Victory a must for Reggae Boyz
Audley Boyd, Assistant Editor - Sport
HALFWAY through CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying (WCQ) and bottom of the pile, the Reggae Boyz are looking to take down their remaining opponents one by one.
First up is Honduras, at their national stadium in Tegucigalpa, where kick-off is slated for 7:00 p.m. (8:00 Jamaica Time).
"We still have it in our minds that there's another 15 points to be had and we've to remain competitive, we've to remain positive because if we beat Honduras, we go to five points and we keep Honduras with four points," Alfredo Montesso, the national technical director, said yesterday, ahead of team training at the venue where today's match will be played.
"This is crucial, those individual battles that we have in the round now," Montesso continued. "So our target is to be ahead of Honduras, so we've to play with intelligence tomorrow and be very consistent, try to reinforce our quality game, especially in the defensive side and in our transition as well."
Though last, the Jamaicans still have a bit of wriggle room, but four points off a finals position and with five matches remaining, they need to start getting some big wins fast.
"We've to start getting points ... and I don't mean like one point now," head coach Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore said.
Both teams are desperate, as they occupy positions outside the WCQ assignments for the region. The top three automatically qualify, while fourth place will play Oceania champions New Zealand in home-and -away play-offs for another spot.
The combatants in Tegulcigalpa are looking to beat away a hat-trick of losses, with Jamaica suffering back-to-back home defeats against Mexico (1-0) and the United States (2-1) inside the last week.
Understanding of each other
Whitmore says while their task is difficult, the Boyz - who are gaining in understanding of each other - will look to capitalise on the pressure that is also facing the home team.
"It's going to be always difficult playing away from home, but probably playing away will be best for us because our back is against the wall," he noted.
"The Hondurans are at home and they, more than anything else, will want to go at us so we just have to keep our shape, keep organised, keep our focus and we'll get something out of the game," he calculated.
In prior hexagonal WCQ matches, the Jamaicans have not been really good in two key areas - defence and attack - and it's a major reason for their predicament.
Whitmore and Montesso focused on correcting those deficiencies during their only training session in Miami, on Sunday evening.
"The last game we played, we got a lot of chances and failed to convert," said Whitmore. "It's always a major concern."
Montesso says there are likely to be changes.
"Theodore has been analysing that (changes)," he said. "We've to think about some changes to give some more physical condition to the team after three consecutive games."
Jermaine Johnson, who left the US game with a hamstring niggle on Friday and Garath McCleary, who was always outstanding, are ready again and should lead the attack with Jermaine Hue and Rodolph Austin pushing from midfield.
The team travelled to Tegulcigalpa from Miami yesterday and held a training session as they sought to fine tune preparations for the Hondurans who have won 11 of 21 contests between the countries. Jamaica have won six and four ended in ties.
Joining the team for yesterday's smoothing out session was starting defender Alvas Powell and midfielder Evan Taylor. The two do not possess American visas and had to travel via Panama yesterday to rejoin the team in Honduras.
Owing to injuries, Powell, a schoolboy, is one of three new players in a very inexperienced backline. The others are newly recruited centre half Daniel Gordon and full back Obrian Woodbine, who, combined with lead centre half Adrian Mariappa, do not total 25 caps.
Montesso explained though that in correcting their defensive lapses, the Boyz must widen their focus in a collective effort to create an awareness of each player's responsibilities.
Friday's results: Jamaica 1 USA 2; Costa Rica 1 Honduras 0; Mexico 0 Panama 0.