Marc Stamp, Gleaner Writer
Local football experts have described Jamaica's result against CONCACAF kingpins Mexico on Wednesday night as a big 'victory' to kick off the nation's push towards a second appearance in the FIFA World Cup next year in Brazil.
The Reggae Boyz battled to a historic 0-0 draw against Mexico at the feared Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. This is the first time that Jamaica have come away with a point against Mexico in a World Cup Qualifier (WCQ) in the high-altitude Azteca.
Three coaches and one admini-strator have credited the team for its tactical approach to the game.
"I thought it was an excellent performance. We should have won 3-1," Geoffrey Maxwell, a highly respected football tactician, told The Gleaner yesterday.
Maxwell, coach of Premier League club Humble Lion, added: "I have always felt that this Mexican team was ripe for the taking, and although we did not win the game, it was a professional approach. The Jamaica team was selected for the game to get a positive result. That was achieved.
"Credit must be given to coach (Theodore) Whitmore and his coaching staff, as well as goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts for his outstanding performance Wednesday night. He kept us in the game," said Maxwell, who has been coaching for over four decades.
STILL A VICTORY
"I classified the result as a victory. Mexico do not have the players of yesteryear. They don't really have the players to drive fear at the Azteca," he said.
While Maxwell says the team played a disciplined game, he believes coach Whitmore and his technical staff "need to find a playmaker".
He said: "It was a workmanlike performance from the team, but we need at least one playmaker."
"I still maintain that Sean Fraser and Khari Stephenson should be drafted into the squad. We do not have any local player better than them at this time. They should be selected to be part of the pool," Maxwell said.
Maxwell said that although Jamaica earned a "precious point" away to Mexico for the first time in a World Cup qualifying game at the Azteca, "it would be stupid to say we will advance. We would have to wait for at least five to six games to be in a better position to know what needs to be done."
Lenworth Hyde Sr, coach of Sporting Central Academy, also heaped praise on the Reggae Boyz for a wonderful result.
"I think they played well and got the result they wanted, away from home. The team was organised. They were disciplined and everybody played their part. At no point were they out of position," he assessed.
Hyde also commended goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts for "an excellent game".
However, Hyde said the team needs to have more possession.
"I wanted to see more possession. There was space for us to play and we did not make use of it. We could have possessed the ball for longer periods," he pointed out.
"This is a good result for us, but we should not get complacent," he warned. "It will be harder work."
Former national coach Carl Brown also weighed in positively.
"It was great. We played very disciplined. We played a counter-attacking game and should have scored at least two goals, But it was a massive point for us," Brown said.
"We started the campaign with a good result, so I wish the team all the best in the remaining games. It is very important for us to qualify, with what's going on in the nation. The Reggae Boyz can unify us, so it means a lot," he said.
With regard to the upcoming game against Panama at the National Stadium on Friday, March 22, Brown pointed out that, "Panama will be a tricky opposition. We need to get three points from them. We will need strong support from the public - as well as the private sector - in the march to the 2014 World Cup."
Clyde Jureidini, general manager of Harbour View FC, also lauded the coaching staff and the team. "Highest congratulations to coach Whitmore, his staff and the players. It was a mammoth task, so it's worthy of celebration," he told The Gleaner yesterday.
"The team countered well enough on three occasions and could have scored, but it was a satisfactory result. This could boost the support from the public, as well as financial support. It was a precious point moving forward," he noted.
Honduras lead the six-team hexagonal final stage of CONCACAF WCQ with three points; with Jamaica, Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica all on a point, while USA are without a point after one round of games.
At the completion of the qualifiers later this year, the top three teams will advance to the FIFA World Cup Finals in Brazil next summer, while the fourth-place team will face the winners of the Oceania Group in a two-way play-off for a possible four spots from CONCACAF.