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Sep 10, 2012

Team USA knows stakes vs. Reggae Boyz

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A reporter asked U.S. men's national coach Jurgen Klinsmann Monday what it would be like if his team were to lose to Jamaica for the second time in five days.

"No, we won't (lose)," Klinsmann said with a smile. "Don't worry."

A lot of people are concerned, however, after the Americans lost 2-1 against host Jamaica in a World Cup qualifier on Friday night -- their first loss ever to the Reggae Boyz.

That defeat dropped the U.S. into a tie for second in Group A. Jamaica (2-0-1) leads, followed by the U.S. and Guatemala, both 1-1-1, and then Antigua and Barbuda (0-2-1) round it out. The top two teams advance to next year's six-nation regional finals, with three of those moving on to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The U.S.-Jamaica rematch is Tuesday at 8 ET (ESPN2).

With games remaining against Guatemala in Kansas City, and a road trip to Antigua, yes, there is reason to be somewhat on edge. Klinsmann, however, said his team knows what is at stake.

"Pressure is always there in professional sports," he said. "Obviously, we wanted to get points in Jamaica, to be in a better kind of position than we are right now. We need tomorrow night, which is our goal and which we are focused on very strongly. It would put us in good position in that group."

Forward Clint Dempsey said the loss at Jamaica's home field, called The Office, certainly grabbed the team's full attention.

"It's no different if you look in years past. It was difficult getting points on the road, but we were able to come together and get important results at home to put us back in good position," said Dempsey, who scored 35 seconds into his first competitive match in three months -- the fastest goal ever in U.S. World Cup qualifying. "That'll be no different if we can get the job done on Tuesday. We're excited about the challenge and everybody's ready and the focus is to get these points."

Veteran Jozy Altidore said at Sunday's practice if the Americans don't win, "It gets pretty scary."

The U.S. should have some reinforcements on hand, however.

Goalkeeper Tim Howard collided with Jamaica's Luton Shelton 8 minutes into the second half and left with a lower right leg contusion. He did not participate in an open practice Sunday here, but Klinsmann said he would be 100 percent and ready to go for the rematch.

Defender Steve Cherundolo missed Friday's game with a strained right calf but is expected to be available. Another defender, Clarence Goodson, is suspended for an accumulation of yellow cards but will likely be replaced by Carlos Bocanegra, the longtime captain who was held out of Friday's game.

Klinsmann said Bocanegra is "hungry" to see action.

"Carlos is a very, very important piece of the whole puzzle," he said.

Bocanegra declared himself fit and ready to go. He also said his teammates were prepared to prove themselves after the disappointment in the Caribbean.

"We know we're a good team," he said. "We didn't have a very good game on Friday. It can't get much worse than that. We're still confident that we'll play the game that we can."

The match is a sellout at Crew Stadium, home of the MLS franchise in Columbus.

Dempsey said the match will be made even more special because it falls on the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. He was a student at Furman University that day and recalled watching the horror enfold on a TV set in a dining hall.

"As a country, we always remember that and it's impacted everyone's life," he said. "Everybody remembers where they were on that day."

The U.S. Soccer Federation selected the venue because of a loyal following and past success. And so far, so good. After all, more than 3,000 cheering fans showed up on Sunday for the American open practice.

The U.S. side has a record of 5-0-3 overall and 4-0-2 in World Cup qualifiers in Crew Stadium.

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