Up to the task?

Coach Donaldson optimistic U-20 Girlz can match compete with region's powerhouses

Observer staff reporter

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

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Miami , Florida — Jamaica's Under-20 Reggae Girlz group in the CONCACAF Women's Championships is obviously a group of death.

And, while head coach Lorne Donaldson is not for a second doubting that they will have a huge task on their hand, he is sure that the girls possess the tools to match strides with or even defeat two of the region's powerhouse teams.

Jamaica will contest Group B alongside Mexico and defending champions United States of America (USA), as well as Central Americans Nicaragua in Trinidad and Tobago with their ultimate goal being to advance to the Under-20 Women's World Cup to be staged in Paris, France, in August.

They are scheduled to open against the Mexicans on Thursday, before squaring off against United States on Sunday, and close against Nicaragua next Tuesday.

Hosts Trinidad & Tobago will vie for Group A honours against Canada, Haiti and another Central American team, Costa Rica.

Donaldson, who coaches female youth players in the United States and was recently named Coach of the Year in that category, has some amount of knowledge about that opponent and is predicting a fierce encounter against them.

“I know the US team, and there are a lot of changes in that team, and obviously two of their best players play for me, so those two players will start for them and it will be like playing against my daughters, so I know what kind of challenge they will bring.

“I know the team from top to bottom, and they are very good, but that doesn't mean they don't have weaknesses. I watched them playing England and Brazil recently and they have some holes in their squad. We now have a more mature squad, so obviously we will be knocking at the door to exploit those weak points,” Donaldson told the Jamaica Observer as he recollected their previous clash with the Americans at the Under-17 level.

Though the Americans are the young Reggae Girlz's biggest threat, Donaldson is aware that the Mexicans and the Nicaraguans will also prove a handful, despite those teams being more difficult to assess.

“The Mexicans are very secretive, but I am familiar with some of their girls as well because they play in the [US Soccer] leagues, but I haven't seen much of them, and all I have seen are little clips. So in terms of their structure I am not really sure what they have.

“But we know they will try to possess the ball and we are going to have to use our speed, because this time we have some real speed with our front three versus their back four and we will just see what happens,” Donaldson noted.

“In terms of the Nicaraguans, I am not sure what kind of game they play, but we won't be taking them for granted and will be putting our best foot forward when that game comes,” he added.

The confidence exuded by Donaldson is based upon what he describes as a significant improvement to their preparation phase, where they were afforded friendly contests against the twin- island republic and Costa Rica as well as a four-day camp in Fort Lauderdale.

“I have to give the JFF (Jamaica Football Federation) some credit, they have really stepped up and they did some stuff that we never usually do. I am happy because it allowed us to look at more players in different combinations and scenarios against different opponents.

“We still can't compare with the other countries, but it's a significant improvement on what we used to do, and I think we got a good young crop of players out of it,” he stated.

According to Donaldson, the 20-player squad, which boasts four new additions to the programme, is one that can achieve a lot as the senior Reggae Girlz team in years to come, “if we are willing to invest in them and maximise on their potential”.

he spoke highly of three of the new players based in the United States — Jazmin Grant, Mireya Grey and Chyanne Dennis. Canadian-based Jayda Pelaia-Hylton is the other recent addition to the programme.

“Mariah Grey, who I think very highly of, her hamstring was giving a little trouble, so we have rested her and hopefully she has recovered, because she and Jazmin will give us a lot up front along with young Jody Brown. And we added a new centre back (Chyanne Dennis) and she will strengthen our defensive line significantly,” he assured.

Squad: Olufolasade Adamolekun, Jayden Matthews, Jody Brown, Giselle Washington, Alyssa Julien, Ebony Clarke, Emily Caza, Yazmeen Jamieson, Gabrielle Gayle, Kevena Reid, Nevillegail Able, Jazmin Grant, Madiya Harriott, Erin Mikalsen, Shayla Smart, Sydney Schneider, Marlee Fray, Jayda Pelaia-Hylton, Mireya Grey, Chyanne Dennis.

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