Mattocks Back With Scoring Boots in Gold Cup
Jamaica hot-shot goes from zero to hero
Darren Mattocks went from zero to hero to help Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz gain revenge for their Caribbean Cup final upset with a 2-0 triumph over Curaçao in their opening Gold Cup Group C clash on Sunday.
Goals from Romario Williams and MLS veteran Mattocks saw smiles return to Jamaica’s interim head coach Theodore Whitmore, much needed after his side surrendered their Caribbean Cup crown a fortnight ago to the minnows.
Mattocks was originally down to start the tie but was demoted, along with fellow forward Cory Burke, to substitute roles after they both failed to turn up on time for a scheduled 1:30pm pre-game team meeting at the team’s Hilton Mission Valley hotel.
And ironically it was goal-scoring hero Williams – along with Jermaine Johnson – who was given the nod to join the starting line-up.
Elson Hooi, the Denmark-based hot-shot who notched a brace in Curaçao’s 2-1 win over Jamaica last time, was kept at bay and became a marked man this time when the sides met inside the Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
With neither side able to exert much pressure in a fast-paced opening half, the second 45 minutes was always going to be a cagey affair with precious points up for grabs.
But that was until US-based Williams broke the deadlock on 58 minutes. And Portland Timbers’ pivotal player Mattocks was introduced immediately after the breakthrough, Whitmore’s tactics paying dividends after he doubled the lead quarter-of-an-hour after his introduction.
The Boyz were guilty of wasting more goal-scoring opportunities in the closing stages once they had a two-goal cushion, although priority was always going to be securing maximum points.
Before the tournament the vibe among the squad was that they are eager to once more taste the sort of glory experienced as shock finalists at the 2015 Gold Cup, where they fell meekly to Mexico after running out of steam getting to the final.
And they will tackle Mexico again in the Gold Cup. However, this time the regional giants will be missing manager Juan Carlos Oscario in the dug-out at the tournament following Friday’s six-match ban from FIFA, and are in the same group as Jamaica. El Salvador are the other side in the four-team group, with the top two teams in the table progressing.
Yet since their 2015 Gold Cup semi-final shock success against the USA, the Boyz have struggled and parted company with head coach Winfried Schäfer.
German Schäfer failed to guide the Boyz to the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers and paid the price for failure.
Whitmore returned to the role of interim head coach to get the Boyz through the qualifiers for the Caribbean Cup, a competition he won as both a player and a coach. But he fell short in their title defence when they fell to Curaçao in the final in Martinique.
Yet it was Whitmore who this time out-thought his counterpart Remko Bicentini to gain revenge.
Bicentini, head coach of Curaçao, has impressed since taking over the reins from Dutch legend Patrick Kluivert. He brilliantly masterminded their route to the Gold Cup with victories over Guyana, the US Virgin Islands, Antigua & Barbuda and Puerto Rico.
But he was unable to repeat the feat from a fortnight ago against a stronger Jamaica squad despite being bolstered by midfielders Leandro Bacuna and Cuco Martina, who both ply their trade in the English Premier League.
Mattocks, who has bagged 13 goals in 32 International appearances, has made a habit of scoring at the Gold Cup.
The 26-year-old was on target in the 2-1 semi-final win over the USA two years ago and notched a consolation goal in the 3-1 slip-up to Mexico.
He said: “It’s always a great feeling when you get the chance to represent your country at the highest level and any player looks forward to representing their national team, so it’s a really great feeling.
“I’m expecting to get out of this group, nothing less for me is good enough.”
JAMAICA: Blake; Lowe, Taylor, Powell (Burke, 83 mins), Lawrence; Watson, Lambert, Gordon, Fisher; Williams (Binns, 74 mins), Johnson (Mattocks, 59 mins). Subs not used: Nicholson, Campbell, Harriott, Grandison, Morris, Richie, Francis, Miller, Hyatt
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