Boyz set to dominate Antigua at Sabina
Jamaica's Reggae Boyz, now at a rebuilding stage, will host Caribbean minnows Antigua and Barbuda in a friendly match at Sabina Park today.
Set to kickoff at 5 p.m., the match brings together the FIFA 49th-ranked Jamaica against a team which is way down at 139 on the world ladder.
Recent matches between the two teams reflect the vast difference in ranking. When the teams last met in 2015, Kemar Lawrence, Darren Mattocks, and Rodolph scored to give the Boyz a 3-0 win. Two years before, in a regional World Cup qualifier, Dane Richards (two), Nyron Nosworthy, and Demar Phillips were on target in a 4-1 victory.
Overall, the two countries have met eight times, with Jamaica winning six, Antigua one, and one draw. The Reggae Boyz in that period scored 18 goals and Antigua, four.
With the current Boyz squad containing a number of young local-based players, today's match could be more competitive.
Team manager Roy Simpson has called on football fans to come out and support the Boyz in their first international game on local soil in three years.
"We can't over emphasise the impact of having our people come to games. It is always good when you play at home in front of a strong, supportive crowd," Simpson told The Sunday Gleaner.
Simpson said that although coach Theodore Whitmore would be looking to start his strongest team, he could introduce some of the nation's young, exciting talent.
"Our approach is, we want the best available players. We know our ranking is gradually improving, and we want to continue that. It has been a while since we played at home, and though the 'Office' (National Stadium) is not available, we know Sabina Park is just as good. So we are asking Jamaica to come out and see some new faces, young faces, and faces that we are using to build for 2022 (World Cup)," he said.
Simpson said that the coach could be looking at a Malique Foster, who did well in Turkey; Peter-Lee Vassell, Alex Marshall, and Dane Kelly, who will be playing his first game on local soil for the national team.
"We want to give these youngsters the opportunity ... . This is a good stage for them to get on the pitch," he said.
Simpson said that Antigua would be formidable opponents.
"This Antigua team has been playing together from about 2014. They have a core set. They have a few players coming out of the MLS, who some of our players are familiar with. But victory must be the outcome as we have to maintain a credible ranking, and going forward, we have to start building for 2022 because that's the bigger picture," he said.
Antigua have been preparing well for the game. In their last friendly on Wednesday, Antigua clipped Bermuda 3-2. Their top players include England-based Rhys Browne, Josh Parker, and Myles Weston.
Reggae Boyz local training squad: Casseam Priesley, Dennis Taylor, Ricardo Thomas, Shaven Sean Paul, Damion Hyatt, Amal Knight, Ladale Richie, Javain Brown, Shawn Lawes, Tevin Shaw, Fabion McCarthy, Kaheem Parris, Alex Marshall, Chevone Marsh, Ricardo Morris, Malique Foster, Jamiel Hardware, Cordel Benbow, Fabian Reid, Marvin Morgan, Jovan East. Players invited from overseas are Andre Blake, Oniel Fisher, Kemar Lawrence, Jevaughn Watson, Romario Williams, and Dane Kelly.