By Charles Odum
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
ATLANTA _ Forward Michael Seaton says Jamaica advanced to the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals for the first time in 17 years because the Reggae Boyz enjoyed surprising the doubters.
With five-time champion United States waiting in Wednesday night’s semifinal, Jamaica coach Winfried Schaefer is playing up the underdog role once again.
“It feels like David versus Goliath,” Schaefer said Tuesday. “But that’s fine. We will try everything to hit the giant when it counts the most.”
Mexico, which has six Gold Cup titles, will play Panama in Wednesday night’s other semifinal.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann predicted a tight match against Jamaica. That’s no surprise. Other than a 6-0 win over Cuba in the quarterfinals, the U.S. has had plenty of tough matches in the Gold Cup so far.
The semifinal at a sold-out Georgia Dome matches two German coaches who know each other well.
“Our paths have crossed many times,” Klinsmann said.
“All the times we’ve met we’ve always had a good time with each other. He loves to joke around.”
Jamaica beat Haiti 1-0 to reach its first semifinal since 1998.
“I think it was people doubting us and knowing the struggle a majority of us come from,” Seaton said.
U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley said the team knows what it’s up against.
“We certainly have the most respect for Jamaica,” Bradley said. “We know it’s going to be a difficult game. We think everybody on all four teams is sensing a big opportunity here.”
Schaefer managed the win over Haiti without Vancouver forward Darren Mattocks and Dallas midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson, who were suspended for yellow card accumulation. The two will be back against the U.S. as Jamaica tries to reach its first final. It lost to Mexico in the 1993 and 1998 semifinals.
Schaefer, who previously coached Thailand and Cameroon, took over Jamaica’s team in 2013.
The U.S. has been led by Clint Dempsey, the Seattle Sounders star who had a hat trick in the win over Cuba. His six goals are the most of any player in the tournament.
Mexico is not at full strength. Forward Javier Hernandez is out with a collarbone injury. The good news from coach Miguel Herrera on Tuesday is Giovani Dos Santos said he is fully recovered from a leg injury.
“He’s doing well,” Herrera said. “For the first time today he told me he’s 100 per cent so we’ll definitely consider him and take that into account in terms of the match tomorrow.”
Panama beat Mexico 2-1 in the 2013 Gold Cup semifinals.
Is there motivation for revenge, even though Mexico beat Panama 1-0 in a friendly last year?
“I think yes it could be, given it’s the same tournament,” Herrera said.
Midfielder Jonathan Dos Santos said players were drained when their flight to Atlanta on Monday was delayed four hours.
“It’s hard,” he said of the tournament grind. “I don’t know how to do differently.”
Herrera fielded more questions on Tuesday about his team’s 1-0 win over Costa Rica in the quarterfinals on Sunday night. The win came on Andres Guardado’s penalty kick in the final minute of extra time after Roy Miller was called for a questionable foul on Oribe Peralta.
Herrera said video of the contested foul should settle any controversy.
“Look at it on the website,” Herrera said. “You can analyze the arm of the opposing player. There is also a blow to the leg of our player and he’s pushing. So take a look and tell me.”
Herrera said he didn’t expect continued discussion of the call to affect the way Wednesday night’s game is officiated.
“In general I think the referee will do his job and we’ll do our job,” he said.
Panama advanced with four 1-1 draws. It beat Trinidad and Tobago 6-5 on penalty kicks to reach the semifinals