Will Thursday be Gold Cup revenge for Jamaica?
In 2015, the Reggae Boyz became the first Caribbean nation to reach the final of the Gold Cup. They got there by winning their group by four points, which included Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Canada.
They then eliminated Haiti in the quarterfinals with an early goal from Giles Barnes at the M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.
However, the Jamaicans showed the rest of the tournament they were contenders when they eliminated the United States in the semifinals. The Island nation shocked the Yanks with two first half goals from Darren Mattocks and Barnes to defeat the USMNT 2-1 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia.
Their dream run was squashed by El Tri. Mexico provided Jamaica a reality check with a 3-1 beat down at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Reggae Boyz were just 90 minutes away from potentially qualifying for the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, but instead they had to settle for the place in the final.
A little less than a year later the two sides will be facing each other for the first time since the final. However, the Jamaicans enter this game knowing that they need to get a rare positive result against El Tri or else they will be packing their bags.
Jamaica is in dire need of points
As for the Caribbean nation, they cannot afford to leave Pasadena without any points. Three points are what the Reggae Boyz need to keep their second round lives a reality for one more game, without any help.
However, if they tie the Mexicans then Jamaica's road to the quarters gets complicated. First, they will need Uruguay to beat Venezuela in their match on Thursday in Philadelphia. If La Celeste cannot pick up the three at Lincoln Financial Field then they have to force Los Vinotinto to at least a draw.
A draw for Uruguay will not eliminate the Reggae Boyz, but it will make the last game against Uruguay at Levi's Field in Santa Clara, California a must win. Additionally, they would need Venezuela to beat Mexico by a few goals in Houston. If that does not happen then they will be eliminated from the Copa America.
However, if the Jamaicans lose on Thursday against El Tri then they will be eliminated from the tournament.
Three points book Mexico's passage to knockout stage
The Mexicans enter this match with momentum after defeating Uruguay 3-1 in Glendale, Arizona. Now they sit atop Group C with three points and a +2 goal differential. A victory against the Reggae Boyz on Thursday will secure El Tri's spot in the quarterfinals of the Copa America Centenario.
If Mexico fails to pick up the three points at the Rose Bowl, they will still be in control of their chances to advance. They simply will have to beat Venezuela on June 13th at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.
Mexico is in complete control of the series
These two CONCACAF nations have faced each other 23 times. The first time they squared off was in 1962 and El Tri squeaked by with a 1-0 victory at Jamaica.
Winning for Mexico has become the norm when they face the Reggae Boyz home, away or at a neutral site. El Tricolor has earned 18 victories over the Caribbean nation.
Jamaica has managed to win four times and pull out two draws throughout the years. So if the Reggae Boyz walks away with any points against El Tri on Thursday that will be considered an upset.
How Jamaica gets a positive result
Some way and somehow the Jamaicans have to win the battle of the midfield on Thursday. If they attempt to rely purely on a defensive plan and only counter, then the final score will be similar to the Gold Cup final.
Rodolph Austin's red card suspension for this game does not help their cause in this vital match.
Wes Morgan is not the answer
Although Wes Morgan will most likely be starting this game, the defense cannot be facing a constant assault and expect to win or draw.
The midfield is going have to apply pressure, win the ball back, and start the attacks. They cannot commit careless turnovers because Mexico's offense will make them pay. The Reggae Boyz midfield will need to put in the best performance in the history of Jamaican football to slow down the Mexican attack.
Additionally, the striker corps needs to convert the few chances they get on Thursday. Barnes, Clayton Donaldson, Dever Orgill and Allan Ottey are facing a defense that just allowed their first goal since late October of last year. So, they will need to make every trip into Mexico's penalty box count. Whether by scoring, getting a corner or having a penalty decision go in their favor, they need to make the defense sweat.
Andre Blake needs to stand his ground
It does not matter if Jamaica scores three times against El Tricolor on Thursday if goalkeeper Andre Blake has a bad game. The favorites have the weapons to drop four to five goals on Jamaica's defense.
So Blake will need to put in a career performance to keep the Mexicans off the scoreboard, because once they get their first goal the second will be coming shortly.
How Mexico locks up their place in the quarters
El Tri's head coach Juan Carlos Osorio knows that the Jamaicans will bunker in an attempt to frustrate the Mexicans offense. The best cure to that is to score on them.
The Reggae Boyz have to leave the game with at least a point, and if they find themselves down a goal then they will be forced to go on the offensive. Players like Héctor Herrera, Jesús Corona, Miguel Layún, Javier Aquino and Javier Hernandez will destroy the Caribbean nation on the counter.
Even with Andrés Guardado missing this match due to the red card he picked up against Uruguay, the Mexicans have enough depth on the bench to eventually crush the Jamaicans.
All El Tri has to do is not lose focus and go for the victory in this match. However, Osorio has this national team geared up to make a deep run in this tournament and potentially win it. With a spot in the quarterfinals on the line, Osorio and captain Rafael Márquez will have the rest of the team ready to complete their objective.