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Scouting Report: Curt Onalfo Breaks Down Jamaica

Curt Onalfo Scouting Report
USA vs. Jamaica
Nov. 17, 2004 – Columbus, Ohio

Here we go again. I said last time that it’s often the case in qualifying that you face an opponent with their backs against the wall, and there’s no question Jamaica is firmly up against it. The Reggae Boyz are ahead on points in the three-team race for a ticket to the final round, but a loss would send the Jamaicans back to the drawing board for 2010.  With the pride of a nation at stake, they are going to come out swinging.

Jamaica started the round with a new coach and a new energy, as we all saw on Aug. 18 in Kingston. They were certainly aggressive that day, and nearly opened group play with three points except for the efforts of our team’s favorite Hawaiian! From there, they have been very inconsistent, losing crucial points at home. With only two points from three games at “The Office,” Jamaica has made it extremely hard on themselves and have forced a must-win situation in Columbus.

Still, when we talk about Jamaica, we always look at the danger they present in the attack. Up front they have exceptional individual attacking players. You can expect Ricardo Fuller (Portsmouth) and Damani Ralph (Chicago Fire) to be taking on our defenders one v. one at every opportunity. Marlon King, who plays at Nottingham Forest, is their leading scorer with five goals and has a knack for being at the right place at the right time.

In the midfield, team captain Theodore Whitmore brings a calming influence to the Reggae Boyz because of his experience and excellent skill on the ball. Look to see much of the attack go through Whitmore, and our team will need to be especially alert for his runs into the box. A late addition to Jamaica is midfielder Jason Euell, who could be making his first-ever appearance in international play. For several years he has been a regular for Charlton Athletic, and is a proven goalscorer with a tireless workrate on both sides of the ball. He certainly adds another attacking element in the center of the park.

In the back, Jamaica will be without one of their most experienced central defenders in Claude Davis, who is suspended through yellow cards. Likely replacements include Los Angeles Galaxy defender Tyrone Marshall or Damion Stewart. Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts has recovered from his injury and will likely plant his imposing 6’4” frame in the goal. Not only an excellent shot-blocker, his distribution on punts and goal kicks are often the catalyst for quality counterattacks.

Make no mistakes about it: we have brought a team to Columbus intent on getting three points. While the business of advancing to the next round is done, we certainly wouldn’t mind skipping a trip to Kingston next year. The match against Jamaica is going to be a dogfight, and it’s going to be a great challenge for some of our younger players to step up and take advantage of the opportunity. Crew Stadium has been a great home for the U.S. National Team - we’ve got three wins and two ties in five total games – and we intend to keep the streak alive on Wednesday night.