Goalkeeper coach Busby says Girlz in safe hands

Deputy Sport Editor

Thursday, April 11, 2019

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MIAMI, USA — Goalkeeper coach Hubert Busby has boldly declared that Jamaica's France-bound Reggae Girlz are in safe hands.

Barring a tragic episode, God forbid, Sydney Schneider and Nicole McClure look set to make the trip to France, to carry the keys to Jamaica's goal.

It's an awesome responsibility, but both these young women, the coach thinks, have demonstrated their abilities sufficiently on the qualifying road, and thus far through the pre-France preparation phase.

As Busby puts it, in these two goalkeepers, plus that of the recognised third-string Chris-Ann Chambers and Jazmeen Jamieson, the Girlz are well endowed in the custodian department.

“The goalkeepers have played tremendous roles in getting us to the World Cup, and this is something the other players and staff will acknowledge.

“I have always maintained that we have three number ones, and it is great to see that whenever they come in they do well,” Busby shared with the Jamaica Observer at the King Shaka International Airport as the Jamaicans made their way home after a week in Durban, South Africa.

In a friendly international against hosts South Africa, which put the icing on the camp, McClure kept the first half, with Schneider taking charge of the final 45 minutes in the 1-1 result.

McClure, who plays professionally in Ireland, was beaten in the 25th minute by South Africa's Linda Motlhalo, but could hardly be faulted for the goal as her defenders blundered near the edge and gave away possession in a dangerous position.

Schneider, gangly and agile, had to pull off a couple of beauties to keep the balance in the scoreline and Khadija Shaw's 57th-minute five-star effort relevant.

Twice the UNC Wilmington goalie had to react quickly to make top-shelf saves, preventing the marauding Banyana Banyana from clinching victory they so hungrily sought.

“With Nicole, who started the game, she had safe hands throughout, but was a bit unfortunate to concede the goal.

“And then Syd (Sydney) comes in and doesn't miss a beat, and to think she has not played since the Panama game when she was replaced by Nicole in the shoot-out, and she came into a very hostile environment and did well,” said Busby, in a cursory assessment of his charges in Sunday's match at a rocking Moses Mabhida Stadium.

McClure, 29, is best remembered for her two saves in a penalty shoot-out of the third-place play-off match against Panama in the Concacaf Women's Championship in Texas last October.

The Girlz won the penalty lottery 4-2, after a 2-2 regulation and extra time tie, to historically book their spot to the Fifa Women's World Cup slated for France, where they will join other Concacaf teams, USA and Canada.

In the camp portion of the trip to faraway South Africa, Busby gave the exercise a passing grade, but offered that time didn't allow for achieving the proverbial perfect 10.

“Overall it's been good in a hard week of camp, but we were not able to do as much as we would have liked due the travels… I have spoken to them (McClure and Schneider) just today (Monday) what the next steps are as we get together for our next camp.

“Here in South Africa we focused on footwork, the angles, a little bit of explosion work, positioning and handling,” noted the Canadian-based coach.

While McClure and Schneider clearly boast their own styles, Busby enforced that by saying: “They both have different qualities that they bring to the table.

“They are good pros who sometimes beat themselves up when they don't play well… but that comes with the position as it is a perfectionist position because they are very critical of themselves,” reasoned Busby, who had a short stint as a Reggae Boyz goalkeeper.

Busby, 49, agrees McClure and 19-year-old Schneider both bring a high-level of athleticism to the position, but in their own unique way.

“I think they are very athletic in different ways, as obviously Nicole is not that tall, but she is very athletic. Sydney, on the other hand, is athletic and her strengths allow her to get to things because of her range.

“But what they have in common more than anything else is that they are keepers who are tremendous shot stoppers,” he noted.

Busby, who coached the women's game in top franchises in North America, says while the Jamaican 'keepers have got many aspects of their game right, there is still room for improvement.

“I want to see them being able to be a bit more commanding and being able to organise a bit more... we also talked about communicating in situations like the atmosphere last night (Sunday) with 25,000-plus in the stadium, and that was good because it's that kind of environment that we will face in France against Brazil.

“So we have to work on how we relay information during those situations as communication is so important, so we have to work on how and what moments of a game we relay that information, not by the goalkeepers and the defenders, but to other players as well,” noted Busby.

He stated that McClure and Schneider have mastered another important skill in goalkeeping, and that is to lead the team from the back, the accepted irony that makes logical sense in football.

“I think they are both vocal, but they have different ways of communicating, but being vocal as a goalkeeper is a requirement, it comes with the territory, and if we didn't believe either was able to do that, then we wouldn't play them,” he said.

Regarding the proficient use of the feet, an invaluable asset to possess in the world of modern-day goalkeepers, Busby thinks his charges are on cue.

“I think both are good with both feet, but the difference is sometimes it's about the decision making and what to do with that ball, but what they have been told is that while they are good with their feet, they need to be better, so yes they both need to improve that,” he noted.

“But they have both accepted that is an area they need to improve and they know that it's a requirement at the level we want them to play.”

Busby, who had a stint at Seattle Sounders Women, says now that the goalkeepers have broken national camp, they will return to club and school to keep their form going until they come back for a camp and match against Panama in Kingston on May 19.

“Sydney will go back to her school and she is going to go back to her college programme. I think she has another 10 days or so, and right after that she is going to report right back to us.

“Nicole is back to her professional club in Ireland to play and I think that is going to suit her,” Busby concluded.

Jamaica's Reggae Girlz will contest Group C of the Fifa Women's World Cup against Brazil, Italy and Australia in the June 7 to July 7, showpiece.

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