Boyz confident going into USA clash despite missing playersThursday, October 07, 2021
BY IAN BURNETT
AUSTIN, Texas — Jamaica's Reggae Boyz will look to start their climb up the points table of the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022 Concacaf final round qualifiers when they oppose the US here at the Q2 Stadium today at 6:30 pm.
The Jamaicans are rooted at the foot of the eight-team points table on one point, behind leaders Mexico on seven points. They are followed by Canada, USA, and Panama on five points, with Costa Rica, Honduras, and El Salvador next on two points each.
At the end of the first window last month a battered Jamaica emerged with the solitary point from their 1-1 result away to Costa Rica in their third game after losing the first two – 1-2 away to Mexico and 0-3 at home to Panama.
Today they face a young and exciting American team, which has won once and drawn twice, at a sold out Q2 Stadium which seats a little over 20,000 spectators.
The Americans are hell-bent on righting the wrongs of failing to qualify for the last Fifa World Cup Finals in Russia, and they appear blessed with real quality all over the pitch.
They will not make it easy for the visitors, nor should they, for they want to avoid any last-minute mishaps, as happened against Trinidad and Tobago in the last cycle.
The Reggae Boyz definitely have their backs against the wall, but they remain resolute and hopeful; confident, even, that despite the adversity they can achieve a positive result today.
Of the 23-man squad selected, three have been ruled out due to injury, while West Ham United striker Michail Antonio pulled out after a disagreement with the technical staff regarding his personal physiotherapist.
Those forced out due to injury are Ethan Pinnock, Liam Moore, and Daniel Johnson. Goalkeeper Jeadine White had replaced Dennis Taylor, and Jamoi Topey had been selected to replace Pinnock.
Assistant Coach Paul Hall sees the absence of these players as an opportunity for others to step in and possibly make an indelible impression.
“Only those who are here can really help us and really help us go forward, so it's important to focus on the players who are here,” he told the media.
“We have seen [Devon] Williams come through in the last Gold Cup and has really emerged as one of our really good players, [one of our] better players, and one of our most improved players, so going forward we have enough quality in the squad to beat these Americans,” he said.
He added: “The mood is good, we just have to make sure that we who are in the squad believe we can beat the Americans, beat the Canadians, and beat the Hondurans [Jamaica's next three opponents]. We have to go and have our belief and take positives out of the game and really just go and be positive about our performances, positive about each other and, as I've said before, there is so much quality within this squad right now and it doesn't really matter [who is available].
“You can only pick 11 players and like we've shown in Mexico and we have shown in Costa Rica, those 11 players can actually achieve something remarkable if they all stick together or have that belief.”
Unlike Tuesday's training session at the Austin Bold Football Club, the Boyz looked much sharper during their final preparation at the match venue last evening. The “Masked Man”, striker Shamar Nicholson, looked particularly sharp, netting a few thunderbolts in practice. The Belgium-based player showed no effect of the fractured jaw he suffered last month while playing for Charleroi.
Head Coach Theodore Whitmore and his technical staff, with the aid of the performance video analyst Sanford Carabin, have been working on countermeasures to engage their opponents, who tend to employ a 4-3-3, even though Head Coach Gregg Berhalter occasionally switches to three at the back.
Either way they tend to use their wing backs as an outlet to get down the flanks while their inverted wingers cut inside to create space.
The Jamaicans were deliberate in their game plan on Tuesday on defensive end, while yesterday they focused more on the attacking front.
Whitmore tends to employ a 4-2-3-1 formation more often than not, but is prepared to switch and make adjustments if needs be.
A lot is at stake today, moreso for Jamaica, who desperately need to start picking up points.
The teams have met twice this year – a friendly in Austria in March when the Americans ran out easy 4-1 winners and, again, at this summer's Concacaf Gold Cup when the Americans edged the Boyz 1-0.
What better time for Jamaica to turn their fortunes around?
In other games today, Honduras host Costa Rica at 7:05 pm in San Pedro Sula, Panama visit San Salvador to face El Salvador at 9:05 pm, and Mexico entertain Canada at the Azteca at 8:40 pm.
Jamaica's team should come from Captain Andre Blake, Dillon Barnes, Jeadine White, Adrian Mariappa, Shamar Nicholson, Junior Flemmings, Jamoi Topey, Javon East, Bobby Reid, Andre Gray, Kemar Roofe, Alvas Powell, Jamal Lowe, Oniel Fisher, Damion Lowe, Tyreek MaGee, Javain Brown, Devon Williams, Jevaughn Watson, and Kemar Lawrence.