HEAD coach Theodore Whitmore had promised tactical and personnel changes ahead of Friday night’s game against the USA, and though the team displayed more urgency and purpose, especially in an attacking sense, it still didn’t get the desired result, a win at home.Nonetheless, it is this writer’s view that it was a fairly decent performance against a rival which is clearly far superior to the Reggae Boyz. There is no hiding the fact that the Americans were much better prepared — having played two high-quality international friendly games against Europe’s highly-talented Belgium (2-4 loss), and a 4-3 win against a second string Germany team — even as Jamaica struggled to get its full complement of players together as a unit. That high level of preparation expressly manifested itself after the hour mark when the Reggae Boyz started begging for substitutions, as the Americans superior conditioning took its toll. If there was one area of great failure for the Boyz, it would have been in their level of fitness. Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts did what he had to do without much fanfare or bother, and mopped up anything that went behind the defensive lines. However, it could be argued that he could have made a better attempt at the cross from the right which resulted in Jozy Altidore getting an uncontested header from within the six-yard box. With his height and ability to read the game, many believe he could have and should have picked off that cross and avert any danger. Grade B. Defenders Despite the relative inexperience together, the organisation was good as the Americans didn’t get too many chances to get in behind and create any dangers until fatigue set in after the hour mark, and the level of coverage in front of them loosened and at times was non-existent. There were a few occasions when the central pair of Daniel Gordon and Adrian Mariappa allowed either Altidore or Clint Dempsey when he joined in attack, especially for crosses, too much room in the defensive third, which could have left Ricketts helpless. The wingbacks, O’Brian Woodbine on the left and Alvas Powell on the right, did reasonable jobs, even without contributing too much in attack. Powell was the more impressive at both ends, oftentimes getting back to cover his central partners and more often than not, showing the composure and technical ability of a player who is destined for big things, and a level of play beyond his 18 years. Grade C+. Midfielders The central pair of Marvin Elliott and Rodolph Austin struggled yet again with mobility, which resulted in their inability to dictate the tempo of the game. Too often they were unavailable to receive passes from the back, and especially from throw-ins, which stymied the progress of the team. Attacking players Jermaine Hue and Garath McCleary made their presence felt, particularly the former, whose ability to pick a pass and keep the ball moving came to the fore for all to see yet again. His sublime through pass to Jermaine Johnson behind the Americans into the penalty area was the manifestation of a man with tremendous vision and ability. Added to that he, and later Austin, produced a few quality deliveries from set pieces, one of which resulted in the equalising goal by Jermaine Beckford, a minute from regulation time. When Jermaine Johnson dropped back into the midfield zone he pushed the Americans back with his exhilarating pace and trickery. Grade C. Forwards Ryan Johnson did a much better job than against Mexico three days earlier, but was still unable to get on the end of any decent service. However, it was his clever play which sent Rodolph Austin clear into the penalty box when the midfielder struck the post in the first half. Johnson and at times Hue filled in attacking positions but the Americans didn’t give too much away. Still it was from a forward, substitute Beckford, who found the equaliser with a header from Austin’s free kick. Theo Robinson was introduced and though he ran hard, wasn’t able to make a telling contribution, especially as by then the team had lost its shape and creativity in the middle with the substitutions. Grade B. — IAN BURNETT Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz pose for team pictures immediately before their kick-off against the USA on Friday night. They are (from left, back row) captain Donovan Ricketts, Jermaine Johnson, Ryan Johnson, Daniel Gordon, Marvin Elliott and Alvas Powell, (From left, front row): O’Brian Woodbine, Adrian Mariappa, Jermaine Hue, Garath McCleary and Rodolph Austin. (PHOTO: JOSEPH WELLINGTON)
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