Jamaica’s seemingly fated two-match trip to Saudi Arabia continues to see the Reggae Boyz fighting off obstacles before tackling hosts Saudi Arabia today (14 November).
As well as flight delays and cancellations robbing head coach Theodore Whitmore of a trio of his squad, two of his US-based players appear to have been given the boot by Phoenix Rising FC.
Whitmore lost key players from his original squad because of coronavirus and one wishing to stay in England to further his club career by finding a new team. Then four members of the contingent had to be self isolated following positive tests for COVID-19.
And last weekend it was revealed that the Boyz were prepared to go on strike unless they were paid US $2,000 each, with the Jamaica Football Federation averting the danger after initially offering only half of their salary demands.
To add to Whitmore’s woes Costa Rica-based striker Javon East, Jeadine White – who plays in goal on the island for Cavaliers FC – and DC United’s versatile defender/midfielder Oniel Fisher had still not arrived in Saudi Arabia by yesterday afternoon.
With first choice shotstopper and captain Andre Blake, nursing a hand injury, it seems likely that Damion Lowe will lead the Boyz at the imposing Prince Faisal bin Fahad Stadium in Riyadh.
Yet the defender may not be in the right frame of mine. He was not named as one of the eight players that Phoenix Rising FC has re-signed this week. The USL club yesterday made their announcement about who they would retain from the squad that claimed the 2020 Western Conference Championship, with midfielder Junior Flemmings also not included.
Lowe was one of three Jamaicans at the Arizona outfit alongside the Flemmings and Kevon Lambert last term. Both Lowe and Flemmings become free agents when their contracts expire on November 30, with Flemmings claiming that he turned down the chance to re-sign for the team.
Flemmings was last month handed a six-game ban for an alleged homophobic slur, although he was not discarded by Whitmore in his latest squad.
Defensive midfielder Lambert, who will rejoin Phoenix Rising FC for a fourth season on the bounce, signed for the US outfit from Montego Bay United as a 19-year-old in August 2017. He has scored nine goals in his 87 appearances.
On the bright side midfielder Ravel Morrison, who plies his trade in the Dutch top flight with ADO Den Haag, and Scotland-based defender Gregory Leigh could both be handed their debuts.
Yet the contest may not be the showpiece spectacular that was originally anticipated, with the trials and tribulations for the Whitmore giving him endless headaches as to which Boyz will be his best option.
But the waiting game is almost over, and at least Whitmore has a second chance to rue his eye over squad members when the sides clash again next Tuesday.
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