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WORLD CUP

U.S. plays at Jamaica on Friday in World Cup qualifier

A victory at Kingston could put the U.S. on top in the six-team regional competition for three berths in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but the U.S. team has been up and down recently.

June 06, 2013|By Kevin Baxter
  • The U.S. national team will face Jamaica in a World Cup Qualifying match on Friday.
The U.S. national team will face Jamaica in a World Cup Qualifying match… (Nicholas Kamm / Getty Images )

The last time the U.S. played a soccer match in Jamaica, it wilted in the heat and lost a 2-1 decision on a ragged field.

That was nine months ago. So in an effort to keep that from happening again, U.S. Coach Juergen Klinsmann brought his team to Kingston three days ahead of Friday's World Cup qualifier to get it acclimated to the conditions.

A bigger issue, however, is determining which team Klinsmann brought with him. Is it the one that conceded three second-half goals in a one-sided loss to Belgium in an international friendly 10 days ago? Or is it the one that ran out to a three-goal lead then hung on for an exhibition win over Germany on Sunday?

Neither, says captain Clint Dempsey, who insists the victory over Germany has the U.S. heading back into World Cup qualifying with newfound momentum.

"It gives you confidence," said Dempsey, who scored twice in the win. "You feel by getting a result against a team like this that you can get the job done in these games."

After three of 10 games, the U.S. is fourth in the six-team regional qualifying tournament, which runs through October. To earn a spot in next summer's World Cup in Brazil, the U.S. must finish in the top three. And the U.S. has a great chance to move up the table during the next 11 days because after Jamaica, the U.S. plays consecutive games at home, meeting Panama in Seattle on June 11 and Honduras a week later in Sandy, Utah.

A victory Friday over Jamaica, the only winless team in the regional competition, could send the U.S. to the top of the standings, depending on what happens in the other two games that day: Honduras versus Costa Rica and Mexico versus Panama. But just as important is the fact a victory would build on the momentum Dempsey was talking about.

Although the German squad the U.S. beat was a B team, the Americans were still buoyed by the play of forward Jozy Altidore, whose first-half goal Sunday was his first, other than a penalty kick, in nearly two years. Altidore also assisted on Dempsey's first goal against Germany.

Plus, the Jamaicans are likely to be a bit weary after chasing Mexico on Tuesday in a fast-paced 1-0 loss.

But if that's the good news, the bad remains the U.S. team's inconsistent back line, which gave up eight shots on goal and allowed Germany to score twice in the final 12 minutes, setting up a finish that proved to be more dramatic than it should have been.

"We'd like to finish on a better note, for sure," defender Matt Besler said. "This by no means is good enough, but it's a good foundation that we've started to build."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: @kbaxter11

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