'Tappa' wants Boyz tuned in to task at hand

IAN BURNETT
Sport Editor
with the Reggae Boyz
In Central America

Friday, March 22, 2019

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SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — “There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip” is an idiom that Reggae Boyz Head Coach Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore is very familiar with.

And as such the former captain and star midfielder is taking nothing for granted as he prepares his team to face EL Salvador in a crucial Concacaf Nations League qualifying final-round game here at Estadio Cuscatlan at 8:00 pm (9:00 pm Jamaica time) tomorrow.

The last batch of Reggae Boyz contingent, comprising those travelling from Jamaica, touched down in San Salvador Wednesday just prior to midnight, with the exception of UWI FC's Fabion McCarthy, who was delayed a day due to personal issues with his travel document. He was expected to join his teammates last night.

And in an effort to get the players tuned into the game at hand, Whitmore and his technical staff wasted no time yesterday morning in taking the players through a near 90-minute session at Universidad de El Salvador.

“We wanted to get the Boyz loosen up and accustomed to what they are going to be up against on Saturday and to get back the football feeling,” Whitmore told the Jamaica Observer.

“I think it was successful and tomorrow (Friday) is our final training session before going into the game on Saturday, and I think then and there we want to apply how we are going to approach the game, set pieces and all,” he added.

The coach, who guided a team of mainly Jamaican-bred player to the final of the last edition of the Concacaf Gold Cup before surrendering 1-2 to hosts United States, was pleased with the team spirit exhibited, as well as the camaraderie, but he was also well aware of the dangers that lie ahead if the Boyz don't complete the job and gain a positive result tomorrow.

“Definitely, the spirit of the players was good, but at this level you never can be too comfortable and we have a meeting shortly with the senior players before meeting with the general squad to let everyone know what we are about; to keep our foot on the gas pedal, so all that we have to take into consideration,” noted the coach.

Jamaica are currently in fifth place with maximum nine points from three rounds of matches. They have a plus-11 goal difference. Curacao (plus 21), Haiti (plus 16), Cuba (plus 14) and Canada (plus 14) are also on maximum nine points from three games but with superior goal difference to Jamaica.

El Salvador are in 13th place on six points and are currently out of contention for a place in League A and Gold Cup qualification.

The Jamaicans need to finish in the top six to guarantee themselves a place in League A of the Nations League and in the top 10 for a Gold Cup berth. But an unfavourable result could spell danger and undo all the good work accomplished thus far.

“There is not a lot we can get out on the training field, so as much as possible we have to try and meet with the players to get certain things sorted out,” asserted Whitmore.

“I don't think we started out the Nations League how we really wanted to, but game by game we kept improving, so we just want to refresh the players on what we are about, what is at stake and all of that. We have a number of new players who haven't been with us for some while and we want to let them know what we are about and what the expectations are,” Whitmore noted.

The Reggae Boyz are expected to head to Estadio Cuscatlan today for the obligatory training session when the intensity should rise to fever pitch.

Squad — Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union), Amal Knight (UWI FC), Jeadine White (Humble Lion), Fabion McCarthy (UWI FC), Alvas Powell (FC Cincinnati), Damion Lowe (IK Start), Corey Burke (Philadelphia Union), Darren Mattocks (FC Cincinnati), Michael Hector (Sheffield Wednesday FC), Ladale Richie (Mount Pleasant FA), Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls), Shaun Francis (Louisville FC), Devon Williams (Louisville FC), Je-Vaughn Watson (Unattached), Kevon Lambert (Phoenix Rising FC), Junior Flemmings (Phoenix Rising FC), Javon East (Portmore United), Ricardo Morris (Portmore United), Dever Orgill (MKE Ankaragucu), Peter Vassell (Los Angeles FC), Brian Brown (Reno 1868 FC), Maalique Foster (Rio Grande Valley FC), Jamoi Topey (Bethlehem Steele).


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