Sport

Boyz proud of WCQ coup

BY SANJAY MYERS Observer staff reporter

Sunday, September 09, 2012    

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REGGAE Boyz defender Shavar Thomas heaped praise on the "Herculean performance" from the senior team after the resilient come-from-behind 2-1 victory over the United States in the World Cup Qualifier on Friday at the National Stadium.

Thomas, who remained on the substitutes' bench throughout the historic win, said the Theodore Whitmore-conditioned unit stuck to the game plan despite being rocked by Clint Dempsey's strike inside the first minute of play.

"It was a Herculean performance from the team. After going behind 0-1 so early it speaks volume of the team's character," he said after a short training session yesterday at the Jamaica Football Federation Technical Centre.

Keeping an eye on the players' physical condition ahead of today's trip to Columbus, Ohio where the Jamaicans will face the USA in the return fixture on Tuesday, the coaching staff limited the core of the squad which featured in Friday's encounter, to leisurely exercises and stretches.

Continued Thomas: "We had a game plan and we believed in what we were doing and we had belief in the group. There was no second thought — from top to bottom, from the coaches to the last man on the bench — as to what we were about.

"It was an all-out good performance from everyone. If the US gave a 100 percent, our players gave 110. We were first to challenges and we were first to all second balls and that helped."

The former senior team captain said he entered the match with much optimism despite a 0-2 reverse to the Americans in the quarter-final of the 2011 Gold Cup tournament.

"It didn't come as a surprise that we won, to be honest. I knew it was a big game, but we knew what we had to do. When we lost to them at the RFK (Stadium) in the Gold Cup I had the confidence that next time around that we were going to beat them," said the player who represents Montreal Impact in US Major League Soccer.

With their first win over the United States in 21 tries, the Jamaicans moved to seven points to wrest sole leadership in the group after Rodolph Austin (23rd minute) and Luton Shelton (62nd minute) replied for the Boyz. Guatemala and United States are locked on four points, while Antigua & Barbuda hold cellar position with a point. The Central Americans came from behind at home to defeat the eastern Caribbean side 3-1, also on Friday night.

The top two teams from the group will advance to the final stage of CONCACAF Qualifying next year.

Midfielder Jason Morrison, who is signed to Aalesund in the Norwegian top-flight, said he and his team mates were efficient at closing down the Americans and nullifying their attacking threats.

"I think last (Friday) night we worked hard at trying to close them down and not give them space to play. That was the key point in the game for us. We reduced their time on the ball and reduced their chances and that was big," he said.

Though being integral in calming the team's play after the early shocker, the quiet-spoken player opted to focus on the all-round play of the unit and challenged the Boyz to lift their play even further for the match on Tuesday.

"I'm very happy for the win and I think everyone contributed in a good team effort. It was a good performance from me (but) the work ethic and organisation was there.

"I know we can do better because there is always space for further improvement. We have to go there and work even harder and play a very compact game. We know they are coming for three points playing at home, especially seeing that they lost to us," Morrison said, while adding that the Jamaicans will maintain a positive approach.

Wily wide player Dane Richards, who recently made a switch to the Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS, did not feature, but watched as his team mates out-muscled and out-hustled the CONCACAF giants.

He told the Sunday Observer that the players who participated put on an "unbelievable" show.

"It was unbelievable. Being on the bench I didn't feel any (negative) way because the team was creating history and it was a pleasure watching them. We pressured them in midfield, because if you give the US players space they look spectacular. We closed the spaces well, apart from the lapse in the first minute. We overcame that (set-back) and showed great character. I wasn't surprised (about the win) because we are normally up for the fight against them. It was a jinx, (and) we finally broke it and showed belief in ourselves. With these three points I'm happy (though I didn't play)," he said, with a broad grin on his face.

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