The U.S. has never won a World Cup Qualifier in Jamaica, but coach Jurgen Klinsmann is prepared for the tough road test.KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Usain Bolt won't be suiting up for the Jamaican national team any time soon, but who needs him? The Reggae Boyz already have enough speed in their lineup.
The U.S. is set to meet Jamaica on Friday in the first of two World Cup qualifying matchups between the two teams in a five-day span, and the Americans are prepared to face an unusually quick squad.
"We know that they're obviously fast," said defender Michael Parkhurst. "Everybody in the country is."
That may explain why there are only statues of track stars - and of course Bob Marley - as you enter National Stadium in the nation's capital. And you can't help but notice the running track around the pitch.
When speaking to the locals, the excitement of Bolt's three gold medals at the London Games is still lingering in the country that is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its independence. Soccer ranks behind track at the moment, but a victory over the U.S. would push the sport back up to No. 1.
And the amount of athleticism Jamaica has to offer could give the U.S. some problems.
"Obviously we do our homework and we study the team that we play against; we study their past and we study their coaches," Klinsmann said. "I have a lot of respect for [coach Theodore Whitmore] because he has a long history. He's very experienced and he knows exactly what he's doing there.
"He build that Jamaican team based on their strengths, and one of the strengths that was mentioned was speed, for example. But also there are other elements in his approach."
One element Jamaica has going for it is the fact that the team will be playing in front of a home crowd. The U.S. has never won on Jamaican soil in World Cup qualifying matches, with the teams drawing four times.
U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra is the only member of the current squad who played in the United States' last visit to Kingston, a 1-1 in qualifying in 2004. He is expecting a party atmosphere at the legendary venue that could possibly distract the Americans.
"I remember they had two massive speakers on the sides and they rocked the crowd. The crowd was jumping beforehand," Bocanegra said. "It's a really good atmosphere.
"Obviously if their team starts doing well, the crowd gets behind them. But it's really kind of a carnival atmosphere, especially before the game, and obviously during the game they have a lot of support for their team as well. Those are kind of the memories you take away."
It's a long way from those hostile Central American and Mexico matches.
"It's a fun environment and it's a fun atmosphere," Bocanegra said. "The country is really friendly and welcoming. They just want everyone to have a good time. But obviously it's an important game for us tomorrow so we can't get too confused with that. We still have to focus."
The U.S. has an opportunity to gain six points against Jamaica, which features nine MLS players. The Americans and Reggae Boyz sit atop the Group A standings with four points each.
It's not a win-or-go-home match for Klinsmann's squad, but the coach is looking for a positive result in what he expects to be a very tight game.
"We are eager to prove a point [Friday night]," Klinsmann said. "We understand that the history is the U.S. has never won a World Cup qualifier in Jamaica and that's what we would like to do coming here. We want to give them a good game and we want to win this game."