Boyz's home turf could break US jinx
THERE is nothing more dangerous than a cornered animal! If that animal feels that it is in danger, it will lash out in self-defence and an attack may occur.
That's the situation facing Jamaica's Reggae Boyz as they prepare to take on the mighty United States of America (USA) in a crucial home-and-away fixture in the 2014 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying campaign.
The teams are joint top-of-the-table with four points in Group A after two games, followed by Guatemala and Antigua and Barbuda with a point each.
After a decent 2-1 home victory over Guatemala in their opener on June 8, the Boyz threw in a clinker in a 0-0 stalemate away to Antigua and Barbuda at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground four days later.
For many, that was two points dropped and not so much a point gained as the tiny eastern Caribbean nation was seen as the weakest team in the four-team group where six points were taken for granted.
Now the Boyz face an uneasy wait against the USA, a team they have never beaten in 20 tries, including two Olympic Games qualifiers dating back 40 years, and a team on a high after their morale-boosting, first-ever triumph against the vaunted Mexican at the much-feared high altitude Azteca.
In the 20 meetings, the Boyz have registered a paltry 12 strikes, compared to 34 hits by the North Americans who have scored 11 victories, including two in World Cup qualifiers, three in the Gold Cup, one in the Olympic Games qualifier and five in friendlies.
There have been just two blow-out wins by the Americans, a 5-1 thrashing of the Boyz in a World Cup qualifier on August 13, 1988 in St Louis, and a 5-0 thumping in a friendly international on May 16, 2002, also in the USA.
In eight World Cup qualifiers, the Boyz have held their own, losing just twice when Alton 'Noah' Sterling scored the consolation in front of a paltry 6,100 spectators at the Big Arch Stadium in 1988, and when Jamie Lawrence netted in between Joe-Max Moore's brace before 40,000 spectators at the last game at the Foxboro Stadium in Boston.
But there remains hope for the Boyz as they have never lost at home against the US in World Cup qualifying and have lost only once in their last five such meetings.
In fact, the last time the Americans visited 'The Office' on August 18, 2004, they barely escaped with a point after Brian Ching found the target two minutes from the end to equalise Ian Goodison's 49th minute opener, in a contest where new coach Brazilian Sebastiao Lazaroni failed to close down the game because he said he didn't know the players well enough.
The Boyz could also argue that had they not been the victims of extremely poor officiating in a couple of games prior, they would have broken that jinx long ago.
Who can forget the 0-0 result in Jamaica on March 2, 1997 when Tom Dooley clearly pulled down then playmaker Theodore Whitmore inside the penalty area and the referee ignored the appeals. Or, when defender Ian Goodison was called for a penalty handball violation, which clearly occurred outside the penalty box for Eric Wynalda to score, only for Deon Burton to find the equaliser two minutes later in the 50th minute in front of 51,000 spectators inside the RFK Stadium in Washington, DC.
The Boyz were on a high on the back of some excellent displays when the teams last met at the RFK Stadium in the quarter-finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup last year, only to be shot down 2-0.
Next Friday presents another bite at the proverbial 'cherry' and what better time to do so than at home when the stakes and high, very high.