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Jamaica’s Gold Cup run shows improvement of Caribbean teams

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While some American soccer pundits and fans were quick to write-off Jamaica as a CONCACAF “minnow” that should have been easily dispatched by the US in the Gold Cup semifinals, the reality about this new version of the Reggae Boyz is actually quite different.

Jamaica boasts nine players featuring in English football, most of whom play regularly, as well as eight MLS players plus Lance Laing, arguably the best player in NASL over the course of the five season existence of that league. The Jamaican side has a pedigree and quality that has eluded many pundits in the region who don’t watch the English game regularly or are simply accustomed to seeing epic failures from Caribbean-based national teams.

Jamaica’s best defender is Wes Morgan, captain of Premier League side Leicester City. The Foxes completed a “great escape” from the relegation zone with Morgan helping to lock down a defense that was among the best the last two months of the English top flight season.

Boasting an experienced international manager in Winfried Schäfer, the lack of discipline and organization that tended to characterize Jamaican sides of the past are gone. In its place is a well-drilled and cohesive unit. A side that plays with tempo but keeps its shape well. After losing three close games in a tough Copa America group, the Reggae Boyz have ripped through the Gold Cup, winning four successive matches including a first ever win for the nation against the US on American soil.

Caribbean soccer in general has seen improvement in recent years. Haiti has benefited from a number of players toiling in the lower division of North American soccer as well as playing in Ligue Un and in Belgium’s top flight. Trinidad and Tobago has improved thanks to the management skill of Stephen Hart whose good work with Canada was ended abruptly when he was sacked in 2012.

The growing professionalism of players from the Caribbean and the willingness of English-born players to represent sides of their ancestry is transforming the competitiveness of CONCACAF. Haiti surprised many in the Gold Cup with their aggressive and disciplined play. Trinidad and Tobago won a difficult group that included perennial power Mexico. Jamaica, as noted above, has advanced to the tournament final.

Ultimately a more competitive Caribbean is a good thing for CONCACAF. In a region that has suffered from a lack of professionalism in the past and a certain degree of open corruption, the feel good story of these nations highlighted by Jamaica’s run to the Gold Cup final has helped the image of the region.

Today’s Gold Cup Final is being played under a cloud of controversy – one created by the growing FIFA scandal much of which revolves around CONCACAF officials, and one that has been exacerbated by Mexico’s road to the final that has included numerous questionable calls that have decided games.

With this in mind, most neutrals are hoping for a Jamaica victory in the final. But only for the good of the nation and the feel good aspect of the story, but to maintain the appearance of integrity in the tournament.

 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Ivan

    July 26, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    It’s kinda ironic that Caribbean players and their respective national teams have benefitted from playing in the US soccer pyramid- MLS, NASL, USL.

    What has surprised at this Gold Cup is the abject failure of traditionally solid Central American teams such as Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras.

    For the neutral, Panama should have been in today’s final, and every neutral, including myself, will be pulling for Jamaica tonight.

  2. NaBUru38

    July 26, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    The Caribbean should do like Southern rugby union. Four months should be a franchise conompetition (one ir two per country) and four months should be a club competition. Players who miss the franchise teams would play a thurd level championship with youth players. This would increase the competitivity and marketability.

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