Gordon Williams, Gleaner Writer
Jamaica's chances of snapping an 18-game winless streak against the United States (US) looked brighter yesterday after the US announced a squad for two World Cup qualifiers (WCQ) against the Reggae Boyz - kicking off with Friday's clash in Kingston - minus a couple of America's biggest stars and doubts shadowing the match readiness of two others.
The US squad, which is assembling for a training camp in Miami, Florida, ahead of its departure for Jamaica on Wednesday, will be without dangerous midfielder/forward Landon Donovan and influential midfielder Michael Bradley, both ruled out with injuries.
Donovan is the all-time leading US scorer with 49 goals in 144 internationals. Bradley has 10 goals in 69 games.
In addition, the US plan to conduct physical and mental readiness tests on regular captain Carlos Bocanegra, a defender, and forward/midfielder Clint Dempsey, two other automatic national first team choices.
Bocanegra and Dempsey recently changed clubs in Europe and there is concern they have not been getting enough playing time recently to prepare for Friday's match and the return leg against Jamaica in Columbus, Ohio, on September 11.
Dempsey, who has scored 27 goals in 87 games for the US, recently signed with Tottenham Hotspur after leaving Fulham. But he has not played a competitive match so far this season because of a lengthy holdout as he switched English Premier League clubs. However, US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann appears willing to feature Dempsey at 'The Office'.
"We are absolutely open to throwing him in the water right away in Jamaica," Klinsmann said during a teleconference with reporters yesterday.
Bocanegra, a veteran of 106 internationals, moved to Spanish club Racing Santander from the Scottish Premier League. He, too, will be evaluated at the US camp, but could start Friday. Klinsmann said Bocanegra had "played a couple games" and was "more in match rhythm," although "we will test him too".
The Americans also learned of another setback yesterday when Norway-based midfielder Josh Gatt pulled out of the squad after suffering a hamstring injury. Despite being an uncapped international, Klinsmann had hoped Gatt would "add a new element to our team".
That reduced the squad to 23 players. Goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who has family from Jamaica and was once invited to train with - but later cut from - a Jamaica Under-20 team, is in the US squad for Friday's game. However, he will return to his Major League Soccer club before the return match in Columbus.
Despite the missing stars, Klinsmann said the US team is confident of beating Jamaica in Kingston and extending the Boyz's losing streak at the senior international level, which started in 1988. The US have won 10 games and drawn eight against Jamaica.
"We want to get, if possible, maximum amount of points," the coach said. "So we are trying to really get the players focused on going into Jamaica ready for the Friday night game and hopefully pull off a victory on Jamaican soil."
The Americans have never beaten the Boyz in a WCQ in Jamaica.
Both teams are tied on top of Group A with four points in the CONCACAF semi-final qualifying round, each with a win and a draw. The US, however, have a better goal difference.
The top-two teams in the group, which also includes Guatemala and Antigua and Barbuda, will advance to the CONCACAF final round of six countries from which the first three go to World Cup 2014. The fourth-place country will be involved in a play-off for another spot in Brazil.