Whitmore wants tighter defence, goals

Published: Sunday | June 28, 2009

Audley Boyd, Assistant Editor - Sport

From left Claude Davis, Luton Shelton and Ricardo Fuller

GEORGE TOWN, Grand Cayman:

DOTTING the 'I's' and crossing the 'T's' ranks among the Reggae Boyz major goals, as they look to smoothen their Gold Cup preparation against the Cayman Islands in a friendly international at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex this evening, starting at 7.

"It's our last preparation going into the Gold Cup," admitted head coach Theodore Whitmore. "We still want to look at a couple of things in terms of our defensive unit and to close down our opponents and to get some goals."

They got quite a bit in their opening practice match here last Thursday night, leading 5-0 until the game was blown off at the 70th minute in pouring rain, with lightning flashing constantly.

Jamaica moved the ball well to pry open the Caymanian team's defence and created chances at will, especially with Navion Boyd and Eric Vernan dominating the defenders on the flanks.


Today's contest marks the climax of a one-week training camp, which saw the Jamaicans going through some extensive workouts twice daily. And given the fact that the team will not get additional match practice before opening the CONCACAF Gold Cup Finals against Canada at the Home Depot Centre in Los Angeles last Friday, Whitmore wants to utilise the opportunity fully.

He was satisfied with the approach play that led to goals and chances in Thursday's game, but he was not altogether pleased with the general coordination of his three central defenders in the formation switch from a flat back four, even though they were improving when the end came.

The fact that sweeper Desmond Breakenridge was exposed and forced into tackling more than the coaching staff would have liked is one problem they will be looking to fix.

"The defence, that's mostly my concern now," said Whitmore, "the whole organisation around the back."

offence on spot

Offensively, there weren't many complaints as the team scored five goals, with Devon Hodges getting a hat-trick and Ricardo Fuller and Keammar Daley also hitting the net.

Fuller's game was limited to the half, while Luton Shelton, Claude Davis, Jermaine Johnson and Rafe Wolfe did not play. Shelton and Davis, as is Fuller, are not comfortable playing on AstroTurf, while Wolfe was rested for precautionary reasons because of a slight injury he picked up in training.

Today's match surface is grass and the only player ruled out is Johnson, who is serving a two-game suspension for a red card he picked up against Panama.

In the meantime, Whitmore will be looking to maximise the playing time of the other seniors who sat out the game Thursday.

"We've Shelton and Fuller and we want to give them a full 90 minutes ... . Shelton hasn't played for a couple games now, so we want to definitely play him for 90 minutes tomorrow ... Claude Davis, a full 90 minutes as well, so basically, we're looking on a strong team for Sunday," Whitmore explained.

Additional scrutiny will be paid to the midfield combinations, at central and along with flanks.

"We want to give Edwards (Richard) a starting game on Sunday as well. We just want to share that with the three, which is Jason Morrison, Edwards and Walters (Jerry)."

Morrison and Walters played the first half Thursday, when Richards replaced Morrison at the half.

For the flank options, Whitmore pointed out: "Oraine (Simpson) could come in on the right side, for Chang (Vernan) again, because we want to see every player ... and Keammar Daley might get a game as well upfront."

spirited challenge

The coach expects a spirited challenge from their opponents, but remains focused on how well his players carry out their end of the bargain.

"The Cayman team is always hard to beat, but we just want to stick to our game," Whitmore observed. "When you play the Cayman team it's like they're coming to prove against us, but again, we've nothing to prove, we just have to work on what we want to do."

Former Reggae Boyz head coach, Carl Brown, is directing the Cayman Islands charges as technical director of their programme.

One of his key players, Joseph Tatum, says they are not scared of Jamaica.

"In preparation we've worked really hard," said Tatum. "The guys are pretty confident, they're not scared or anything. I know that come Sunday it's going to be a very competitive game."

Brown, meanwhile, welcomes the exposure.

"It's an opportunity for our players too to be exposed to top-quality football," he said. "If we're going to improve, this is what we have to do."


Brown, who took up duties here two years ago, says they are rebuilding and he expects a large turnout at the stadium with a near 3,500 capacity

"We're now in a rebuilding phase, we're looking to host the Digicel Caribbean Championship finals phase in 2013 and we're really looking forward to it," he said.

"It's not difficult to promote the Jamaica team here. The Jamaican population is looking forward to it. This is what they relish, they'll turn out in numbers."

JAMAICA (from) - (goalkeepers) Dwayne Miller, Duwayne Kerr; (defenders) - Claude Davis, Damion Stewart, Adrian Reid, Desmond Breakenridge; (midfielders) - Rafe Wolfe, Oraine Simpson, Bryan Bayliss, Richard Edwards, Jerry Walters, Eric Vernan, Jason Morrison; (forwards) - Ricardo Fuller, Luton Shelton, Devon Hodges, Keammar Daley.