Marc Stamp, Gleaner Writer
Jamaica's national Under-20 football team assistant coach Wendell Downswell says the 10-day camp in Mexico ahead of the CONCACAF Under-20 championship is critical to the team's chances of doing well.
Downswell, who is also head coach of the national Under-17 football team, will not be making the trip as the younger Reggae Boyz will be in camp at the same time.
National senior team assistant coach Alfredo Montesso, who is already in Mexico for today's World Cup Qualifying matchup against Mexico's senior team, will act as assistant to head coach Luciano Gama when the Under-20 qualifiers start.
"Based on the fact that we were not able to have international practice games, the camp in Mexico is very important to us," Downswell told The Gleaner a day before the team left for Mexico.
The Under-20 squad was involved in practice games against local teams and Downswell said that was good preparation.
"We have done a good job in getting games here against some quality teams. That in itself served as good preparation."
At the Mexico camp the team will play two games against the United States of America (USA) on February 10 and 12 in Toluca, Mexico.
"The camp in Mexico should be good preparation for the championship. It would serve as a fillip, the quality opposition we will face in two practice games will help. It will help to get the team acclimatised to the high altitude in Mexico," Downswell said.
"We're pretty confident of making the last four in the championship, which would qualify us for the World Cup (FIFA Under-20) later this year," the veteran youth coach added.
Fifteen members of the young Boyz party travelled from Jamaica yesterday morning (7:55), while another five left later in the day at 5:57 p.m. Overseas-based players Damion Lowe of the University of Hartford and Sean McFarlane of St Leo University will join the team on February 12 and 15, respectively.
Andre Lewis and Alvas Powell, both members of the national senior team that will engage Mexico in a FIFA World Cup Qualifier tonight (9:30 local time) at the Azteca Stadium, will join the camp to be based at the Tiaplan Villas in Pena Pobre.
Onaje Bell, an experienced teacher, also travelled with the squad to tutor 11 players currently preparing for exams.
Among the schoolboys in the team are seven members of St George's College's 2012 Manning Cup and Olivier Shield championship team. They are Nico Campbell, Zhelano Barnes, Romario Jones, Andre Lewis, Mark Brown, Oshane Boothe and Kendon Anderson. The other four schoolboys in the team are goalkeeper Rashaun Patterson of St Jago High, Alvas Powell of Paul Bogle High, Javaun Watson of Clarendon College and Cleon Pryce of Dinthill Technical.
The Jamaica team will arrive in Mexico about two weeks ahead of competition as preparation for the CONCACAF championship. They are scheduled to play practice games against the United States of America (USA) on February 10 and 12 in Toluca.
Jamaica will tackle Puerto Rico on February 19 and then challenge Panama four days later in Group C at the preliminary stage of the CONCACAF Under-20 championship. The USA head Group A that also includes Costa Rica and Haiti. In Group B are Canada, Nicaragua and Cuba, whilst Group D comprises hosts Mexico, El Salvador and Curacao.
The top two teams will advance to the knockout quarter-finals stage, set to be played on February 26 and 27. The semi-finals is on March 1, while the championship game will be contested on March 3.
The top three CONCACAF teams will qualify for the Under-20 World Cup later this year.
SQUAD: Rashaun Patterson, Nico Campbell, Alvas Powell, Zhelano Barnes, Javaun Waugh, Kareem Manning, Shawn Lawes, Damion Lowe, Sean McFarlane, Romario Jones, Ricardo Oldham, Omar Holness, Keniel Kirlew, Andre Lewis, Mark Brown, Andrew Allen, Paul Wilson, Oshane Boothe, Cleon Pryce and Kendon Anderson.
OFFICIALS: Everton Tomlinson (head of delegation), Michael Ricketts (head of delegation), Luciano Gama (head coach), Alfredo Montesso (assistant coach), Howard Bell (team manager), Dr Ivor O'Connor (team doctor), Omar Folkes (equipment manager), Onaje Bell (tutor). Michael Ricketts will replace Tomlinson as head of delegation on February 17.