Work in progress
Girlz coaches not totally satisfied despite Dom Rep domination
MIAMI, United States — A lot more work needs to be done. That is the general consensus from the Jamaica women's coaching staff, despite dominating Group Five of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) qualifiers in the Dominican Republic.
The Jamaica Reggae Girlz now advance to the eight-team CFU Women's Final, scheduled for Trinidad & Tobago from August 19 to August 26 later this year.
Head coach Merron Gordon, while pleased with respective 14-0 and 7-0 victories over St Lucia and the Dominican Republic, said he wants to see more competition for places.
"I'm happy for the girls and I thank God because we came out and scored 21 goals and didn't concede any. It's still not 100 per cent, but it's work in progress," he told the Jamaica Observer as the delegation left the Dominican Republic in two batches yesterday.
"I think we need a deeper squad. A problem I saw with the team over the two games is that we need more competition for different positions on the field. Probably the players are here [in the current squad], but they just haven't stepped up to the plate as yet. I know that by the time we get to preparing for Trinidad we will get it right," Gordon added.
Wendell Downswell, announced in February as the Youth Co-ordinator for men's and women's teams, was a late replacement for the original Reggae Girlz assistant Tamera Williams, who missed the trip due to issues acquiring the requisite travel documents.
Downswell said the tournament was a "resounding success", but he too, believes there are a few areas in need of improvement.
"It was a good tour. We have identified weaknesses and strong points of the team," he said.
"We need to do some strength work with these ladies and also get them to improve their overall decision-making, though there are positive signs in terms of tactical discipline.
"In the opening game against St Lucia we scored early, but it wasn't till the 32nd minute that we scored the second. Perhaps there were some butterflies because they hadn't played at the senior level for six years. We got them to relax and therefore they were able to express themselves.
"In the second game there was a much-improved performance. We scored early and used the ball well against the hosts and in the second half it was a matter of consolidating our position," Downswell explained.
Gordon said international practice matches will be an important part of Jamaica's preparation for the CFU Finals.
"The team didn't play for six years so, internationally, they were match rusty in the Dominican Republic. We need to play more international practice games, not just games with clubs.
"If we are going to invest in a team to qualify for World Cup, it makes no sense playing against only club teams or playing against young boys. The federation is trying to do its best to get us some practice games... but female games are not easy to come by. Hopefully we can get at least a game or two before Trinidad," he said.
If Jamaica finish in the top three at that championship, they will compete in the CONCACAF stage of World Cup qualifying set for the United States late in the year. The 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup is to be held in Canada.
The delegation had to clear several hurdles during the week's stay in the Dominican Republic.
Returning to international action after the six-year absence of the senior team, the Jamaicans were met with challenges finding a suitable playing field located relatively close to the hotel.
The hosting federation had also tried to pull a fast one on the Jamaicans, making a scheduling adjustment that would have brought their opening game forward by two days. In the end, officials from regional governing body CONCACAF and CFU, overruled the attempted change and the original fixture was used.
Perhaps most irksomely, the Girlz were limited to the use of a single Coaster bus, designated to take the squad and the equipment to practice sessions and matches.
Some members of the contingent suffered physical discomfort during and after the long drive from the team hotel to the Estadio Panamericano for the opening practice session.
At their own expense, Jamaica did secure a separate vehicle to transport equipment.
Also, players and staff have been careful to avoid mosquito bites, particularly from the aedes aegypti, the carrier of the chikungunya virus.
Due to lack of funding, the senior women's programme was put aside for several years, but recent support has ensured its revival.
A two-week pre-tournament training camp in Florida — made possible through funding organised by JFF Women's football ambassador Cedella Marley — gave players a significant preparation boost.