Sun | Nov 19, 2017

Boyz hunt second Gold Cup win

Published:Sunday | July 16, 2017 | 12:00 AMNodley Wright
Jamaica forward Cory Burke (left) pursues the ball with Mexico midfielder Jesus Gallardo during the first half of their CONCACAF Gold Cup match last Thursday. The game ended 0-0.

Having laboured to a 0-0 draw and a valuable point in their last group game against defending champions and group leaders Mexico on Thursday, the Reggae Boyz will enter today's game against El Salvador in the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup with the knowledge that they have already secured a spot in the last eight.

Martinique's loss to Panama yesterday means Jamaica will secure, at least, third spot. The winners and runners-up and the two best third-place teams from the three Gold Cup groups will advance to the quarter-finals. Game time today is 5 p.m. at the Alamodome Stadium in San Antonio.

Today's opponents are Central American team El Salvador, who currently sit third in the group on three points, one behind Jamaica and Mexico, who lead the group by virtue of scoring more goals. Curacao sit at the bottom without a point.

EL SALVADOR NEEDS DRAW

El Salvador will also have their eyes on the last eight, and a draw today will be enough to see them through ahead of Martinique.

On the face of it, Jamaica are favoured to get the better of El Salvador, but it will require a much-improved performance and a change of approach to do so. In their opening game, they owed their win to the brilliance of captain and goalkeeper Andre Blake, and two beautiful strikes from Romario Williams and Darren Mattocks, respectively.

Other than that, the team has not distinguished itself, despite Damion Lowe growing into his role as central defensive partner to veteran Jermaine Taylor. O'Niel Fisher has looked consistent, but not great, while Mattocks and Cory Burke look ambitious and hungry, but lack service and opportunity.

El Salvador, for their part, have played without inhibition despite losing to Mexico in their opening game. They replied almost immediately to Mexico's opening goal through Nelson Bonilla, who, along with strike partner Rodolfo Zelaya, have been very effective for their team. A big part of El Salvador's loss to Mexico was the suspect keeping of Benji Villalobos, who was replaced by Derby Carillo in their second game. Carillo immediately showed his worth by saving a penalty against Curacao to keep a clean sheet.

Of the Salvadorian players, Zelaya is the most dangerous. He has two assists and scored once in the three goals registered by El Salvador. Jamaica will have to pay a lot of attention to him.

Jamaica's squad: Andre Blake, Damion Hyatt. Dwayne Miller, Ladale Richie, Sergio Campbell, Damion Lowe, Kemar Lawrence, Shaun Francis, Oniel Fisher, Rosario Harriott, Jermaine Johnson, Shamar Nicholson, Je-Vaughn Watson, Alvas Powell, Darren Mattocks, Cory Burke, Ricardo Morris, Ewan Grandison, Michael Binns, Owayne Gordon, Jermaine Taylor, Kevon Lambert and Romario Williams.