Hot-shot bags winner as Jamaica stutter in CNL tie
Darren Mattocks’ scoring run continued at Montego Bay as Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz stuttered 2-1 past Suriname in Saturday’s CONCACAF Nations League (CNL) encounter.
The striker, who plays in the USA’s Major League Soccer with Washington club DC United, was back on the scoresheeet for the Boyz at the Montego Bay Sports Complex albeit from a spot-kick.
With Jamaica having chalked up healthy wins against the Cayman Islands (4-0) and Bonaire (6-0) in their previous CNL games, it was imperative that Theodore Whitmore’s troops continued their momentum.
And the Boyz got off to an impressive start with Kemar Lawrence setting up Cory Burke”s seventh-minute opener. Mattocks then won and slotted home a penalty past keeper Claidel Kohinor.
It looked as though the Boyz had hit cruise control so would add a flurry of goals, which they do require to make the top six in the complex CNL qualifiers in order to progress.
Yet they froze on stage in Jamaica’s second city and were pegged back into their own half for long periods.
So it came as no surprise when eager 20-year-old forward Donnegy Fer reduced the deficit, eight minutes before half-time, by scrambling the ball over the line past the ever impressive Andre Blake.
The Montego Bay Sports Complex had recently been a happy hunting ground for the Boyz, especially Mattocks. He had scored in all three group games for Jamaica at Montego Bay, when they won the 2014 Caribbean Cup, and followed it up with strikes against Venezuela (2-1) and Cuba (3-0) in back-to-back friendly wins played at the same venue in March 2015. Yet he failed to ignite the arena as expected, despite scoring, in his latest outing.
With the hosts failing to build on their first half performance, and there was often an eerie silence ringing around the stadium, the battling Boyz did well to prevent the constant threats of frontmen Fer – who plies his trade in Jamaica with Portmore United – and Stefano Rijssel.
With head coach Whitmore’s side urgently seeking to kill off the tie, to improve their CNL goal difference, it was puzzling that forward Malique Foster wasn’t given a run out.
Foster, loaned out by Portmore United to Costa Rican club Liga Deportivo Alajuelense, had been recalled to the national squad having been on target last time on his debut against South Korea (2-2) in January.
Jamaica tend not to dominate in their clashes against Suriname, and it was Burke who notched the only goal when they last met two years in the Caribbean Championship.
Saturday’s visitors, who demolished the British Virgin Islands 5-0 in their previous CNL qualifier, steadied their ship after conceding twice so early and made Jamaica work hard to earn the slender success in a cagey contest.
But the Boyz need to vastly improve all areas – except between the sticks – from their latest display for their must-win match in El Salvador, their final CNL qualifier, on 23 March if they want to progress to the knockout stages.
A trio of CNL wins, with only the triumph over Bonaire in Curacao convincing, is a major cause for concern for both the Jamaica Football Federation and Whitmore.
Prior to Saturday’s game Whitmore admitted disappointment that down to JFF’s lack of finances the squad wasn’t able to prepare as he would have liked. He now has plenty of time to knit together a squad for the future and even has the headache of whether there is ever a place with the Boyz for both wannabe footballer Usain Bolt and whizzy winger Leon Bailey.
The win over Suriname was a relief for Whitmore, although the Boyz have play a waiting game for the latest round of matches to ascertain where they stand in their hunt for a top-six finish in CNL Qualifying table.
Reaching the CNL knockout stages also brings the financial and prestigious rewards of a 2019 Gold Cup berth, which would swell the coffers of the JFF who would love to have sprint legend Bolt involved even just for marketing and sponsorship value.
So it should be back to the drawing board for Whitmore, who must shuffle his pack if he wants to save the Boyz from an unthinkable CNL exit despite three wins against relative minnows.
A rout may be required against El Salvador, which will be expected as the Central Americans were humbled 1-0 last week by Bermuda, and more importantly Whitmore must find someone to be the partner in crime for hot-shot Mattocks.
JAMAICA: Blake – McCarthy (Francis, 75 mins), Lawrence, Lowe, Richie – Watson, Gordon, Morris – Burke (East 68) Mattocks, Vassell (Williams 59). Subs: Hardware, Kelly, Foster, Marshall, Knight, Thomas
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