Boyz in crucial clash
Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz will try to salvage lost pride today when they bow into action in Group One of round three in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) ScotiaBank Caribbean Cup qualifiers against Guyana, at the Leonora Stadium in Guyana, starting 8 p.m.
All but one of Jamaica's national football teams (men’s under-17) have crashed out of their respective qualifying tournaments over the last year, including the flagship senior team for the 2018 World Cup, leaving the 2017 Caribbean Cup and Gold Cup as the only redemption for the out-of-favour Boyz.
However, coach Theodore Whitmore appears to have assembled strong 22-man squad, which includes 11 overseas-based players and 11 players based locally. The squad at Whitmore's disposal is expected to get the win against Guyana, who beat Anquilla 7-0 and Puerto Rico 1-0 in the first round, before losing 5-2 to Curacao and beating the US Virgin Islands to advance to the third round as one of three best third place teams.
Following the Reggae Boyz miserable exit from the 2018 World Cup qualifying, coach Whitmore has drafted in a number of upcoming prospects, who the public has been calling for, including three of the most prolific strikers locally in the last three years - Dino Williams, Owayne Gordon and Cory Burke (both now playing overseas).
There was also space for Michael Binns and Ladale Ritchie, Ewan Grandison, Dwayne Ambursley, Allan Ottey, Andrew Vanzie and Rosario Harriott.
The overseas cast includes seasoned campaigner Je-Vaughn Watson, Kemar Lawrence, Omar Holness and goalkeeper Andre Blake.
Prolific striker Darren Mattocks and defender Alvas Powell have been pulled from the squad because of injury.
Jamaica’s team manager, Roy Simpson, said the players have settled in well and with the majority of the squad being non-regulars of the starting team, he expects them to use the chance to establish themselves.
"All the players who were expected are here with us. They are really upbeat and they ready to cease the opportunity afforded to them by the coach," Simpson told The Gleaner.
Jamaica's first game against Suriname, the other team in the group, was scheduled for last Wednesday, but it was postponed due to the dangers posed by Hurricane Matthew.
Suriname stopped Guyana 3-2 on Saturday to take the lead in the group with three points, which means Jamaica cannot afford to lose this game, as Suriname would top the group and claim the automatic Gold Cup spot, which is reserved only for the four group winners.
Regardless, Jamaica could still advance to the Caribbean Cup if they don’t top the group, as one of the top three second-place teams.