WASHINGTON, D.C. — Jamaica’s quest to return to the Concacaf Gold Cup final took a step in the right direction on Wednesday night with a 1-0 win over the US men’s national team.
Jamaica created the better chances in the contest, defended well and goalkeeper Andre Blake made a key save late in the contest to secure the victory,
Even though they pulled off an incredible result against a regional rival at Audi Field, Blake believes the Reggae Boyz can be much better by the time the tournament rolls around.
“I think it was a good result,” Blake said. “It was obvious that we don’t get a lot of time to train together, but you can see the individual talents and now we have 10 days. We have to go in and see how much we can get done in those 10 days.”
The standard has risen for Jamaica over the last few Gold Cups and they have the quality on the field to challenge the best in North America once again, especially with Kemar Lawrence shutting down one flank.
“(Lawrence)’s a great defender,” Blake said. “He’s shown that over and over again. When you have a guy like that, you want to keep him locked in and get him ready to keep him focused and you know what you’re going to get from him.”
The last two years have also been about building up the quality in the side and adding young players into the mix, which was evident against the USMNT.
Seven players with 10 or fewer international appearances took the field for Jamaica, including goal scorer Shamar Nicholson, one of the few to make the leap to Europe from Jamaica’s domestic league. Nicholson currently plays in Slovenia for MK Domzale.
“I remember two years ago the last Gold Cup, (Nicholson) was playing in Jamaica,” Blake said. “He got out and he’s playing overseas right now and you see the difference. There’s a lot of talents in Jamaica. We just have to learn how to nurture those talents and get them in environments where they can keep getting better.”
“We know Shamar Nicholson,” Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore said. “He’s been scoring goals. He’s that type of player who comes up with these types of goals, so it wasn’t any surprise to me.”
However, the Reggae Boyz are far from 100 percent at the moment, with Bayer Leverkusen’s Leon Bailey working his way back to full fitness.
“Leon is in a situation where he is just recuperating from an injury,” Whitmore said. “Don’t want to force him. We always want to look at the bigger picture. So, we didn’t see the sense in using him tonight because, as I say, there’s a bigger picture.”
In the 10 days before their Gold Cup opener against Honduras in Kingston, the Reggae Boyz need to work on getting to 100 percent and becoming more consistent in order to make yet another deep run at the continental competition.
“My problem now is consistency,” Whitmore said. “That’s a key for us… Trying to keep these guys focused, trying to keep these guys grounded and take it from there.”
“You can see there is definitely talent, but the soccer is not the best right now,” Blake said. “Everyone is not on the same page at all times, but we have time and that happens. Sometimes you only see each other for two days. There’s not much you can do with that. Definitely looking forward to training camp and this was a big result regardless.”