• Jamaica aims to slay another giant, faces US in Gold Cup final

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    LOS ANGELES: Jamaica is out to end North America’s stranglehold on the CONCACAF Gold Cup when they take on the favored United States on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) in the final at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

    The arrival of Bruce Arena’s men in the title match of the regional championship for North and Central America is no surprise.

    Even though they were denied a berth by the Jamaicans with a semifinal loss in 2015, they are homing in on a sixth title in the regional championship for North and Central America and the Caribbean.

    Since the Gold Cup was instituted in 1991, Mexico have won seven titles, the United States five and Canada one — in 2000.

    Andre Blake (No. 1) of Jamaica leaps to grab the ball from Orbelin Pineda (No. 7) of Mexico as Damion Lowe (No. 3) and Alvas Powell (No. 5) defend during the first half of the CONCACAF 2017 semifinal at Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. AFP PHOTO

    But Jamaica are knocking on the door again.

    They stunned defending champions Mexico in the semi-finals to become the only team besides the US or El Tri to reach back-to-back finals.

    “That’s a cycle we want to break,” Jamaican coach Theodore Whitmore said of the US-Mexico dominance in the event — and the region.

    “That’s what we, as staff and players, discuss. It’s always Mexico-US. We want to be in that top group.

    “We want to be a team, a country that someone can talk about. And that’s what we’re working toward.”

    Inspired work in goal by captain Andre Blake — and a stunning game-winning free kick by Kemar Lawrence in the 1-0 semi-final win against Mexico — have the Caribbean country back in the final.

    The Reggae Boyz were well-organized defensively and played with composure against an inexperienced Mexican side, who also had to make do without coach Juan Carlos Osorio as he served a six-game FIFA ban for comments about officials at last month’s Confederations Cup in Russia.

    Jamaica has allowed only two goals across five matches so far.

    “We have a bit of youth and experience and that’s been taking us through the tournament,” Whitmore said. “I think we have a solid back five, including Andre Blake — very organized.”

    “There are areas of the field that still need to improve, but it’s working, obviously, in a tournament. And we have to play according to the tournament to get a result.”

    Like Mexico, the United States brought a young, untried squad into the group stage, but Arena called on the old guard for the knockout rounds and they haven’t disappointed.

    Clint Dempsey equaled the USA record with his 57th international goal in the team’s 2-0 semi-final victory over Costa Rica.

    He could surpass the mark set by Landon Donovan with a goal against Jamaica.

    The USA are unbeaten in 13 matches since Arena returned to the helm, replacing Germany’s Jurgen Klinsmann who was sacked after a 4-0 loss to Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying.

    Costa Rica coach Oscar Ramirez said Arena’s return had re-energized the USA.

    “With Klinsmann there was a certain tension, perhaps because several had problems with him,” Ramirez said. “I think Bruce has restored their level.”

    AFP

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