MIAMI, Fla. (Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2004) - Just before departing for Kingston, Jamaica, U.S. Men's National Team assistant coach Curt Onalfo took some time to write a scouting report on Jamaica ahead of Wednesday night's World Cup Qualifying Match. The first game of semifinal round qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup for the U.S. will come live from the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica on Wednesday, Aug. 18 at 7 p.m. ET live on ESPN2 or ussoccer.com's MatchTracker.
It’s important to start out on the right foot. While three of the first four games in the semifinal round are on the road, we are focusing on one game at a time. We have scouted Jamaica’s last five games in person, so we feel very comfortable that we are familiar with our opponent and know exactly what it will take to walk away with three points on Wednesday night.
One of the intriguing elements to this game is the fact that they have a new coach, and this is his first game. The Jamaican players will have extra incentive to impress their new boss and solidify a place in the team for the remainder of qualifying.
We’ve all seen the Reggae Boyz in action, and know what type of characteristics they bring to the field. As a team, they are very tall, and gifted both technically and athletically. As a result of their height and athleticism, they are very dangerous on attacking restarts, whether it is corners of free kicks. We will need to be conscious about not giving away unnecessary many fouls around the box, and when faced with these situations we must be very alert and solid in our marking.Clearly the strength of their team is their attacking players. Marlon King, who plays for Nottingham Forest in the English Championship League, has been a prolific scorer at the international level. In their two-leg second round qualifying series against Haiti, King scored all four of Jamaica’s goals. While not possessing great speed, he has a knack for getting in the right positions in front of the goal. Damani Ralph, who is an option to be King’s partner up top, is a constant threat because of his pace and ability to get behind defenses. Extremely strong, he’s excellent with his back to the goal and has a lethal shot from distance with either foot. Ricardo Fuller, a teammate of Eddie Lewis at Preston North End, is another big target forward. He, too, is a threat to get behind you because of his speed, and he loves to take players on one-v-one. While not 100 percent healthy since recovering from a knee injury, he is still a viable candidate.
Theodore Whitmore, Jamaica’s team captain and their all-time leader in World Cup qualifying appearances, leads the midfield. He brings a calmness and leadership quality that no other Jamaican player possesses. Whitmore is very good on the dribble, and a good passer of the ball. Chicago Fire midfielder Andy Williams is their best passer. Much of their attack will run through him, so we will need to limit his space and time on the ball in order to limit his impact of the game.
Minding the goal for the Reggae Boyz is Donovan Ricketts, who stands at 6’5” and weighs 200 pounds. Quite simply, he’s huge. Ricketts is a good shot-blocker, and can send his punts and goal kicks deep almost into our penalty area. Despite his size, he looks uncomfortable at times dealing with crosses.
There’s no question that Jamaica is a tough place to get a result. While we have never lost there in qualifying, we’ve also never won, and our guys are looking forward to the challenge. We have brought a team that is highly experienced and is accustomed to playing games of this magnitude. Our goal is to walk away from Jamaica with three points.