US coach Berhalter wary of depleted Jamaica

United States coach Gregg Berhalter warned his team against complacency on Wednesday as they prepare to face a depleted Jamaica in the CONCACAF Nations League semi-finals. BSS

The reigning Nations League champions take on Jamaica in Arlington, Texas, on Thursday looking to set up a final showdown against either Mexico or Panama, who meet in the other semi-final.

In theory, the US task has become easier by the absence of several key Jamaican players from Thursday’s game.

Jamaica’s veteran West Ham striker Michail Antonio became the latest to join the missing list on Thursday after sustaining a shoulder knock in the English Premier League on Sunday.

The Reggae Boyz were already without another Premier League player, Aston Villa’s Leon Bailey, who was ditched from the squad last week after breaking the team’s curfew during the last Jamaica training camp.

While Antonio and Bailey’s absence deprives Jamaica of proven goalscorers, Berhalter says the US won’t take anything for granted, noting that their replacements will be aiming to impress ahead of this summer’s Copa America.

“It puts us on high alert, no question about it,” Berhalter said when asked about Jamaica’s absentees.

“We’re not taking this team lightly and now with guys missing it’s even more serious, because we know that the guys that are getting their opportunity tomorrow night are going to be giving everything to show this coach they want to be part of their squad for the Copa America.

“So it’s a dangerous game for us and we’re going to be really focused on trying to play a good game and getting to the final.”

Berhalter said the US squad had benefited from input from American players based overseas who were familiar with the Jamaica line-up.

“We went through their roster today and were asking our players what they know personally about the Jamaican players, because a lot of them play with these players in England,” Berhalter said.

“They’re well known to our player pool. We think that the quality they have is still good.

“They might be missing their top talent but they still have enough to be a very competitive team. And we know in these events in CONCACAF, when teams play each other, they’re very difficult games. We expect the same thing.”

Jamaica advanced to the last four of the Nations League after upsetting World Cup qualifiers Canada in the quarter-finals when a late penalty capped a remarkable three-goal comeback. Berhalter is expecting a similarly dogged performance from Jamaica on Thursday.

“We know Jamaica’s a robust team, and they’re going to fight to the end just like they did against Canada in the quarter-finals of the Nations League,” he said.

“So we’re preparing for a very difficult opponent tomorrow.”

Although the Americans will be heavily favored to progress on Thursday, Berhalter appeared to rule out rotating players with an eye on Sunday’s final.

“For us it’s about avoiding complacency, being focused and doing our business,” he said. “Now’s not the time to start resting our laurels — we want to be focused and win this game and advance to the final.”

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