MEXICO CITY, Mexico — Reggae Boyz head coach Theodore Whitmore is usually a very reserved man who seldom shows emotion.
Not that he was doing any cartwheels, but there was an aura about him after yesterday’s first training session at the Centro de Capacitacion (Mexico’s Football Academy) which smacked of confidence and contentment.
“I think it was very successful, the players were enjoying it, they were spot on, and I think it was a decent effort this afternoon,” was how he summed up yesterday’s near 90-minute exercise, which ended in a drizzle, accompanied by lightning strikes.
His mood would have also been boosted by the fact that the players, generally, came out of the session with no ill effects from the high altitude, which is usually a major concern for athletes competing in an environment such as this, some 2,240 metres above sea level.
“I haven’t heard anything regarding any ill effects of the session,” he beamed. “Basically, they were lively, and I think so far the vibes, the mood, has been 100 per cent spot on.”
Team doctor Carlton Fraser gave the thumbs up in his appraisal of the players’ reaction to the session.
“We are trying our best to prepare them for it (effects of high altitude), because it is a reality of Mexico, but I was really impressed with how they handled themselves today at training, although the first day is usually the best in terms of how they handle themselves.
“The next two or three days it (players’ ability to respond) usually depreciates, so we are very pleased with today, and then what we will have to do is try to maintain this. So it is going to need monitoring, it’s going to need proper hydration, supplementation, and of course we are going to encourage them to co-operate with us.”
Despite the euphoria, however, Whitmore found time and space to deduct points from the players, regarding their tactical output in relation to the team strategy.
“Well not 100 per cent,” he said in response to the team’s tactical execution. “We had a meeting with the players (prior to the training session) and what we asked of them we saw signs of it, they understood what we wanted to do, and that for me was a plus.”
After warming up and technical drills, Whitmore and his assistant Alfredo Montesso gave a glimpse of what they are thinking with a three-quarter field game.
Dwayne Miller tended goal, guarded by Jermaine Taylor and Nyron Nosworthy in central defence, flanked by Demar Phillips on the left and Adrian Mariappa on the right. The towering Marvin Elliott anchored central midfield, with Reading’s captain Jobi McAnuff on the left, his club mate Garath McCleary on the right and Rodolph Austin in an attacking role at the top of the midfield.
Ryan Johnson was the top man in attack, with the wily Jermaine ‘Teddy’ Johnson playing off him.
Late in the session Whitmore switched Ryan Johnson with Theo Robinson, substituted Teddy Johnson with Tremaine Stewart, and Omar Daley went in for Mariappa.
The manner in which Whitmore set out his team yesterday indicated a team playing for a result in one of the most difficult places in the CONCACAF region.
In five World Cup Qualifying encounters in Mexico, Jamaica have lost all five, conceding 23 goals, while tallying one solitary strike by Walter Boyd in that 1-2 loss on October 16, 1996.
The other results are 8-0 in 1965; 6-0 in 1997; 4-0 in 2001; and 3-0 on the last occasion in 2008.
Whitmore is adamant that he doesn’t want a repeat of what happened against the United States in Columbus last September 11.
“It is a whole tactical approach, and what we want to remember is the first-half approach against the USA in Ohio, and we don’t want the same sort of thing to creep in on us. So as much as possible we don’t want this Mexican team to (dominate us); we know what they have to offer and we have been working on a number of things for the game on Wednesday.”
In that game against the US in Ohio, the Boyz, though starting with an attacking formation of three men, plus an attacking midfielder, were pushed back deep into their own half and were dominated by the hosts as a result. They didn’t concede a goal in that period, but had the goal frame hit on a few occasions and were lucky to have Miller in inspiring form then. They eventually lost the game 1-0.
The Boyz will have their final training session at 7:30 pm (8:30 pm Jamaica time) today at the Azteca Stadium, ahead of tomorrow’s game at th same venue at 8:30 pm (9:30 pm Jamaica time).
This will be the first game in the final round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying, when all six competing countries engage each other in the home and away fixture which lasts through to October.
The top three teams at the end will earn automatic spots in the Brazil 2014 World Cup Finals, while the fourth-placed finisher earns another shot at Brazil with a home and away fixture against the winner of the Oceania region in November.
In other games on tomorrow, the US visit Honduras and Costa Rica travel to neighbouring Panama.