Jamaica's run toward a potential first-ever CONCACAF Gold Cup title has been bittersweet for Tyrone Marshall.
Through two games, Marshall's squad is on four points and, more importantly, has already clinched a spot in the second round. But just how many more matches Marshall sees action in remains to be seen.
The Los Angeles Galaxy center back strained his left quadriceps muscle late in Jamaica's 3-3 draw with South Africa on Sunday. His best-case scenario with the injury, he said, was to miss the Mexico game and come back for Jamaica's quarterfinal match next weekend.
"I'm hoping that this injury is nothing serious," a fatigued Marshall said after the match. "I just have to be smart, put ice on it and hope for the rest."
A few years ago, Marshall suffered a similar injury but that time, he strained the muscle on a Monday and played for his team that Saturday, he said.
The damage was done with the match against South Africa even at 3-3. Marshall said he was chasing a loose ball, jumped and heard a pop. He was taken off the pitch on a stretcher.
"I don't know if it happened from playing so many games in such a short period of time," Marshall said. "That could have led to it. Before the game, all of us were complaining that our legs were really tight."
Still, the injury could not dampen the way the tournament has unfolded for the Reggae Boyz. Jamaica beat Guatemala 4-3 on Friday and came from behind three times in its tie on Sunday. Jamaica can win the group with a win against Mexico on Wednesday coupled with a favorable result in the South Africa-Guatemala match. Or Jamaica could finish third with a loss to Mexico and a South Africa draw.
The key will be the team's approach to their match against high-flying Mexico, Marshall said.
"We just have to go out against Mexico and give it a good effort, not going out there knowing that we qualified already but going out there to see if we could get a better seed in the next round," Marshall said.
But the way Jamaica has been playing, a high-scoring affair is in order. Marshall admitted the defense has lacked cohesiveness and togetherness but given the team's time together, defenders are having time to get adjusted and acquainted with each other.
"You could tell that we weren't organized as much in the back," Marshall said. "There's a lot of confusion. A lot of guys have not been playing with each other, not knowing each other, not knowing where to be. It showed (against South Africa). All we can do is to try and score more goals than our opponent."
Part of Jamaica's problem, Marshall said, is that Jamaica does not have the advantage of having played in World Cup qualifying this year. Jamaica failed to get past last year's semifinal phase. The United States and Panama advanced from that group to this year's hexagonal.
While other teams know each other well, Jamaica's does not; thus, the six goals conceded in two matches.
"You're not (pleased with that) but the thing is we haven't played together for a while," Marshall said. "It's an international tournament against teams that have been playing World Cup qualifiers and we haven't. We haven't been playing that many games do they definitely have the advantage in that sense."
Against Mexico, Jamaica will have problems keeping a neat and tidy defense. Mexico destroyed Guatemala. Against South Africa, Mexico created dozens of scoring chances but could not find the finishing touch.
"It's a young team but they're going to come out and try to score as many goals as they can to prove they're still the number one team in CONCACAF," Marshall said. "We know that. We just have to come out, play our game and try to get a result."
Depending on its finish, Jamaica could play either the U.S., Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama or Trinidad & Tobago. Of course, a match against the Soca Warriors would pique the Jamaican's interest.
"It's always good to play against our Caribbean rivals," Marshall said. "They're playing in World Cup qualifying ... and we don't want to take anything away from Trinidad but we might just have to show who the best team in the Caribbean is."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.