Coach proud of players despite missing Under-17 World Cup

BY HOWARD WALKER Observer staff reporter

Monday, March 16, 2015

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San Pedro Sula, Honduras -- The entire Jamaican contingent was left despondent; some were inconsolable after missing out on the last Under-17 FIFA World Cup spot following their heartbreaking 4-5 sudden death penalty loss to the United States of America (USA) on Sunday.

Having defeated the Americans 1-0 in group action last Wednesday, both teams met again in the play-off for one of the two remaining spots available and after battling to a pulsating 0-0 draw in full time, the Reggae Boyz lost in the dreaded penalty kicks that ensued immediately after the normal time.

Head coach Andrew Edwards was in a sombre mood, but nevertheless, had high praises for his team.

"Yesterday's (Sunday) game itself and the outcome of the tournament is an obvious disappointment for us. I personally took it very, very hard. I started this campaign with the belief that we would have been going to Chile and I never stopped saying that and to miss out in the manner that we missed out is very hard to take," Edwards told the Jamaica Observer.

"In the same breath, it was a very good effort and we have to take solace in that and be comforted for the effort that we put in. We can't fault ourselves much for the performances that we gave in the tournament and you could have seen that the team grow from strength to strength with each game," he noted.

Jamaica started poorly, losing 0-2 to host Honduras, but bounced back with victory over Guatemala (2-1) followed by a 1-1 draw with Cuba. They then defeated Trinidad and Tobago 5-1 and the USA 1-0 to finish second in Group A with 10 points.

However, following the reseeding of the four play-off teams, the young Boyz were ranked fourth based on goal difference and were paired against the USA, who were ranked first.

Nicholas Nelson, Jahlanie Hammond, Shandel Senior and Ajeanie Talbott converted for Jamaica, while Jahwani Hinds missed Jamaica's second spot kick, then Alex Marshall booted wide in sudden death.

Marshall, who also missed in the 1-1 draw with Cuba, was inconsolable as he crashed himself into the sign boards before his teammates tried to console him.

The outstanding goalkeeper Jahmali Waite saved the first kick from the US from Christian Pulisic, but Joe Gallardo, Daniel Barbir, Alejandro Zendejas, John Nelson and Alexis Veleva all converted for the winners.

Despite nullifying the Americans, the young Reggae Boyz didn't get going and failed to impose their will on the game in a lacklustre performance.

"I thought we didn't quite execute our plan as we wanted to. We wanted to play a high press game. We wanted to push back the Americans. We know that their defenders were not the best and they were playing without their very best defender as well.

"So we wanted to do that, but I think there was a bit of trepidation as a consequence we backed off and invited them to come closer to our goal and therefore we ended up having to try to attack in counter attacks, which wasn't the exact plan. We also allowed them to play using the entire width of the field when we wanted to contain them in one area of the field," said Edwards.

"But it is understandable when there was so much at stake and it was always going to be difficult for the boys to contain the expectation and showed the kind of maturity required. But they did very well and I am proud of each and every one of them," he added.

The USA join Costa Rica, who whipped Canada 3-0 in the other play-off game, along with Mexico and Honduras as the four CONCACAF representatives to the FIFA World Cup set for Chile in October.

This is now the second consecutive Under-17 FIFA World Cup that Jamaica will miss after qualifying for the 2011 edition, having also done so in 1999.

"I want to congratulate the players for an excellent tournament. I want to express thanks to them and their parents for their commitment and sacrifice shown throughout the tournament and the preparation phase," said Edwards.

"I want to really express our sincere thanks to the technical staff, auxiliary staff and support staff, the supporters and fans from all over the world who sent their best wishes on a daily basis. We could have felt their energies most of the time and I want to thank them for that," he added.

"It was a very good tournament, the Honduran people were warm to us most of the times and you could see the spectatorship in the stadium last night was pro Jamaica and we enjoyed ourselves. We are disappointed not to be going to Chile, but is was good nonetheless," said Edwards.

Teams: Jamaica -- Jahmali Waite, Jahwani Hinds, Ajeanie Talbott, Fabian Grant, Javain Brown, Tajea Brown (Jahlanie Hammond 88th), Shandel Senior, Peter Vassell (Donovan Dawkins 59th), Zaire Bartley (Alex Marshall 46th), Nicholas Nelson, Nathaniel Adamolekun

Subs not used: Akeem Chambers, Antoniel Mullings, , Hakim Williams, Demar James, Chris-Andrew Dixon, Deshane Beckford

Booked: Tajea Brown (87th)

Coach: Andrew Edwards

USA -- William Pulisic, Matthew Olosunde, Alexis Velela, John Nelson, Haji Wright, Joe Gallardo, Daniel Barbir , Christian Pulisic, Joshua Perez (Lucas De La Torre 80th), Tyler Adams, Alejandro Zendejas

Subs not used: Kevin Silva, Eric Calvillo, Brandon Vazquez, Tanner Dieterich, Thomas McCabe, Tanner Dietrich, Orrin Gaines, Pierre Da Silva

Booked: Haji Wright (70th), Alexis Velela (83rd)

Coach: Richard Williams

Referee: Oscar Moncada (Honduras)

Assistant Referees: Omar Leiva (Honduras), Marco Diaz (Guatemala)

Fourth Official: Mario Escobar (Guatemala)

Match Commissioner: Rafael Vargas (Costa Rica)

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