THE Jamaica senior men’s football Assistant Coach Merron Gordon says the Jamaican never-say-die determination was on full display as they came from a goal down to defeat hosts Canada in the second leg of the Concacaf Nations League A quarter-final tie on Tuesday.
Their 3-2 victory on the night meant the aggregate score was 4-4 after the Canadians had won the rescheduled first leg 2-1 in Kingston on Saturday. The Reggae Boyz, on the back of the three goals they scored in Toronto, advanced to the semi-finals based on the away goals rule.
“It was just the fight, the Jamaican type of spirit to get across the line that stood out for me the most,” Gordon said.
He told the Jamaica Observer that the collective sense of purpose has been gradually building since Head Coach Heimir Hallgrimmson took charge just over a year ago.
“I think it’s down to keeping a set of core players together, so the more games we play you can see improvement in cohesion and chemistry. Everybody understands each other’s weaknesses and strengths. Since Coach Hallgrimmson took over about 80 per cent of the squad is always the same,” he explained.
On Tuesday, Alphonso Davies struck first for Canada, but two second-half goals inside three minutes from Shamar Nicholson, who also notched Jamaica’s lone goal in the first leg, gave the visitors a 2-1 lead to level the tie at 3-3.
Ismael Kone then scored to inch Canada ahead on aggregate, but Bobby Reid restored Jamaica’s advantage with a penalty kick. And though Demarai Gray was sent off after receiving a second yellow card in the 85th minute, the Boyz held on for a first-ever win on Canadian soil.
Aside from Nicholson’s match-winning double, Gordon said goalkeeper Andre Blake’s fine reflex saves, especially in the first half, were crucial, while customary central defender Damion Lowe, who took up a ball-winning role in midfield, were just as vital.
“I think how sharp Shamar was over both legs was important, and Blake in goal was good, and that lift that Damion Lowe gave was telling. But I think all the players played their part, even those on the bench, in helping to push the guys,” he told the Observer.
Gordon argued that the triumph in Canada was not a shock because the team had been playing well from the first leg but were let down by missed chances.
“If we surprised them in the second leg, they would’ve been naïve because they must have realised how well we played in the first leg… it’s just because we didn’t put away our chances why we lost,” the assistant said.
“We did a lot of research on the [Canada] team, some deep research, and I think we got it right in terms of their strengths and weaknesses and how we would deal with certain players and how we would attack certain players. I think we really got it right over both legs. But football is like that — sometimes you plan as a coach and it works and then another time it doesn’t work. It came down to the bravery of us as technical staff and the bravery of the players to believe in the plan and to execute,” the assistant coach added.
Jamaica are slated to face the United States in the Nations League semi-finals at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on March 21. Mexico and Panama are the other two semi-finalists.
The Nations League final is scheduled for March 24.
By reaching the last four of the Nations League, the Reggae Boyz have advanced automatically to Conmebol’s Copa America tournament next summer.