By Orville Higgins
Finally, coach Theodore Whitmore has named a squad for the first game of this final round of CONCACAF qualifiers. The squad, generally, is a good one, and is a fair representation of the best talent we have at our disposal.
Omar Daley, Damion Stewart and Jermaine Johnson have all been recalled. No problems with that, but why were they not there before? The public was clamouring for at least two of them, Daley and Johnson, and the coach had stubbornly refused to include them. They haven't become any better players than they were last year, so I would love to know what it is about these three that have suddenly caught the eye of the coach.
All along, most football pundits knew that Lovell Palmer was not the best man for the job at right back. Again, the coach had stubbornly stuck with him, only to unceremoniously dump him now.
If I have a problem with Whitmore, it is that he takes too long to see the obvious. With Lovell out, I am not convinced that the right back problem has been solved. In fact, there are no obvious replacements in the squad. Omar Daley has played there before, but, ironically, Omar was listed as a forward in the list sent out by the JFF. Omar, at best, is a useful player in that position, but not what you would call a 'natural'.
STRANGE MAKESHIFT REPLACEMENT
The coach mentioned that Mariappa has played at right back for his club, but I don't see him breaking up the Mariappa-Nosworthy combination at centre half. Again, it begs the question, why has the coach lost faith in Xavian Virgo, without question the best overlapping right back in the country? Why have all these makeshift people in a position where you have someone who is used to the role and is doing it well?
NO SPACE FOR WATSON
There is no space for Jevaughn Watson, and though Jevaughn is one of my favourite players, I can't blame the coach here. He just didn't impose himself in the role of creative midfielder. Jermaine Hue, thankfully, is kept in the fray, despite a less-than-auspicious Caribbean Cup, and it's good to see that several of the new faces are people who will be shoring up the middle, including Marvin Elliott and Jobi McAnuff.
What is also worth mentioning is the fact that Donovan Ricketts is back in the squad. Ricketts clearly had a problem with something, or someone, to the extent that he had 'retired' from international football. Most of us who heard that didn't buy it, and it is well known that Captain Burrell had to intervene to get Ricketts to return. I am happy for this. If 'Tall P' is our best goalkeeper, we mustn't allow simple and solvable issues to keep him away.
Theodore Whitmore, rightly or wrongly, has developed a reputation for not being the best man manager around, and the unfortunate perception continues to take shape that he will use personal differences between himself and certain players to keep them out of the squad.
I looked at Whitmore's demeanour on television on Wednesday night, and he still appears to be too edgy in his overall demeanour. Whitmore was revered as a player, not only for his silky skills, but also for his pleasant and easy-going demeanour. Whitmore the coach needs to learn that he can be tough and respected without being adversarial.
The absence of Darren Mattocks cannot escape notice. He is easily the most exciting young talent on the horizon, but for some reason he can't make the cut. In that 15 minutes or so that he got in our home game against the USA, he showed that he has it all: presence, passing ability, confidence.
The fact that Mattocks wasn't used at all in the return leg is one of the mysteries of modern sport! The fact that he can't make the team at all now requires formal explanation. The fact that he isn't playing first-team football in the USA can't cut it as a reason. Alvas Powell and Andre Lewis are both there, neither of whom are automatic first-choice selections for any senior outfit. If Andre Lewis is ahead of Mattocks at this stage of their development, I don't understand anything about football.
So the squad is generally OK, but there are still some obvious questions to be answered.
Orville Higgins is a sports journalist and talk-show host on KLAS. Email feedback to email@example.com.