Sport

Food for thought

Jamaica players reflect positively on Ecuador challenge

Sunday, September 09, 2018

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HARRISON, United States — Friday night's assignment against Ecuador might not have been approved by FIFA as a Friendly International and only a training match, but it provided much food for thought for the many home-grown players who matched their skills and football acumen against the South Americans.

The Reggae Boyz, who will face the Cayman Islands in the opening round of qualifying phase of the Concacaf Nations League today inside the National Stadium, has to play a delicate balancing act in playing these two games inside 48 hours and three and a half hours apart by air travel.

They chased “leather” for most of the game, were given very little time on the ball, were pressed high up the pitch, which forced them into turning over the ball frequently, and all the time were forced to concentrate on the well-co-ordinated movements and cohesion of Ecuador.

The reality was that it was a far cry from what they are accustomed to playing at home, and for most of them the difference was obvious.

The Jamaica Observer caught up with some of the players and got their reviews.

Jeadine White, the 18-year-old St Andrew Technical High School Manning Cup captain, who was playing for the first time for the senior team explained:

“At first, even before coach (Theodore)Whitmore called me, I was really nervous because I saw players out there, especially Enner Valencia from West Ham (formerly of West Ham and now at Tigres UANL in Mexico), so I was really timid and when I saw that they scored on Amal (Knight) I was like wow…

“When coach Whitmore called me I was wondering if he was getting mad, but then when I started warming up I just started building a vibes, saying that I'm going to deal with this. But even while saying that I was nervous, but after going on the field and getting that first touch when I passed to Damion (Lowe), from that I just started to relax and from that came a great performance. It came off confidence, off just one touch of the ball.

“Now I really understand what is meant by when they say you might play a game and don't touch the ball at all, and this was one of those games when we really had to stay behind the ball. And even though we might have chased the game I think we accomplished many things, like maintaining our shape, because if we never did that probably the game would have ended like 4-0 or more, but we carried out our instructions well, but we just never executed up front.

“After that 32 minutes (as a substitute) I think I want a 90 on Sunday now, and this time I won't even be nervous at all.”

Amal Knight of The University of the West Indies started in goal in only his fifth game for Jamaica.

He said: “The game was a pretty good one; most of the local guys played this one with a few international players to give us some balance against a decent Ecuador team. I think we did fairly well; I think we held our own for long periods, which is preparation for Sunday's game, so I think all in all we handled ourselves pretty well.

“The speed of play from the opposition was pretty good, you could see they possessed the ball a lot and for most of the game we were chasing, so we had to keep the shape of the team and keep the balance and try to hit them on the counter, if we got the chance, or keep possession of the ball.

“They were pressing us high up the pitch, so we couldn't really play our normal game and these are South Americans, similar to Mexico, so it is just a learning experience for all of us out there and hopefully going forward we can correct the mistakes that we made tonight.

“I think I did well; this is my fifth game for my country and I just continue to grow from strength to strength and just continue to learn on the big stage. It was nice getting another top opposition under my belt in Ecuador, a nice team and that was good for me. And I made an excellent save in the match and that was one that really stood out for the whole night, a really top-class one.

“Jeadine came in and I think he held his own; he didn't have too much to do and that was the good thing. He just held his composure and didn't let the occasion get the better of him and he stayed grounded, and the sky is just the limit for this young man going forward once he keeps humble.”

Alex Marshall substituted Ricardo Morris in the 59th minute and he too learnt the importance of time on the ball and decision-making.

“On a whole we didn't keep the ball as well as we could. I'm not sure if it was inexperience or confidence, but in the latter part of the game we kept our cool and handling the ball in areas that are dangerous and got some opportunities.

“I also learnt that when coaches tell you that you must always know what you are going to do before you get the ball, now I'm really understanding what they meant because these guys give you little time on the ball.

“The speed of play is much faster at this level. We need to not try to stay at Jamaica's level even when the pace is slow in Jamaica's football; we must always try to play like we are playing overseas (fast tempo).

“The first touch as well, but we are used to the bad fields, so first tough is not a problem out here (overseas). We just need to adjust more when we go on fields that are faster.

“This team is the best I have played against so far. I think they are confident and experienced, cool on the ball and composed.”

Waterhouse FC's Ricardo Thomas had a difficult night, particularly in the first half, and he's willing to absorb all that was thrown his way.

“I gained a lot of experience. I learnt that professional level is quicker than I ever thought. Physically it was tough, of course, very tough.

“First half I wasn't fully focused, but second half I got more confident and it built up from there.”

Tivoli Gardens' Tevin Shaw was given the unenviable task of shielding the back four in a double pivot holding midfield alongside Kevon Lambert. He was made to chase shadows all night and was hustled as the South Americans tried to regain possession as quickly as possible.

“It's a totally different level from what we play in Jamaica. You have to concentrate for 90-plus minutes because the game is very fast, so you have to get every aspect of your game right because at this level the moment you slip it normally cost you. So I thought we played well, but it took a while for us to get into the game, which was in the second half; but hats off to the guys — though we lost 2-0 — it's just unfortunate we didn't put away our openings.

“Despite conceding two goals I thought Amal Knight produced a wonderful shift because he also made a brilliant save in the second half. And Jeadine White came and he played really confidently, and at one point Ecuador got away about twice and he stood up to the task and he also kept a clean sheet for the time he was on, so I was impressed with both of them.”

—Ian Burnett

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