They call it "vibe."
It’s the environment that the Jamaican faithful create at their home affectionately known as “The Office,” and it’s what awaits the US men's national team Friday night (8:30 pm CT, beIN Sport; Live Chat on MLSsoccer.com).
The Office, officially known as Independence Park, has its own unique charm. When teams travel there they play on a on a field that is not always the best, and that is embedded inside a runner’s track.
In the stands is where the mystique that carried the Jamaicans to a 50-game unbeaten streak between 1995 and 2001. The Jamaican fans add to the environment making noise with drums, or in the case of their match against Mexico horns, and a rabid following and fervor for their national team.
It’s what Houston Dynamo rookie forward Jason Johnson believes will be waiting for the US when they face a Jamaican team that has been backed into a corner in the Hexagonal round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying.
“The cultural aspect of Jamaicans is what we call ‘vibe,’" the rookie forward told MLSsoccer.com. “Having a good vibe will create a good atmosphere for the team. People are always talking and making what people call a noise but we call it vibe. Yes, it will be a hostile reception, a really hostile reception.”
Johnson has made his one appearance for the Reggae Boyz in a friendly in Argentina in 2010 and while he’s never featured at The Office, he’s been to the stadium as a fan several times and knows what the fans are capable of when their team plays at home.
Dynamo forward and fellow Jamaican Omar Cummings also knows what the crowd is like and he believes it is one that is not apt to allow an opponent to leave unscathed. He also believes the fans will apply the same pressure to the home team if things do not go well.
“The Jamaican spectators are very honest and they want to be entertained,” Cummings told MLSsoccer.com. “When you’re not doing well it’s a tough crowd so you feel pressure to do well. If you’re doing well you could feel like Barcelona because the vibe’s there and toka toka and you feel like you can do no wrong.”
The former was the case Tuesday night when the Jamaicans lost a 1-0 result to Mexico, leaving them on two points and in last place in the group with just six games to go.
“I felt like we were too defensive,” Cummings said. “I understand with the pressure and guys are trying to be careful. But being at the bottom of the table and needing points, we needed to go a little more attacking. Every game from now on you have to take as a must-win. This game’s going to be difficult, especially with our history with the US.”
With their backs against the wall, the Jamaicans are sure to come out firing against the US and they will be buoyed by the fact that they beat the same US team for the first time in their history in the last round of qualifying.
“I think the atmosphere will be similar to that game with everybody coming out and looking for a win,” Johnson said. “We’re not out of the competition just yet. We still have a chance. If we can take care of business Friday it can help us with momentum for the next couple of games.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.