BY SEAN A WILLIAMS Assistant Sports Editor
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Following a dry spell, friendly international games have begun to rain on the Reggae Boyz, with the last downpour being a match-up against El Salvador on May 30 at the RFK Stadium in Washington, USA.
In under two weeks, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) has pinned down three games for the action-thirsty side which last suited-up on February 11 against Nigeria’s Super Eagles in London. That game ended 0-0.
Having missed the FIFA calendar dates of March 28 and April 1, the Boyz have also confirmed dates with Haiti on May 23 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Central American champions Panama for ‘The Office’ on June 7.
JFF boss Captain Horace Burrell said they will be fielding «a strong team» for the El Salvador game as Jamaica seek to make a strong statement ahead of the July 3-26 CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament to be held in 13 cities in the USA.
«We aim to give a good showing… to help raise our profile and return some semblance of confidence in the team and show our fans in the States what we can do,» Burrell said yesterday.
«For us to deliver a strong performance on US soil, we have to be at our best, or near our best, and the way to do that is to have the best players,» he added.
England-based Claude Davis, Ian Goodison, Jamal Campbell-Ryce, Damion Stewart, Jermaine Johnson, Ricardo Gardner, Ricardo Fuller, Marlon King, Darren Pratley and France-based Tyrone Mears are expected to be in Washington for the game.
Also, the Hungary-based trio of brothers Wolry and Rafe Wolfe and Jason Morrison are due for the match.
Striker Nicholas Addlery of the Puerto Rico Islanders of the USL has also been confirmed.
«We’re looking to see how many MLS players we can get for the match,» added JFF’s general secretary Horace Reid.
For the three games, a number of local-based players should make their way into the outfit as assistant coach Theodore ‘Tappa’ Whitmore is conducting an aggressive scouting campaign of the local leagues.
Whitmore will subsequently consult with head coach John Barnes, after which a final list of players will be decided on.
For these games, the players will start a camp which will run from May 18 to June 7. The players, especially those coming out of a rugged season in the English leagues, will be given a two-week break before the team departs on June 21 for the Gold Cup.
Meanwhile, El Salvador (ranked 102nd by FIFA) are still involved in World Cup qualifiers and after three games are fifth with two points in the six-nation play-offs.
Jamaica, who sit 70th on the FIFA list, were eliminated at the semi-final stage of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament and have now turned their sights on creating a stir at the Gold Cup as they seek redemption.
«I’ve been working around the clock trying to get games for the team as we fine-tune for the Gold Cup… I regard this tournament as very important, and to do well will give us a high standing in the CONCACAF region,» said Burrell, who is a member of CONCACAF’s powerful Executive Committee.
El Salvador and Jamaica are in Group A of the Gold Cup, along with Canada and Costa Rica; Group B comprises Haiti, USA, Honduras and Grenada, while Group C has Panama, Guadeloupe, Mexico and Nicaragua.
In the last four meetings between the teams, Jamaica have won twice, with the other matches being drawn. Both wins were by 3-0 margins – first in San Salvador in a World Cup qualifier in 2004 and the other in a friendly in Kingston in 2007.
The drawn games were both 0-0 in a friendly in Texas last year and a World Cup qualifier in Jamaica in 2004.