Back in battle! Boyz face El Salvador in away friendly
VIRGINIA, USA — The senior Reggae Boyz will face El Salvador in the match of a friendly international double header at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC, today at 8:00 pm (7:00 pm Jamaica time).
In the curtain-raiser two hours earlier, Paraguay meet Guatemala.
Today's FIFA-sanctioned date serves as the last opportunity for head coach Theodore Whitmore and his technical staff to assess their charges ahead of back-to-back World Cup qualifiers against USA on September 7 at the National Stadium and four days later in Columbus, Ohio.
The Jamaican aggregation arrived at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in batches on Monday evening, resulting in just a gymnasium session that evening for the 12 players who had arrived at the time.
Yesterday they practised at George Mason University instead of at the RFK Stadium to get in a much longer session rather than the obligatory 45 minutes at the game venue.
Despite the lack of adequate practise time for the group, the pragmatic Whitmore was willing to make do with the present conditions.
"Well, it has been the norm now for games like these and I think we have become accustomed to these sort of situations.
"But it will be business as usual, with the only difference being that we have a number of players who we haven't seen for a while and it is games like these that we have to see them in because the most important thing... are the games on September 7 and 11," said Whitmore following a press conference at the Crowne Plaza Hotel yesterday.
He added: "We have the Kenya game coming up shortly... that gives us another chance to see players like Kavin Bryan, who we haven't seen in a long time, so these two games will benefit us for the World Cup qualifiers."
The game against Kenya is slated for August 25 in Hartford, Connecticut, but of particular interest is that no player based in Britain has been selected for a number of reasons, including club commitment and injuries.
Unlike the Jamaicans, El Salvador, who are under the guidance of Mexican Juan de Dios Castillo, a former Honduras national coach who assumed technical leadership for the past month, are coming off a 1-0 win over Guatemala at the Home Depot Centre last Saturday. Castillo is looking forward to his second game in charge.
"It is a friendly but we will take it seriously as we did against Guatemala," he told reporters yesterday.
He, too, will be using the opportunity to assess some players, but is quite aware of Jamaica's strengths.
"They are very fast, but we know how they play, so we are going to take care of that," he offered.
The teams have met on 19 occasions, with Jamaica securing eight victories, as against five defeats and six draws.
Jamaica have won five of the last eight, including three draws. The last time they met was on March 29, 2011 in San Salvador when Dane Richards hit a brace to add to Omar Cummings' strike for a 3-2 win.
USA and Jamaica are joint leaders of the four-team Group A of the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Play-offs with four points from two games.
Guatemala and Antigua and Barbuda trail with one point each, while El Salvador are third in Group C with one point earned from a 2-2 away draw with Costa Rica (four point) and a 1-2 loss to Mexico, who are on six points.
Whitmore remains optimistic about today's game. "The mood is good despite the lack of training time, but the guys are here and once they are here they are committed. They came here for a reason and they just have to carry out that duty."
A number of players for today's squad returns to the team for the first time in a long while and Whitmore wants to get them enough time to stake a claim for the games next month.
Among them is Shavar Thomas, a regular team captain and Darren Mattocks, the outstanding rookie from MSL outfit Vancouver Whitecaps.
"We want to give them as much time as possible out there on the pitch for them to really show what they capable off, so that the selection for the game against the US will be opened to them as well," Whitmore said.
Of the 20 players invited, Jason Morrison of Aalesund FK in Norway reported injured and has been omitted. The last two players Keneil Moodie and Xavian Virgo arrived late Monday to complete the squad.
Squad — Dwayne Miller, Jacomena Barrett, Lovel Palmer, Jermaine Taylor, JeVaughn Watson, Ryan Johnson, Omar Cummings, Luton Shelton, Dicoy Williams, Ewan Grandison, Joel Senior, O'Brian Woodbine, Andrae Campbell, Damian Williams, Darren Mattocks, Dane Richards, Shavar Thomas, Keneil Moodie and Xavian Virgo.