SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- U.S. men's national team manager Bruce Arena is expecting a difficult encounter in Wednesday's Gold Cup final against Jamaica.
The U.S. will be aiming to claim their sixth Gold Cup crown, while the Reggae Boyz will be looking to become just the fourth different country to win the tournament. Besides the U.S., Mexico and Canada are the others.
"We know we face an opponent that has played well, and it will be a very difficult opponent to beat tomorrow," said Arena about Jamaica at his pre-match press conference. "I know they'll be prepared."
Jamaica enters the final with the best defensive record in the tournament, having conceded just two goals in five matches. It also avoided defeat twice against tournament co-favorites Mexico, defeating El Tri 1-0 in Sunday's semifinal after tying them in the group stage.
"They have good experienced players all over," said Arena about Jamaica. "I think in the midfield with [Je-Vaughn] Watson holding down the center part of midfield, very strong there. The back line has been very good.
"We all know [Andre] Blake is an outstanding goalkeeper, and [Darren] Mattocks has really been a very strong striker and very dangerous and can turn a game on one play.
"They've been able to collectively defend very well, been opportunistic to get important goals and have worked real hard as a team to get where they are today. "
Arena also took time to give credit to the tournament's presumed minnows. Teams like Martinique and El Salvador proved to be more competitive than expected, and Arena said that the lesser-known countries are "vastly improved."
"I think you see that the game is shrinking around the world and the fact that the lesser-known teams more accomplished today, they have more experienced players, they have better coaching, and we're in a low scoring sport so the likelihood of being able to pull off an upset is much greater in this sport than other sports," he said.
"I think you've seen over the last couple of years in these competitions that that can happen. I think that's been the case in this tournament in CONCACAF."
He added, "I think it has been a good competition, the level of play in the competition has been pretty strong."
Arena said that he's enjoying his second stint in charge, especially after rallying the U.S. into third place in the final round of World Cup qualifying.
When asked what keeps him going, he said, "I like what I do. I've always been a competitive person.
"You work every day to try to be successful. You take on challenges that are interesting, and this has certainly been an interesting challenge as I've come back to the U.S. team in November. It's been a lot of fun to put pieces of the puzzle together.
"At this point, in my coaching career, this has been the best challenge I could have undertaken. That keeps me going every day."