KINGSTON, Jamaica – Friday's World Cup qualifier against the US is not quite a “must-win,” according to Jamaica coach Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore, but the Reggae Boyz will undoubtedly have to take a more aggressive approach as their search for their first win of the Hexagonal stage intensifies.
“We have to do some changes going into the game tomorrow, that's one of the key points,” Whitmore told MLSsoccer.com after his team's evening training session at the National Stadium at Independence Park on Thursday, promising alterations in “both shape and personnel” from the starting 11 that lost 1-0 to Mexico here on Tuesday.
With two points from four Hex matches, the Reggae Boyz are in danger of losing sight of the group leaders, but “Tappa” declined to define three points against the Yanks as a requirement.
“We hope for a good result – I wouldn't say a must-win, but you hope for a good result,” he said of the game (9:30 pm ET, beIN Sport; Live Chat on MLSsoccer.com). “A win would be good.”
Jamaica kept pace with El Tri for the first 45 minutes but were undone by a couple of untimely defensive breakdowns just minutes into the second half. Yet while the hosts still came agonizingly close to leveling on several late set pieces – the taking of which seem to have been passed from Rodolph Austin to mercurial left-footed playmaker Jermaine Hue for tomorrow – sustained attacking possessions were hard to come by in the late going.
Portland Timbers forward Ryan Johnson often found himself isolated in his lone striker role at the head of Jamaica's 4-1-4-1 formation, prolonging his scoring drought in Reggae Boyz colors. And while Whitmore expressed his faith in the big target man, he also plans to provide him with some extra help.
“Ryan is here, and he'll be starting tomorrow,” said the former Jamaican international, who, while refusing to reveal the player by name, said he would start a second striker alongside Johnson “because we have to go for it this time.”
Vancouver Whitecaps standout Darren Mattocks came off the bench against Mexico – replacing Johnson – and is hopeful of being the man to partner with him on Friday.
“I'm in really good shape and I'm really looking forward to getting some playing time tomorrow, going out there and representing my country,” said the 22-year-old. “I wear the colors of Jamaica very proudly so hopefully I get a chance to show what I'm capable of doing.
“Who knows?” he said when asked whether he would start. “Who knows what the coaching staff has in their plans? I would love to. It doesn't really matter [to me] if we go with two strikers up front, as I said I just have to put myself in the best position to start tomorrow.”
Jamaica are presently stuck in the basement of the Hex standings and failure to garner at least a point against the US would effectively end their hopes of qualification from arguably the most competitive Hex ever.
“I think we are upbeat, and we are ready,” said Whitmore. “We know the situation, we now just have to go out there and give a good performance tomorrow.”