Schäfer builds Reggae Boyz vibe
EVERY now and then, one needs a break.
After a hard-fought win over El Salvador on Tuesday - a pyrrhic victory of sorts that took three players out of Saturday's quarter-final; Alvas Powell's walkout and a rugged schedule of matches, travelling and not much rest, Winfried Schäfer took his first training session in Baltimore - at Stevenson University yesterday morning - to free up the minds of his Reggae Boyz.
There were giggles, laughter, friendly banter, a penalty shootout showdown among the rival teams and even afterwards, and a competition to see who could throw tennis balls cricket-styled the farthest in a workout that channelled probably as much energy that would have been used in a serious showdown.
Always though, with the exception of the after-training ball throwing, playing football and building concentration was at the heart of the light-hearted exercises, especially the scrimmage that encouraged quickness in thinking, passing, movement and shooting, plus a level of concentration in doing things a particular way.
"The training today ... all the players smile, all the players concentrate and smile. Our small match was (to) concentrate, the workout was (to) concentrate, now the players smile, they're happy," said Jamaica head coach, Winfried Schäfer.
"After the Copa, then the Gold Cup, we had only 10 days rest. Now the players need energy," Schäfer noted.
"Last match against El Salvador we play with 10 players and the players go over the limit. Maybe one, two, three, four players go over the limit. What they lose in this match, the energy has to come back and we work here only for a good spirit," he added.
After Tuesday night's energy-sapping game and players being greeted with the vexing moment of Powell's walkout as they emerged for travel, yesterday's training was the perfect tonic.
Central defender Jermaine Taylor had picked up a hamstring injury at the seventh minute that has ruled him out of the tournament; midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson, who has been influential and growing with every match, picked up his second yellow card of the tournament to be suspended for the next match; and striker Darren Mattocks got an unwarranted second yellow card that the rules of the competition dictate cannot be overturned.
Additionally, goalkeeper Dwayne Miller was injured early and substituted at the 22nd minute through a neck muscle strain. He was at training, did much stretching and workout but no game activity.
For the Gold Cup the players have travelled to Los Angeles, then Texas, Toronto for matches they drew 2-2 against Costa Rica, then won 1-0 against Canada and El Salvador, respectively.
"Fitness is no concern," Schäfer said. "Each player knows he's fit, he can run 90 minutes. Our training now is only for spirit."