Audley Boyd, Assistant Editor - Sport
THE attacking component of Jamaica's senior men's football team needs greater cohesion to enhance its chances of winning tomorrow's CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying match against Costa Rica at the National Stadium at 7 p.m.
"I think what Schaefer wanted was to have someone hold up the ball and have the rest of the team come and join," assistant coach Vinimore 'Vin' Blaine observed after Friday night's 0-0 draw against Panama in Panama City.
"I think we were a bit disjointed I think our midfielders were too far from our forwards and that we have to fix it very quickly."
Blaine commented in the context of Marlon King's performance, having been asked how the striker's uncharacteristic showing affected the team's offence.
King is a proven goalscorer, having netted 12 goals in 22 games for Jamaica. He announced his retirement from international football last November, after being ignored by former Reggae Boyz head coach, Theodore Whitmore. However, he responded to a call by newly appointed coach Winfried Schafer.
In his first game back though, on Friday, King was not sharp, looked sluggish and lost a lot of balls.
"It's his first competitive game for a couple months and you could see that he wasn't match ready," Blaine pointed out.
His strike partner, Luton Shelton, also returned to the team after being dropped by Whitmore.
Shelton looked livelier, but even then, the Jamaicans hardly posed a problem to the Panama goal.
new formation, new coach
"We got a couple looks at goal, with a little luck I think we could have scored early in the game," noted Blaine. The squad comprises many players brought in recently and the coach believes they haven't developed a proper understanding of each other, as well as what Schaefer wants of them, yet.
"I think the players are not used to each other as such, but they have to learn that quickly; (there is a) new formation, new coach and an influx of players that's probably different from what we're used to," Blaine reasoned.
"We didn't have any games to gel these players to see what is happening. The coach is trying to get used to the players and I think that is putting a little damper in terms of how he approaches the game too, so hopefully in the next game they (players) will have a better understanding of how to approach the game."
Additionally, a red card to midfielder Rodolph Austin did little to help the Jamaicans' chances against Panama.
"I think tonight with us going down to 10 men I think we did well to draw the game.
It affected us a great deal," said Blaine, who guided Harbour View FC top the Red Stripe Premier League title last season. "We had to bring on a central midfielder and maintain one forward.
"The changes up top were not what we wanted, we wanted to get in two genuine forwards after the two starters were spent, so that changed the whole complexion of the game for us. I think we were in with a chance until Austin got that red card, we had to change the whole tactics completely."
Schafer concurred, noting how it spoilt his plans of including Jermaine Beckford, one of two players to have scored in the Hexagonal.
"I told Beckford three times to warm-up and each time this situation changed," noted the team's head coach, while shaking his head. "Maybe he'll play in the next match."
In the limited time, the team is also under pressure to get winning results, as though deep in the qualifiers, they are far at the bottom of the standings with only three points from seven matches.
Six countries are involved in the confederation Finals' playoffs - hence it's called the Hexagonal - and all will play 10 matches, with the top three qualifying automatically for Brazil and the fourth-placed finisher tackling Oceania champions New Zealand in a home and away tie for a berth.
Costa Rica lead with 14 points, followed by the United States (13), Honduras (10), Mexico (eight) and Panama (seven).
Honduras beat Mexico 2-1 on Friday and Blaine says that result was unfavourable for the Boyz.
"The results on the other side of the fence weren't in our favour, with Honduras winning. It's more difficult now, the chances have got slimmer," he noted. "We've three games left, we still have to go in there and do our best."