Sun | Dec 11, 2016

Silver lining emerges from Reggae Girlz's failed World Cup bid

Published:Wednesday | January 14, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Gordon Williams, Gleaner Writer

FLORIDA, United States:

There was no escape from the gloom that descended over Jamaica's elimination from the 2015 Women's World Cup qualification. The Reggae Girlz wept over another failed campaign.

Yet it wasn't all darkness last October. Receiving the best support in the history of the women's programme, Jamaica produced its most accomplished performances during the CONCACAF final round in the United States, despite failing to emerge from the group stage.

Among the bright linings was US-born midfielder Lauren Silver, who joined the Girlz only months before the tournament.

The 21-year-old, who traces her island connections through her mom's father, showed poise, efficient technical skills and grit. She quickly adapted, started all three matches, and displayed a relish for the big stage. Jamaica was the outlet for her greatest ambition in a game she first played at around age five.

"Before the 2014 summer started, I really wanted to get involved with international soccer," the senior at the University of Florida alumnus said on January 9, while here taking an advanced coaching course ahead of this week's National Women's Soccer League draft and a shot at the professional level.

Silver emerged from Jamaica's disappointment a shining option for the Girlz' future. Yet she also brought another asset. With little knowledge about Jamaica women's football prior to her national invitation, but armed with perspective gained from college years, CONCACAF tournament experience and confidence to speak freely, Silver offered a clear view of the good, bad and "different" of representing Jamaica in qualification.

"Being at the actual tournament was great," she explained. "We had great facilities. Wonderful people we met. I was thrilled to be there. I wanted to qualify (for the World Cup) bad."

Silver believes teammates and coaches were capable of fulfilling that dream.

"I definitely think there's a lot of talent," she said. "(The players) have speed. We also have natural leaders."

On and off the field, Silver didn't mind some changes. Others were baffling.

"The adjustment was different," said Silver, a psychology major considering a medical career.

"The (Jamaican) food was different. I don't think you should be eating rice and curry before a game."

Teammates posed no problems. Administration was another matter.

"Adjusting to the girls wasn't a big issue," Silver said. "My biggest issue was the organisation by the (Jamaica Football) Federation."

Among Silver's main concerns was Jamaica's lack of quality practice games for the tournament. She recalled visiting the island for a trial after connections brought her talent and eligibility to the JFF's attention and playing "a match with the team against local boys".

Meanwhile, CONCACAF rivals, such as the US, Mexico and Canada prepped against top nations. Jamaica's response wasn't adequate.

"All our girls were great technically and able to play," said Silver. "They just needed proper organisation and resources ... The experience shapes the player. It's nothing against the coaching, but if you want Jamaica to compete, you have to give the team more international experience ... Collectively, as a whole, you just can't pull a team together in a few months."

"Absolutely", Jamaica had the tools to qualify for the World Cup, Silver said, recalling a 6-0 win against Martinique and losses to Costa Rica (2-1) and Mexico (3-1), "if you look at the games".

She's primed for another qualifying run, but knows Jamaica must do more to get ready. Limited commitment for international games has left her puzzled.

"I would play again," Silver said, "but, the question is, play what?"