Why Jamaica is a tricky opponent 

September, 6, 2012

KINGSTON, Jamaica -- On paper, it looks like a walk in the park. Independence Park, to be precise -- a sprawling multisport complex in the heart of Jamaica's bustling capital and home to the island's national stadium.

It used to go by another name. During the Reggae Boyz's late '90s heyday, this place was known simply as The Office, due to the businesslike manner in which the home team dispatched opponent after opponent. From 1995 to 2001, Jamaica went 50 straight games without a defeat here -- a remarkable streak given how regularly it hosted CONCACAF powers Costa Rica, Mexico and the U.S. -- a run that coincided with the country's lone World Cup appearance, in 1998.

On Friday, the Yanks return to The Office for the first time since 2004 to open a two-match set against the Reggae Boyz that culminates in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday.

It's true that the Americans have never lost to Jamaica in 18 all-time meetings. But they have never won a qualifier here, either. So even if a trip to Jamaica isn't quite as daunting as it once was, it remains a deceptively tricky test on the road to Brazil 2014.

Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.