Kingston, Jamaica - On the eve of the kick-off to the Concacaf Nations League (CNL) qualifying tournament, Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz are happy with the progress as they change gears in their preparation regime.
Team manager Roy Simpson says that a broad-based program, involving practice matches against local opposition across the island, gym sessions, strict medic, and nutrition protocol, is being executed starting back on July 9 and will continue until the opening CNL match against the Cayman Islands on September 9, inside Kingston’s National Stadium.
Also, the country is hoping to test its readiness in two away international friendly assignments against Grenada on August 17 and Barbados three days later.
These games claim Simpson, are crucial in the effort to get a measure on the competitive readiness of the players as the CNL dawns.
“We had the players in camps in and out as you know it’s the clubs’ pre-season, so what we wanted to do is to get them back to their competitive best, so what we did was to play some games against Under-23 teams from the respective zones in the country.
“But I think the attitude and the responses from the players have been excellent in what we have been trying to do, and we have incorporated some new ways in how we approach the process. For example, instead of taking them to the pool after a game, what we did is to take them to the gym as a part of recovery as we try to get the aerobics up and they have responded well with what we are trying to,” Simpson told concacaf.com.
The senior Boyz team manager said the two warm-up matches against Grenada and Barbados would serve the preparation process well.
“With regards to the two games that we will be playing in the Eastern Caribbean, I believe that every game we play against our Caribbean counterparts is good.
“As you know, our players in the MLS tournament and those in Europe."
"If we decide to go that far, would be in pre-season, so they would be in good nick´´ So what we want to do is give the local players who will be part of the final squad a chance to continue building on their competitive conditioning and we believe these two games against our Caribbean counterparts will be a good test for them as they try to make the final squad going into the Nations League in September.
That aside, Simpson believes that Jamaica’s status as the top Caribbean team makes it a target for other regional outfits wanting to make an impression, therefore, these matches could provide the valuable test in the preparation phase.
“We are the number one team, the best in the Caribbean, so everybody who plays against us wants to do well, and they always bring their ‘A’ game, and that kind of desire from them will push us to stay on top of our game, so these matches are often beneficial on more than one front,” Simpson argued.
The 24-man squad of local-based players, the team manager, disclosed, will eventually be shaved down to include overseas-based professionals for the opening game against Cayman, but reminded that all players remain part of the “process” going forward.
“Some local players will be in the squad, but as you know, every time we go on the pitch we want our best possible team, and we want to bring our ‘A’ game every time.
“This is all a process, and as you know the Nations League is structured in such a way that we have a number of games where we play in September, we play in October, in November and in 2019, so once we get into the top tier after the qualifiers, other players will get their chance to exhibit their stuff, so if players don’t make the squad for the first game there will be other games as it’s a continuous process and eventually other players will be called upon,” Simpson noted.
The Boyz manager made it clear that head coach Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore has impressed upon him that the first goal is to qualify for League A of the CNL as that would guarantee top-class opposition and would set the team on the solid ground for qualification to the Concacaf Gold Cup, the confederation’s marquee international tournament.
“This qualifying stage of the Nations League is critical because if we do not do well, we will not make the top tier…as you know the six teams that contested the Hexagonal of the last World Cup qualifiers have been automatically seeded in League A, and that is where we want to be where we can get those big games, and that is why we are not taking these qualifying games lightly, and we will be taking all our opponents – Cayman, Bonaire, Suriname and El Salvador – seriously because we want to be in the top tier at the end of the qualifiers,” Simpson said.
Following the Cayman Islands fixture, Jamaica - the Caribbean number one team on the new Concacaf ranking index - will fly to Bonaire for a meeting with the tiny island on October 14, and are home to Suriname on November 17.
Jamaica will close out the Nations League qualifying play-offs with an away meeting with Central American outfit El Salvador on March 23, 2019.
Following the qualifying rounds, teams will be placed in Leagues A, B, and C of the three-tier Concacaf Nations League.
The Concacaf Nations League embraces a promotion and demotion system and will serve to seed teams and serve, importantly, as a qualifying platform for the expanded Gold Cup, which will have for the first time 16 teams for 2019 edition.
Jamaica training squad:
Amal Knight (UWI FC), Fabion McCarthy (UWI FC), Damion Hyatt (Arnett Gardens FC), Fabian Reid (Arnett Gardens FC), Ladale Richie (Montego Bay United), Javain Brown (Harbour View FC), Peter Lee Vassell (Harbour View FC), Deshane Beckford (Harbour View FC), Ajeanie Talbott (Harbour View FC) Ricardo Thomas (Waterhouse FC), Kaheem Parris (Cavalier SC), Chevone Marsh (Cavalier SC), Alex Marshall (Cavalier SC), Clifton Woodbine (Cavalier SC), Jeadine White (Cavalier SC), Jamiel Hardware (Boys’ Town FC), Tevin Shaw (Tivoli Gardens FC), Damano Solomon (Portmore United), Ricardo Morris (Portmore United), Jovan East (Portmore United), Maalique Foster (Portmore United), KeVaughn Isaac (Humble Lion), Dennis Taylor (Reno FC), DuWayne Kerr (Unattached).