Veteran Sweatman says US series a boost to Girlz programmeThursday, May 13, 2021
BY SEAN A WILLIAMS
Reggae Girlz veteran Marlo Sweatman has welcomed with a broad grin and a sense of great possibility a friendly series in the USA next month.
The Jamaican senior women's team, ranked 51st by Fifa, will face world champion the USA and African flag bearers Nigeria as part of US Soccer 2021 Women's National Team (WNT) Summer Series presented by AT&T 5G.
Portugal will also participate in the four-team package, but Jamaica will not engage the Europeans.
On June 10, the Girlz will cross swords with 38th-ranked Nigeria, and three days later will do battle with world number one and hosts the USA.
Both games, which are scheduled for BBVA stadium in Houston, Texas, will follow strict COVID-19 protocols, it was stated at a virtual press announcement staged by governing Jamaica Football Federation last week.
The series marks a return to action for the Girlz since their Concacaf Olympic Games qualifiers last February.
“It is very important for us to be back — to start training together again, building the on and off field connection and also to welcome and start training with potential new players of the team,” Sweatman told the Jamaica Observer from her home in Hungary.
The 26-year-old, who played an instrumental role in helping Jamaica to historic qualification to the 2019 France World Cup, argues that competing against high-quality opponents will go a far way in engendering the technical programme and will aid the further development of individuals.
“It is key for us to have matches to help us grow, but, more importantly, these are quality matches against top opponents.
“Matches like these will really test us and show us areas of improvement we can work on to become better and also show us things we are good at and to continue to fine tune for when the real competition starts,” said the midfielder.
Sweatman, who plays for topflight Hungarian women's outfit Szent Mihaly, notes that coming up against Concacaf and world giants the USA is a great opportunity to test the state of the team.
“This is great for us playing against the USA, which will be a real test and [a chance] to honestly reflect on where we are currently as a team. A lot of us have been off playing at high level clubs and we have some solid new players to the mix, so I think we can expect a great match,” she said.
The last time the USA and Jamaica met was in the Concacaf World Cup qualifiers for France 2019, with the might of the Americans evident in a 6-0 demolition.
In the case of Nigeria, an unfamiliar foe, Sweatman believes the Africans will bring their typical physical game.
“I think we can expect a battle, for us this will be a good opportunity to get our legs going and feel each other out on the field as we haven't played together in a while and this will prepare us for USA,” she said.
These matches, she reasons, will set the tone as the Girlz look to the World Cup qualification for Australia/New Zealand 2023.
“These games are very crucial. This is super important for us to work on playing as a team and growing together,” Sweatman said.
The Virginia native says she is confident that Jamaica will be a robust competitor for the next senior Women's World Cup qualification campaign, underpinning that position on the huge numbers of local and overseas bred players plying their trade professionally across the globe.
“It will help a lot [because] it's important we are all playing every day in a professional environment. Playing pro is where most people are doing in the days we are not together as a team and the environment you are using daily to prepare yourself for Jamaica camps and competition will determine how well we do.
“[Training] camps are great as far as working together as a team, but it's important what we are doing in the moments we are not together as a team and being in professional environments will make all of us players be ready to go when we arrive at camp to make best use of the time we have together,” she stated.
Sweatman, a cool-headed central midfielder and good reader of the game, says she is excited at the prospects of reprising her role in the next World Cup campaign as Jamaica seek the storybook repeat.
“Yes, I always look forward to being a great teammate on and off the field and to do my all to help the programme continue to grow,” she said.
Sweatman, who has had professional stints in Sweden and the Netherlands, thinks she has made quantum leaps in overall game following the fairytale of the France campaign.
“I have grown a lot as a player… in my team in Hungary I have been selected captain so that has pushed me to elevate my game, not only on the field, but off the field. It has pushed me to become a leader,” she noted.
Even though her role and influence in Szent Mihaly has grown, Sweatman will decide in short order on her future with the club.
“The season will end soon, and I will be making a decision in the next few weeks regarding where my future will take me,” she concluded.
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