Jamaica Snatch Precious Gold Cup Point Against Mexico
Toothless Reggae Boyz fail to muster a shot on target
Theodore Whitmore’s Jamaica were once more involved in controversy at the Gold Cup after miraculously holding defending champions Mexico to a dreary scoreless draw in Denver on Thursday evening.
It was the Reggae Boyz who once more produced a sluggish and tepid performance in the tournament without suffering defeat.
But at the Sports Authority Field in Denver, Colorado, where there was a massive following for Mexico, there was immense displeasure by the El Tri supporters.
Many Mexico fans left in their droves with a little over 10 minutes remaining, and those who remained were clearly in unison with their frustration by shouting “Osorio Out”.
Juan Carlos Osorio, a Colombian coach in charge of Mexico, was banned from the dug-out for the tie as he arrived at the Gold Cup tournament issued with a six-game suspension by FIFA following misbehaviour during the Confederations Cup competition.
He is known for tinkering with his starting line-up and, like his counterpart Whitmore, and has an experimental squad for the Gold Cup. And sure enough there were four changes from Sunday’s thumping 3-1 win over El Salvador, which would have been a much bigger margin had El Tri fielded an out and out striker.
Watching the tie against the Boyz from a private box, Oscario must have been scratching his head as to why he didn’t have the presence of a traditional no.9 to trouble Jamaica.
For Osorio masterminded a 2-0 triumph over the Boyz when the sides last met, ironically also a second group game and played in the United States, in the 2015 Copa America Centenario.
So once again his assistant Luis Pompilio Paez took over the reins from the bench.
And Paez was thrown in at the deep end with CONCACAF’s mighty giants, who delivered fluid passing and near movement to perplex the Boyz yet couldn’t find a way past their dogged defence. Tricky winger Elias Hernandez, who bagged a goal against El Salvador and provided assists for the other two, was left out with the changes to the starting line-up – much to the relief of Jamaica.
The nearest to breaking the deadlock was on 23 minutes when debutant Erick Torres’ header bounced back off the inside of the post.
After the turnaround Torres was a marked man, as the Boyz snuffed out any sign of danger to soak up the pressure.
Andre Blake, voted the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2016, was always going to play a pivotal role but had a relatively quiet match although was booked on 56 minutes.
Oneil Fisher and Darren Mattocks showed glimpses of the former failed tactics of hoof and hope by chasing balls every now and again, but the duo never threatened with the Boyz not even managing to muster a single shot on target throughout the tie.
Mexico had been expected to continue where they left off from their last Gold Cup meeting with Jamaica, when they steamrolled past the Boyz 3-1 in a one-sided final two years ago.
And with both teams hving each won their opening Group C games in San Diego on Sunday, Mexico thumping El Salvador 3-1 and Jamaica gaining revenge for their Caribbean Cup final upset with a 2-0 success over minnows Curaçao, then a cagey affair was not on the agenda.
With victory at the home of the Denver Broncos guaranteeing progress in the competition, the dour stalemate was a surprise and Mexico fans voiced their concerns about the coach’s tactics.
Whitmore, now reinstalled as head coach following a lengthy spell on an interim basis, admittedly doesn’t have the star players nor high quality in his Jamaica squad that impressed at the 2015 Gold Cup.
Yet he does instil confidence in his troops and his players boast raw pace with a direct approach that troubled Mexico.
He said: “On Sunday we were a bit slow in moving the ball around so have to approach each game differently, we play Mexico a certain way with certain personnel.
Technically inferior to Mexico, Whitmore’s tactics were initially sensible but needed altering after the half-time break to close down any sign of danger. And the statistics at the end of Jamaica only having 28% possession overall told the sorry story of a forgettable match.
Despite sharing the spoils, Mexico are now closer to sealing a quarter-final tie against a third-placed team from one of the other two groups, to be played at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona on 20 July.
This is because El Salvador saw off Curaçao, Mexico’s next opponents, 2-0 on Thursday evening to pick up three points and trail Jamaica and table-topping Mexico by one point going into the final group games on 16 July.
For Whitmore’s troops it is back to the drawing board with El Salvador next, with a point sufficient to progress to the quarter-final stage.
Yet the Boyz could do with upping their game following two uninspiring displays, especially as defeat on Sunday could potentially end their interest in the competition.
What does bode well is that without playing with any real conviction nor style the Boyz are in a strong position after two group games and remain undefeated.
Should Jamaica suddenly find rhythm then turn on the style with their physical game and raw pace, the Boyz have got a real chance of emulating their remarkable run at the 2015 Gold Cup.
It is just a question of whether they will ever get out of the starting blocks at this tournament to ignite the world’s interest once more.
JAMAICA: Blake; Lowe, Taylor, Powell, Lawrence; Watson, Lambert, Binns (Grandison 75 mins), Fisher; Burke (Gordon, 88 mins), Mattocks (Johnson, 90 mins). Subs not used: Nicholson, Campbell, Harriott, Morris, Richie, Francis, Miller, Hyatt, Williams
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