Reggae Boyz Hit More Problems Before They Tackle US

Author: Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rüdd

Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz have been hit with further problems ahead of their exhibition match against regular rivals the United States in Austria tomorrow (25 March).

On top of an ongoing issue over contracts and money between the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) and the usual players selected, four members of the delegation have tested positive for COVID-19. A pair of members from the Caribbean-based delegation had tested positive in Jamaica for coronavirus, but the JFF declared yesterday that the duo have tested negative.

But after arriving in Austria, the JFF issued a press release that read: “Two different players, one England-based, have now returned positive results. Both players are now isolated.

“The protocols are being strictly followed in the hotel and every individual is constantly reminded of his responsibility by the team medical personnel and team manager Roy Simpson. The team now has a physiotherapist in the form of Nico Reishofer, an Austrian.”

  

Jamaica head coach Theodore Whitmore, notoriously defensive, originally announced a 19-player squad with relative newcomer Ravel Morrison immediately withdrawing. It is rumoured that the 28-year-old midfielder, who is unattached since leaving Dutch club ADO Den Haag in January, is in full support of his compatriots turning down the opportunity to represent the Boyz until the contract issues have been resolved.

Whitmore’s 18-strong squad appeared to be top heavy with nine defenders and a trio of players in the other positions of goalkeeper, midfielder and striker.

Reggae Boyz during a training session in Costa Rica – 2016

A pair of former England players were hastily drafted in to strengthen the squad in the shape of Jamal Lowe and Kasey Palmer, who both ply their trade in the second tier in England to increase the total to eight in the squad who are British-based.

Swansea City striker Lowe is currently suffering a goal drought with the Championship highfliers, having last scored for the Welsh club in mid-January against Barnsley – when television replays indicated that the 26-year-old was in an offside position.

Lowe was a semi-pro just four seasons ago, when he was turning out for Hampton & Richmond Borough for two campaigns. He received a single call-up for the England C national team, which comprises only non-league players, in 2016.

Bristol City midfielder Palmer is a team-mate at the club with Jamaican stalwart Adrian Mariappa, and played alongside Lowe this season while on loan with Swansea City. Since the 24-year-old returned to his parent club he scored an incredible goal directly from a corner last month, with battling performances that have impressed new head coach Nigel Pearson.

The former England U17, U18, U20 and U21 ace turned down the JFF’s initial invitation on 12 March as he recently became a father. However, the JFF helped Palmer to apply for a Jamaica passport by dangling the goal of potentially being part of Whitmore’s squad for July’s CONCACAF Gold Cup and Jamaica’s FIFA World Cup qualifiers, which kick off on 30 August against Mexico.

  

The pair could make their international debuts for Jamaica when the Boyz tackle the United States, a rematch of the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-final that Jamaica lost 3-1, behind closed doors inside the 10,000-capacity Stadion Wiener Neustadt that lies south of Vienna.

The United States have also been denied some first-choice players because of the effects of coronavirus. Midfielder Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig, Germany) as well as forwards Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen, France) and Tim Weah (Lille, France) have been forced out of the exhibition match due to coronavirus quarantine requirements in their areas.

Midfielder Christian Cappis (Hobro, Denmark) and striker Jordan Siebatcheu (Young Boys Bern, Switzerland) were added to the USA’s 26-player squad that will tackle Jamaica and then face Northern Ireland on Sunday (28 March).

Both Jamaica and the US will use their exhibition game as preparation for the CONCACAF Gold Cup followed by their FIFA World Cup qualifiers in late August and early September.

Whitmore has a tough ask with limited resources and trying to balance the squad he has inherited rather than chosen. Should the Boyz be hammered then the finger of blame will be firmly pointed at the JFF for their stand-off over monies with the head coach’s usual star players.

On the other hand, should Whitmore mastermind an incredible victory against the US, then not only will it be a stroke of genius but any of those players that shine will surely have a shot at competing in the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Jamaica’s top stars, such as goalkeeper captain Andre Blake and whizzy winger Leon Bailey, are waiting for the JFF to resolve the contract dilemma before proudly donning a golden jersey. However, it seems that the stance by leading players is a game of cat and mouse as they surely won’t want to miss out on a prospective appearance at next year’s World Cup finals in Qatar.

It appears to be a dangerous game for all parties concerned, with the JFF desperate to prove that the island is worthy of being in the Middle East for football’s showpiece tournament as well as the obvious financial rewards that they would reap.

JAMAICA SQUAD
Goalkeepers | Jeadine White (Cavalier SC), Kemar Foster (Portmore United), Shaven Paul (Mount Pleasant)

  

Defenders | Michael Hector (Fulham), Amari’i Bell (Blackburn Rovers), Wesley Harding (Rotherham United), Omar Holness (Darlington), Adrian Mariappa (Bristol City), Liam Moore (Reading), Ethan Pinnock (Brentford), Curtis Tilt (Wigan Athletic), Renaldo Wellington (Montego Bay United)

Midfielders | Kevaughn Isaacs (Mount Pleasant), John Luca Levee (Harbour View FC), Ricardo Morris (Portmore United, on loan at VPS), Kasey Palmer (Bristol City)

Strikers | Andre Gray (Watford), Jabari Hylton (UWI), Jamal Lowe (Swansea City), Chavany Willis (Portmore United, on loan at Bethelem Steel)

USA SQUAD
Goalkeepers | Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Chituru Odunze (Leicester City), Zack Steffen (Manchester City)

Defenders | John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Reggie Cannon (Boavista), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Matt Miazga (Anderlecht), Erik Palmer-Brown (Austria Vienna), Tim Ream (Fulham), Bryan Reynolds (AS Roma), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim), Antonee Robinson (Fulham)

Midfielders | Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg), Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Christian Cappis (Hobro), Luca de la Torre (Heracles), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Owen Otasowie (Wolverhampton Wanderer)

Strikers | Daryl Dike (Barnsley), Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Jordan Siebatcheu (Young Boys Bern)

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