Jodi-Ann McGregor: Player for big occasions
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad & Tobago — A woman for the big occasions. That is how Reggae Girl Jodi-Ann McGregor sees herself.
The Jamaican midfielder scored a delightful curling free kick to open the scoring as Jamaica turned back Haiti 2-0 in Saturday's Group A decider of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Women's Championship.
While her teammates helped themselves to a glut of goals in the CFU qualifiers in the Dominican Republic two months ago, and several more in convincing wins over Puerto Rico and Bermuda here at the Championship in Trinidad & Tobago, McGregor went scoreless.
Her best showing would come against Haiti, the group runners-up, in a closely fought encounter.
"I enjoy playing against Haiti and they bring out the best in me," the 28-year-old told the Jamaica Observer, while explaining that she has done well at the senior and various youth levels against Haiti, in both competitive and practice games.
"I didn't score in Dom Rep, but I'm a person who turns up for big games. I'm not saying that the other games aren't important too, but you can get the best out of me in big games. It was an important game and we knew we had to dig deep. I may have bad games, but once I reach a certain stage, like a semi-final game, I always step up to the plate."
McGregor, who attended St James High before moving to Kingston to join The Queen's School, and later the Lindsey Wilson College in Kentucky, United States, said she was confident she had scored after the ball sweetly left her right boot.
"Before I stepped up I was thinking that in the warm-up session I was hitting the ball quite comfortably. At the free-kick I heard a teammate [off the field] say 'Jodi, ah your own this'. And when I kicked it I was like 'Jesus Christ, mi score!' That was the only thing in my mind when I kicked it. I thank God."
A long-time Barbican FC player before switching allegiance to the University of the West Indies, she was a constant spark in the centre of the park against the Haitians, breaking up their attacks and spreading the ball accurately when the Girlz were in possession.
Even as the game petered to a close and many of her teammates showed a bit of fatigue, the player, who started playing for Montego Bay's Untouchable Strikers as a 12-year-old, tirelessly chased and harried her opponents.
So good was she that Head Coach Merron Gordon gave her the nod for player-of-the-match.
"I'd say Jodi-Ann was the best player. She scored the free kick and ran from ball one to the end of the 90-plus minutes. She didn't really turn up on the last tour, but she kept believing in the philosophy. I'm really proud of her because the hard work paid off," a beaming Gordon said.
McGregor's confidence is now on a high and she is eagerly awaiting the test of Trinidad & Tobago in today's final at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
"One goal can make a difference, and it did for me so I'm looking forward to the final. This is going to be a good game and they (T&T) are going to come hard, but we have to remain composed and put the ball on the ground. Right now I'm just confident in the team and I believe in my coach and in myself," she said.