KINGSTON, Jamaica — With the Reggae Boyz recent loss to the United States in Columbus, Ohio, the nation's football fans were again reminded of the glaring weaknesses that beset the national team. The most glaring weakness is the coaching staff's inability to choose a squad that is cohesive and can play a convincing brand of the beautiful game, even if they come out on the losing end.
Even though the team is locked on seven points with the US and Guatemala, and have managed to pull off a first ever victory over the US, their style of play in the qualifying round of six has been less than convincing.
In the four matches played so far the Reggae Boyz have managed to break down an opposing defence only once when Ryan Johnson finished off a neat move to score against Guatemala from inside the penalty box. All the other goals scored by the team have been long range efforts — two free kicks against the US and a Demar Phillips pile-driver from 30 yards out against Guatemala.
While conceding that it was a Herculean task to beat the US inside their impregnable Columbus, Ohio fortress, a more imaginative approach would make the loss an easier pill to swallow.
Instead, the team chose to defend and allow the wounded US team acres of space to string together lots of passes and pepper the Jamaican goal. It was only the magnificent display by goalkeeper Dwayne Miller that kept the score sheet respectable.
Judging from the four matches played so far, it is clear that the Reggae Boyz need a playmaker, a ball handler who can turn the game on its head with wily moves and penetrative passing.
Rudolph Austin has been tireless and has demonstrated a high work rate but he needs a playmaker beside him in midfield to complement his bustling style of play.
Apart from the opening qualifying match against Guatemala inside the Office, the Reggae Boyz midfield has looked unimaginative and clueless at times, which has resulted in poor service to the attacking players for the most part.
This is extremely puzzling as head coach Theodore Whitmore was a most exciting and creative player who made his name by utilising his sublime ball handling skills and deft body moves to befuddle opponents.
When one considers that Whitmore is surrounded by Brazilians, whose footballers have taught the world the art of the beautiful game, the dull, thoughtless play of the present crop of players is even more bewildering.
This scenario brings into question team selection and the coaching staff's philosophy towards young players breaking into the senior team.
Jermaine 'Teddy' Johnson has been showing glimpses of his old form during this season's play for English outfit Sheffield Wednesday. Johnson is a speedy player whose ability to take on defenders and turn a match on its head it well known.
Then there is Khari Stephenson, the son of Stewart Stephenson, who has challenged Jamaica Football Federation head, Horace Burrell for leadership of that body. Stephenson's exploits for the San Jose Earthquakes is well known.
So far this season he has netted 10 times in 22 games for his club and has the ability to read the game better than the present crop of midfielders the coaching staff has consistently been using.
Marlon King is, in my opinion, a better finisher than any of the current forwards. Granted he has disciplinary problems, but breaking a team curfew cannot justify him being left out of the national squad for such an extended period.
The treatment of young players is another burning issue.
Can the coaching staff justify why none of the players who made up the squad that qualified for the under-17 world cup are in the senior squad? If even for much needed experience?
Can the question be asked why talented youth player Jorgino James, who scored on his national senior debut and saved the senior team blushes, not been given an extended run?
Then there are players such as Marvin Morgan, Ashani Walker and Ashani Fairclough all of whom received national senior call-ups but have never been allowed to stay long enough in the senior set up to hone their skills.
Perhaps the coaching staff are forgetting that the world's most respected and revered player, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, popularly known as Pele, made his debut in the World Cup as a 17-year-old and went on to dominate the 1958, 1962 and 1970 World Cup tournaments with his exciting play and goal scoring skills.
One thing is certain if the team continues playing the way is has over the last four matches and the coaching staff doesn't get its act together, the Reggae Boyz may well go crashing out of contention even before the round of six begins next year.
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