USA Break Down Resilient Reggae Boyz
Jamaica’s fighting spirit only lasts an hour
Theodore Whitmore tasted his first defeat back as Jamaica’s interim head coach, suffering a 1-0 reversal to hosts USA on Friday. Jordan Morris’ second international goal on the hour-mark dented Jamaica’s hopes of clawing back into the friendly at the Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as the strike turned the tide.
It was Morris and Benny Feilhaber, who set up the goal following a neat one-two movement, who were the part of the nine new players starting for USA head coach Bruce Arena after Sunday’s tepid scoreless draw with Serbia.
And with this the last friendly for the US before they tackle back-to-back World Cup qualifying games, it was surprising how much that the US allowed the Reggae Boyz to boss the opening half.
Yet it was the US who came closest to breaking the deadlock in the early exchanges, midfielder Day McCarty heading Feilhaber’s corner over the gaping goalmouth from eight yards.
Although for Whitmore the friendly was part of the rebuilding process, there were many familiar faces who ply their trade in North America with players from Jamaica’s Red Stripe Premier League biting at the bit to be given an opportunity on the international stage.
Philadelphia Union shotstopper Andre Blake played the opening 45 minutes before letting Ryan Thompson take over the gloves, the 32-year-old last played for St. Louis so was aiming to catch the attention of agents but he did concede a well-worked goal.
The defence also had a strong American flavour comprising Oneil Fisher (Seattle Sounders), Damion Lowe (Tampa Bay Rowdies), Sergio Campbell (Pittsburgh Riverhounds) and Alvas Powell (Portland Timbers).
From the kick-off it was the pace of the athletic Boyz who caused all the problems for Arena’s troops.
While Blake had a relatively relaxing first half, it was home keeper Luis Robles who had to be on the ball on 33 minutes. Bethlehem Steel striker Cory Burke outmanoeuvred and outran Graham Flank on the wing before sending a telling cross into the crowded box that Robles snatched at only to deflect it onto the knee of forward Romario Williams for a goal kick.
With the danger averted, the action moved to the other end of the pitch.. Blake seeing off the threat of the impressive Morris and from the resultant corner Sebastian Lletget’s curling effort narrowly missed the target.
The Boyz held their own in the opening half despite the host’s slick passing, often blinding their opponents with blistering pace. But after the turnaround Arena’s pep talk altered the way that the match was approached and the USA easily mastered Jamaica’s one-dimensional tactics – typified by the fact that the Boyz were awarded their first corner on 57 minutes.
With the US extremely eager to make the breakthrough it came as no surprise when the industrious Morris slotted home his second international goal. The Seattle Sounders ace latched onto Feilhaber’s clever back-heeled pass before the pair combined with a swift one-two movement that bewildered the visitors and saw the US snatch an overdue lead.
With the hosts in the ascendancy and the enthusiastic crowd willing on their team to add to their tally, it was Jamaica who had to shut up shop and snuff out any more danger as they were primarily pinned into their own half.
The only real glimmer of hope for the Boyz to equalise was six minutes after conceding, when a counterattack saw Fisher fed the ball from 30 yards out but his cross lacked precision and proved too difficult for Montego Bay United midfielder Owayne Grodon to add the finishing touch.
The hosts were in cruise control throughout the second half but after taking the lead used their substitutes, which was a risk at just a one-goal margin to play with and taking into account the blistering speed that the Boyz could produce.
Arena explained: “It’s important that fans across the country have an opportunity to see the National Team, and we are always looking for places that have shown great support for the sport.”
It was Arena’s second match in charge since being re-appointed as head coach, although with key players injured and no one selected from Europe for this meaningless friendly, the contest failed to ignite the overall excitement expected and neither did it serve as a true practice run for the USA’s World Cup qualifying games in March.
Jamaica’s next opponents are Honduras in Texas on 16 February, and although there were plenty of positives from this friendly the fact is that the Boyz never really looked like scoring despite Burke’s endless running. The lack of goals has been a long-term problem, even when they reached the final of last year’s Gold Cup.
With the Boyz having already qualified for July’s Gold Cup in the USA their next competitive match will be June’s Caribbean Cup semi-finals in Martinique as defending champions.
Whitmore, the only person to have the honour of winning the Caribbean Cup as both a player and as coach, is expected to still be in charge of the Boyz for the back-to-back tournaments and then his role is likely to reviewed by the Jamaica Football Federation.
He said: “That’s what I want to see of the players, a show of commitment and the desire to wear the (Jamaica) shirt with pride.”
Although those who tend to represent the Boyz tend to have pride in abundance once they don a golden jersey, the sport is results orientated and Whitmore needs to unearth a solid striker if he is going to return to the head coach role on a permanent basis.
JAMAICA: Blake (Thompson, 45); Fisher, Lowe, Powell, Campbell (Ritchie, 61); Grandison (Harriott, 78), Binns, Watson, Gordon (Holness, 56), Burke, Williams. Subs: Lambert, Ambursley, Nicholson, Holness, Fletcher.
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