandez and Rodolfo Pizarro on the wings should be a major part of Juan Carlos Osorio’s and Luis Pompillo Paez’s plans to generate goal-scoring chances. Osorio, who is suspended from game-time duty, has the job of training the players while it is Pompillo Paez who will be making the match-time decisions.
Pompillo Paez should be mindful the Reggae Boys needed was an effective 20 minute period based on quick builds and counterattacks to get the win against Curacao, and the same strategy, employed by Romario Williams, Jevaughn Watson, and Darren Mattocks among others, could hurt El Tri if they fail to recognize the gaps that Jamaica could exploit, and that Jamaican players can play the same sense of maliciousness that El Tri has.
One rotation that Paez could make would be the inclusion of Erick Torres as a central striker. Torres’ familiarity with the likely Jamaica defenders could give El Tri a point man to look for when they look to break Jamaica’s lines when they breach the attacking third of the pitch. Also, Pompillo Paez could give Erick Gutierrez a run out on the left side of the midfield, to not only provide additional support for Edson Alvarez in defense, should the Club America lateral get the starting nod, but also be able to generate more chances from the left hand side to center of the pitch, and make the Reggae Boys have to commit to over-focus on ‘Guti’.
El Tri will have to worry about two of its players getting bookings. Left fullback Luis Reyes and holding midfielder Jorge ‘Burrito‘ Hernandez could miss the match against Curacao should both play against the Reggae Boys and pick up a yellow card.
The match kicks off from Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium at 10:00 PM Eastern DST (UTC -4) (7:00 PM Pacific DST (UTC -7)), and can be seen on Fox Sports 1, Univision, and Univision Deportes Network on television, and streamed on the Univision Deportes app, Fox Sports Go, and Fox Soccer Matchpass in the United States.