Jamaica's 2-0 win against Honduras breathes life into World Cup qualifying campaignFriday, October 15, 2021
BY IAN BURNETT
San Pedro Sula is ranked as the 15th most murderous city in the world but on Wednesday night it was Theodore Whitmore and his band of Reggae Boyz who stole the spoils of victory at the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano.
Kemar Roofe, with a first-half strike, his first goal for the Reggae Boyz in only his fourth appearance, and Oniel Fisher's second-half effort proved enough for the Jamaicans, who had entered the game in last place in the eight-team points standings.
But it could have been a different final result had Whitmore and his technical staff not quickly adjusted his team after the desperate, aggressive hosts got off to a flying start.
The Jamaicans started with a 3-5-2 formation, a system they thought was best suited to combat the Hondurans based on scouting reports. However, for the first quarter of an hour the home side had control and threatened to breach the Jamaican defence, which triggered a change.
The technical staff switched veteran midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson from midfield to centre half to join Damion Lowe, as well as Kemar Lawrence and Adrian Mariappa.
That adjustment gave the Boyz a better foothold in the game and from then on they pushed the home side back on their heels while creating a number of opportunities.
Whitmore was not surprised that move paid dividends.
“We knew what the Hondurans would have done,” asserted Whitmore. “They are at home, their backs are against the wall like us, so we knew they would have left areas we could have exploited, which did the job for us.”
He added: “It was a tactical change, nothing new, we spoke about it in training and we practised it yesterday [Tuesday at the lone obligatory training session at the match venue] and in team meetings we discussed it. We started out with a 3-5-2 formation with the intention that we could play Je-Vaughn Watson at a central defensive position and bring back Devon Williams with Kemar Roofe right in that hole [area behind the striker] and it paid dividends for us this afternoon.”
Immediately after the switch, Junior Flemmings set Roofe on his way towards goal but his shot took a deflection and lobbed into the grateful arms of goalkeeper Luis Lopez.
The Boyz then countered with Flemmings, the recipient of a good tackle from Lowe, which gifted him possession on the left side. And, with three attackers racing forward he unleashed a powerful shot which was blocked behind for a corner by Lopez.
From the resulting corner Williams also had a pop shot at Lopez, who became a busy man.
As the Boyz built on their dominance on the half hour mark, the ball was moved from right to left, beautifully, where Lawrence and Flemmings combined neatly to penetrate into Roofe who played a give-and-go with the former Jamaica College winger inside the penalty box. Flemmings cleared another player as he cut further inside the area before unleashing a thunderbolt which was blocked again by Lopez.
When the lead came on 38 minutes it was just reward for their efforts. In a scenario similar to Flemmings earlier, Shamar Nicholson drifted inside the penalty box from the left and shot powerfully goalwards only for Roofe to stick out a right boot to redirect the ball into the goal.
Like they did in the first half, the Reggae Boyz were again slowly out the blocks in the second half and Honduras tried to capitalise by pouring players forward.
They created some anxious moments for Andre Blake and his team, but appeared to lack the requisite quality on the night.
Whitmore replaced Roofe with Bobby Reid but that did not stop the swing of the game until he made a double substitution by introducing Andre Gray and Javain Brown for Flemmings and Nicholson. Fisher was also reassigned in the shake-up.
Within three minutes, Brown and Reid combined to pick out Gray, who served Fisher to power a right-footer into the far corner of the goal and make the game safe for his team.
“Personally I think we executed properly today,” admitted Whitmore. “I think we played a decent game in the first half. The second half I think we dropped back a little bit too deep and that caused us a bit of hiccups. It's a game where the guys were well deserving of something [positive] and I think one of the key areas for us tonight was not conceding. I think we fought, and it showed from the last game against Canada and we built on that coming into this game.”
Whitmore also added that the Boyz lost the middle in the second half as the wide players never came infield to close spaces, hence the Hondurans had a lot of room to dictate play.
“We pulled out Shamar and we brought in Javain Brown and used Oniel Fisher to stabilise the midfield and we brought in Javon East and, again, even when you have a downsize in squad you have people who are committed, who want to work and we saw just that today.”
The coach admitted that he's building a group of players who want to play and give of their best at all times.
“Everybody wants to play, everybody's looking over his shoulder so everybody went on the pitch today to do a job for us. I think it is a step in the right direction,” Whitmore said.
Teams P W D L Gf Ga Gd Pts
Mexico 6 4 2 0 10 3 7 14
USA 6 3 2 1 9 4 5 11
Canada 6 2 4 0 10 4 6 10
Panama 6 2 2 2 6 6 0 8
Costa Rica 6 1 3 2 4 5 -1 6
Jamaica 6 1 2 3 4 8 -4 5
El Salvador 6 1 2 3 2 7 -5 5
Honduras 6 0 3 3 2 10 -8 3
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