CAUTIOUS APPROACH

Boyz to employ patient approach against El Salvador

IAN BURNETT
SPORT EDITOR with theREGGAE BOYZ In Central America

Saturday, March 23, 2019

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SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — Head Coach Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore and his band of Reggae Boyz will look to seal the deal in the new-look Concacaf Nations League qualifying series when they face a wounded, 14th-place El Salvador today.

Match time is 8:00 pm here (9:00 pm Jamaica time) inside Estadio Cuscatlan, the nation's capital, and where 32,000 tickets will be made available and 570 policemen to guarantee security.

The Jamaicans are unbeaten in their three games thus far for nine points in fifth place in the standings, with 12 goals for and one against for a plus 11 goal difference. They opened the campaign with a 4-0 beating of the Cayman Islands inside National Stadium in Kingston, then followed up with a 6-0 whipping of Bonaire in Curacao, before edging Suriname 2-1 inside Catherine Hall Stadium in Montego Bay in their last engagement.

Curacao (plus 21 goals) lead the standings, also with nine points, ahead of Haiti (plus 16), Cuba (plus 14) and Canada (plus 14). Martinique are next with a plus-seven goal difference.

The Concacaf Nations League qualifying will determine the structure of the new Concacaf Nations League, set for kick-off later this year. The new structure sees the teams which participated in the Hexagonal (Concacaf final six) of the last World Cup qualifying campaign gaining automatic places in Group A, the top tier, and will be joined by the top six teams in this qualifying phase.

Jamaica would want to avoid a defeat, which would keep them in the top six and be a guarantee to the top tier, while also gaining automatic qualification to this summer's Concacaf Gold Cup.

The top six from the last World Cup qualifying phase were Mexico, USA, Costa Rica, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago and Honduras.

Curacao will play away to 23rd-ranked Antigua and Barbuda at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua; Haiti host Cuba at Stade Sylvio Cator in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Canada welcome 12th-placed French Guiana at BC Place in Vancouver, Canada; and Martinique play away to 20th-ranked Guadeloupe at Stade Rene Serge Nabajoth, Les Abymes.

However, should the Boyz lose in the often hostile Central American environment today, it could spell danger and wreck plans for the rest of the summer, depending on where the team ends up at the end of the round.

But Whitmore has a plan which he hopes will nullify the hosts and give his charges the result they require.

“We know to play in conditions like these, both on and off the field what to expect, so as much as possible we want to get the Salvadoreans (spectators) as quiet as possible in the first 15, 20 minutes of the game,” he told the Jamaica Observer yesterday, shortly after the team ended its final training session at the match venue.

“It is not going to be easy, so most of all we have to be patient and manage the game. And though we will try to manage the game, I think we have enough firepower to come here and try to win the game, but as the game goes on we will see how to adjust ourselves. If we avoid defeat then we are almost certainly through, and one of the things is that we definitely don't want is to concede a goal.

“The longer the game stays at 0-0 or us being ahead, the better the chances of winning the game,” he said in a clear and concise manner.

The Boyz have had two training sessions since arriving in this Central American country on Wednesday. The following morning they were taken through a loosening-up routine at Universidad de El Salvador, and yesterday morning they practised at the match venue.

“Every game we play we want to win, but most importantly we want to play a good game, we want to give a good performance and then the result will come.

“Over the years we play against El Salvador and I'm very impressed with their style of play. They have good players, always competitive, and I recall the last game we played against them in the 2017 Gold Cup and it was a very competitive game. We come here and we expect the same level of competitiveness, especially with their fans, who are very passionate about the game,” Whitmore told the press.

He identified the pitch yesterday as being “heavy” and “slow”, but was unaware if the authorities would make any adjustments. Nonetheless, he said, “we are here to do a job and whatever happens, we will play”.

The former Reggae Boyz star midfielder and captain also expressed a certain level of calm, telling the local media that his team was “under no pressure to win the game”, as they knew what was at stake and were looking at the “bigger picture” of being seeded and gaining a place at the Gold Cup this summer.

El Salvador opened with a 2-1 victory away to tiny Montserrat, before following up with a 3-0 triumph at home to Barbados, then losing 0-1 away to Bermuda.

Jamaivca captain and goalkeeper Andre Blake made it clear they respected the hosts, even if they found themselves on the outside looking in and chasing a place in the top tier.

“I know they are a good team and I expect it to be a tough game. I expect them to come out and put up a fight because they need to win and they are at home, so we have to come out and be ready to match their intensity and be ready to play.

“We respect every player and it is important to respect your opponents but not fear them. And so I respect them and I think they are very good players, and they are going to come out and give their best.”

Whitmore probably showed his hand at yesterday's training session, employing his usual 4-2-3-1 formation with Blake in goal, defended by the central pair of Damion Lowe and Michael Hector. Kemar Lawrence (left) and Alvas Powell (right) were the flank men.

His two central holding midfielders were Devon Williams and veteran Je-Vaughn Watson, with the trio of Peter-Lee Vassell (central), Cory Burke (right) and Ricardo Morris (left) playing behind lone striker Darren Mattocks.

The 23-man squad is completed by Amal Knight, Jeadine White, Jamoi Topey, Ladale Richie, Dever Orgill, Maalique Foster, Kevon Lambert, Shaun Francis, Brian Brown, Fabion McCarthy, Javon East, and Junior Flemmings.


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