Reggae Girlz Solaun, Asher brace for El Tricolor challenge
Reggae Girlz midfielder Chinyelu Asher (left) puts pressure on her Bermuda’s Jenna Rempel during their Concacaf World Cup qualifier at National Stadium on February 17, 2022. (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

It is often said that coaches coach and players play.

Jamaica’s senior Reggae Girlz Havana Solaun and Chinyelu Asher are well aware of this saying and agree that the onus will be on the players to go out and perform accordingly to ensure a positive result in their opening Concacaf Women’s Championship Group A encounter against hosts Mexico.

Kick off is 9:00 pm Jamaica time after world champions United States tackle Haiti at the Estadio Universitario in Monterrey.

Solaun, who scored Jamaica’s lone goal during their historic Fifa Women’s World Cup appearance in France in 2019, missed out on the first phase of qualifying due to injury, but believes her return is timely to add value to the star-studded team for this the business end of things.

“It’s really good to be back, it’s been a long time for me; I missed the first phase of qualifiers because of injury and it’s honestly just exciting to be back with the group. It’s refreshing, it’s a really talented group and we’ve had a positive start so far,” Solaun said.

SOLAUN... I think it’s going to be an amazing atmosphere that we can also strive off

Having shared thoughts and ideas among themselves as players regarding their approach to today’s game and, by extension, the tournament, Solaun explained that it’s all about putting the pieces together in the hunt for a second-consecutive Fifa Women’s World Cup appearance, in Australia and New Zealand next year.

“Right now we are just excited, we have been training and preparing for it and I think it’s going to be an amazing atmosphere that we can also strive off and we are just ready to kind of put all the pieces we have been working on together,” the American-born player noted.

“We are accustomed to getting underestimated and I think that can be used to our advantage. I think this is one of the most talented groups that I have been a part of with Jamaica so far and I’m just really excited to see how it will all come together,” she added.

Though interim Head Coach Lorne Donaldson and his technical staff recently took over from Vinimore “Vin” Blaine, who resigned after falling out of favour with players, Solaun believes the familiarity has aided in strengthening the cohesiveness of the unit during their preparation in Denver, Colarado.

Donaldson was assistant to Hue Menzies when the Girlz qualified from the 2018 Concacaf Women’s Championship via a third-place finish.

“I think the team starts with the coach and I think we have been really fortunate to have some positive changes to the team. This has been one of the most productive camps that we have had in a while and I think it kind of helps to unify us having a team and a staff that’s all on the same page, so it’s really good so far,” Solaun, who represents North Carolina Courage in the NWSL stated.

“I think both as players, an organisation and the coaching staff all of those areas have evolved and despite the [preparation] time [not being as sufficient as we would have liked], it’s about what we make of the time and I think we did a good job with that. So as an entire group we feel prepared for this tournament,” the attacking midfielder added.

Like Solaun, Asher believes the camp, though short, was beneficial, as it focused on enhancing their strengths, while addressing their weaknesses, especially with a few players returning to the fold.

“Preparations have been good. Hosting camp in Colorado with the altitude training and being in a more secluded area to really focus on each other and team building was super beneficial,” Asher told the Jamaica Observer.

However, with the preparations now done and dusted, the attacking midfielder, who plies her trade in Sweden, pointed to the significance of focusing on their own assignment and how they will implement all the things we’ve been working on heading into today’s game.

“We are really looking forward to the start of the tournament knowing the road to road to the World Cup starts with the first game against Mexico tomorrow [today],” she said.

“We expect the venue to be very packed especially with how well supported the womens league and players are in this country. So it’ll be that much more important for us to have trust in each other and our game plan to remain unified and confident throughout the waves of the game,” Asher said.

— Sherdon Cowan

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