The coming of age of Devon 'Speedy' Williams as gritty Boyz earn first pointSaturday, September 11, 2021
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — After Jamaica's Reggae Boyz were handily spanked 0-3 by Panama on Sunday, Head Coach Theodore Whitmore needed to find a combination that would give his team the rigidity which would make it hard for opponents to break his players down.
So when the expected fresh legs came in after a slew of United Kingdom-based players featured only in the Panama horror show in Kingston because their clubs would not allow them to travel to red-listed Costa Rica, the coach reverted to two players who battled diligently throughout a 1-2 defeat in Mexico last week.
Midfielders Devon “Speedy” Williams and new recruit Anthony Grant were asked to protect the back four against hosts Costa Rica in the World Cup qualifier on Wednesday. Their job was also to recycle the ball and enable the more attack-minded players ahead of them to knock on the opponents' door.
Their partnership in midfield contributed to Jamaica earning a point from a 1-1 result against the Central Americans at the National Stadium in San Jose.
Though letting in Jimmy Marin's early opener, and being largely outplayed in the first half, the Jamaicans, who equalised two minutes into the second period through Shamar Nicholson, appeared fresher, fitter and stronger in the closing stages of the game.
Had it not been for faulty finishing, especially in the second half, they would have left the Costa Rican capital with all three points.
Williams, 29, playing within his limitations, provided just the solidity Jamaica needed. He hustled across the park and was an almost ever-present passing option for teammates.
Just as significant for Whitmore, the metronomic midfielder was efficiency personified. Hardly caught in possession, he was also nearly 100 per cent accurate with his passes.
“The more the game went on was the more the team got confident and felt that we could take it to these guys,” Williams, who plays for Miami FC in the United Soccer League, said.
“God has really given me that confidence and that extra belief and he's definitely shining on me, so hopefully I can continue helping the team.
“I thought I played OK, I thought I did my job to help the team the best I could. I thought I could have done a little bit more, but the more you play it's the more you learn.
“I could have been a bit more aggressive attacking-wise in terms of passing and taking shots at goal, even from distance,” he explained to the Jamaica Observer after the match.
Williams said key to the link with the no-frills Grant, his 34-year-old senior midfield partner, was quite simple.
“There was a lot of communication, that's what we were doing on the field. The more you communicate it's the better things look and that's what people were witnessing. We tried to make sure each other was in the right spot,” he noted.
The draw gave Jamaica their first point in the Concacaf final-stage qualifying. Costa Rica, after two draws and a loss, have two points. Mexico are top with seven points, ahead of Canada (five points), United States (five), and Panama (five), Honduras (two) and El Salvador (two).
“It's good to get that first point even though we believe it should've been three. We take this as a huge confidence boost going into the next set of matches,” he said.
The eight teams involved in the round robin, home and away format are vying for three direct places to the Qatar 2022 World Cup. The team that finishes fourth will be involved in an intercontinental play-off for another spot.
— Sanjay Myers