By Gregory Bryce
The much-anticipated return to action for the Reggae Boyz has come and gone, and the international break is finally coming to a close. After a tense start with contractual disputes, travel arrangement mix-ups and positive COVID-19 test results, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) was able to field a team that proved that they are not far off the beat, despite the fact that several players had not played a single game of football since March.
Jamaica played two matches against Saudi Arabia at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium on Saturday and Tuesday. The team recorded a 3 nil loss and a 2-1 win which brought mixed reactions from the public and media alike.
So to cap off this week, here are my opinions on the bad and the good that I’ve observed from the matches:
Defensive errors were far too frequent: While I was watching both matches, a common occurrence I noticed was that our defense seemed to create a lot of the problems that the team faced. In fact, most – if not, all – of the goals came from a mistake made by the Jamaican team.
We were our greatest downfall and that was particularly clear in the first match where the team lost 3-0. All three goals in that match were results of defensive mistakes. The first goal came from a handball by Kemar Lawrence that gave the Saudi team a penalty. Lawrence was once again the culprit for another goal as his scuffed pass was intercepted by the Saudi attack and converted for a second. The last goal came from Kevon Lambert being caught on the ball in a crucial area.
We just can’t keep hold of the ball: One of the negatives that came from the game was the relative lack of possession by the team. While possession does not necessarily dictate the results of a game, it is an important feature. In the first game, Jamaica recorded 39% possession with majority of the time being the ball played around the back. There were improvements in the second game, and that showed in our much more upbeat and attacking playing style.
That wonder goal from Daniel Johnson: Perhaps my most anticipated debutant behind Ravel Morrison, Johnson showed exactly why I was happy to see him finally representing Jamaica. In the first game, Johnson was deployed as the lone defensive midfielder which did not give credit to his creative talents. This was changed in the second match when he was given more freedom after being paired beside Morrison in a double pivot midfield.
With Morrison beside him to help provide coverage, Johnson became more involved further up the field, and that led to that spectacular curling effort that provided the equalizer in the second match.
Morrison plays at last! – and boy, he was a sight for sore eyes: Morrison proved why he was such a valued player by the JFF with two noteworthy performances under his belt. A glaring problem for Jamaica over the years was a solid midfield maestro able to pick the passes to unlock defenses when needed. Peter-Lee Vassell has shown that he has the potential to become that player, but Morrison has experience on his side.
His distribution from the midfield was the driving force behind our attacking efforts and the future looks bright with Morrison at the root of our midfield. Perhaps, in the near future, we’ll get to see a midfield pairing of Morrison and Vassell playing together.
Our young players have shown they are ready to stake their claim: It was only three years ago that Norman Campbell and Tyreek Magee were lifting the Manning Cup trophy for Jamaica College. Now, the pair seem to have blended in seamlessly with the best that the country has to offer.
Campbell, making his debut, was an energetic source for Jamaica down the wings and always seemed to have an eye for goal. Mark my words, if he continues on this path, he’ll be one for the future.
Magee has already proven his pedigree across all age groups and the smooth playing midfielder didn’t seem off pace playing with players several years his senior.
Add that to the decent showing from 19-year-old Jahshaun Anglin, and it is safe to say that Jamaica’s young players are more than eager to make the step up.
Gregory Bryce is a freelance sports journalist.