WASHINGTON — The statistics that sum up Jamaica’s soccer histoy with the United States are a daunting reading for the Caribbean side: 17 meetings, nine losses, eight draws and not a single victory.
Little surprise, then, that the Reggae Boyz aren’t dwelling on numbers ahead of their Gold Cup quarterfinal clash with the Yanks at RFK Stadium on Sunday afternoon (3 pm ET, Fox Soccer).
“Sometimes history can be re-written,” said Jamaica and Sporting Kansas City defender Shavar Thomas, cracking a smile when the rivalry’s all-time record was mentioned to him following his team’s Saturday practice under a blazing sun at RFK, their final workout before the quarterfinal. “You know what? We’re not even looking at 17 and thinking about that. We’re focusing on us. We know that we are up against a good team tomorrow, and we’re ready for the challenge.”
Jamaica’s players and staff sounded relaxed and confident after their afternoon session, readily acknowledging the United States’ traditional ascendancy yet buoyed by their own impressive form in this year’s Gold Cup. The team rolled up three consecutive victories en route to the top spot in Group B and has yet to allow a goal.
“We know the historical record, but it’s just made to be broken and rewrote,” said assistant coach Warren Barrett, who, like his boss Theodore Whitmore, is a former Reggae Boyz standout now leading the current generation of Jamaican internationals. “The guys are playing well, and when you play well, that tends to exude a lot of confidence throughout the camp. The coaching staff, the management staff and the players are pretty confident, we are pretty optimistic.
“You can smell it in the air around the team camp — a lot of positivity. So we have to take that into the game tomorrow.”
For his part, US head coach Bob Bradley praised the new-look Jamaica in his remarks to the media at RFK, noting the discipline which has been added to a squad always known for pace and athleticism.
“They’ve played well. They have some talented players and obviously, great speed: Luton Shelton, Dane Richards, [Demar] Phillips, others,” said Bradley. “And I think they’ve done a good job just in terms of being organized, the way they play the ball out of the back, their movement.
“They have a good group of players — I think the pieces fit really well together and as a result, they did really well in the first round and now this becomes an excellent quarterfinal match.”
Bradley’s side has yet to produce their best soccer in a tournament they typically dominate, prompting some frustration and second-guessing among US fans and media. But the Jamaicans are not about to take their bigger neighbors lightly, regardless of recent results.
“They are one of the top teams in the region and in the world, so they’ll always pose problems,” said Barrett. “They are at home – as much as it’s a tournament for the entire region, they’re at home, so that also is a factor. But when it comes to play time, it will be 11-vs.-11 and we just have to take our opportunities when they come.”
Glancing up at RFK’s steep, sweeping stands, Barrett recalled the Reggae Boyz’s last competitive visit to the venerable old stadium, a creditable draw against the US in World Cup qualifying before a packed house some 14 years ago.
“I have fond memories here,” he said. “I played here in 1997 when we tied 1-1, so hopefully we can leave with fond memories as well on Monday.”