Professional rise of Reggae Girlz delights coach Menzies

Observer staff reporter

Sunday, February 17, 2019

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During the early stages of the World Cup qualifying campaign, Reggae Girlz Head Coach Hue Menzies declared his intent to have all unattached players in his team fitted into professional set-ups outside of national duties.

At that time Chinyelu Asher, Marlo Sweatman, Lauren Silver and Christina Chang were among the players who were without professional contracts, but were in training with teams in and around the United States.

Fast-forward to 2019, Menzies is now basking in the fact that the vision for the team is now coming to fruition, as the contracts came quick and fast, particularly following the Reggae Girlz' historic qualification to the Fifa Women's World Cup in France.

The Girlz, by virtue of their third-place finish via a 4-2 penalty win over Panama at the Concacaf Women's Championships in Texas last October, became the first Caribbean team to qualify for the global women's showpiece.

Since then, attacking midfielder Asher inked a deal with Stabæk IF to ply her trade in the Toppserien — the top women's league in Norway —where she is joined by left back Silver, who recently signed to SK Trondheims-Ørn, while holding midfielder Sweatman signed with Hungarian First Division Club St Mihaly.

Prior to that, striker Trudi Carter signed with AS Roma and was later joined at the Italian club by defender Allyson Swaby, while another defender, Toriana Patterson, signed with Italian club Pink Sport Time.

“The players understand that merely training with a club is not sufficient enough to really get them prepared for the World Cup, and they know that the players from the teams that we will be going up against are all professionals — so it is good to see that they are taking the initiative to get professional contracts.

“They (players) have agents that they work with in negotiating contracts, so we (the coaching staff) are just like a support group, and we are pleased because it was always our intentions from the start to see all the unattached players into a contract, and we are now seeing that happen,” Menzies told the Jamaica Observer.

“It is always a pleasure when as a coaching staff you can say you have 10 or more professional players in your squad, so it is good. And we are really pleased with the work that they (players) are putting in to get these contracts, and I think it augurs well for us going forward,” he added.

Menzies and his assistants, Lorne Donaldson and Andrew Price, are now eager to make their assessments of some of those players' games when they host South American outfit Chile in two friendly contests at the upcoming camp.

Those games, to be played on February 28 and March 3 in Kingston and Montego Bay, respectively, provide an opportunity for Menzies and his team to test various combinations against tough opponents, as time nears to select the final 23 for the June 7 to July 7 World Cup.

While reluctant to confirm the 24 players who will be in the island for these two friendlies, Menzies revealed that at least two new faces — Cachet Lue, who played at the Under-20 level in the past, and England native Laura Jackson — could grace the camp and add more competition in the battle for spots in the final 23.

“We are looking forward to the upcoming camp (and) we will definitely have a smaller pool of 24 players this time around, but we have to confirm the availability of those players. So we don't want to release any names as yet, but as soon as we confirm the players' availability, then we will send out a list.

“The players are aware of what is at stake and they know that a spot on the final roster will not be handed to them, so they are putting in the work in their respective clubs and universities to ensure that when they come to camp it will be all systems go,” Menzies reasoned.

The 38th-ranked Chile have so far contested two games, one of which was a 1-2 loss against World Cup-bound Italy, the other a non-Fifa friendly against Catalonia, which they also lost 2-4 on penalties.

“It should be two good competitive games against Chile. Like us, they are World Cup-bound and these games will give us a really good platform to see where we really are.

“This is an opportunity to assess players for the final squad and to look at new combinations and strengthening combinations in the games — because we want to ensure that we have the players that can bring a lot to the team, that will assist us in making an impact at the World Cup,” the tactician shared.

The Reggae Girlz will also have assignments against another high-quality opponent to be named, in Fort Lauderdale in April, after which the team will fly to England for a Scotland fixture before skipping over to France for a clash with Spain just before the World Cup kicks off.

Jamaica, ranked at number 53, is drawn in Group C alongside top-ranked Australia at number six in the world, number 10-ranked Brazil, and Italy, ranked at number 16.

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