FRISCO, Texas – What went wrong for Theodore Whitmore?
"Results" are the obvious answer. The now-former Jamaican national team manager was flying high in 2012, guiding his team to second place in their third-round qualifying group, including a memorable win over the US.
But 2013 has been much less kind, with the Reggae Boyz dead last, winless and – now – coachless in the Hexagonal.
The biggest and most obvious change from one year to the next was the personnel. Whitmore's success came with a largely MLS-based roster in the previous round of World Cup qualifying, but after a poor showing in December's Digicel Caribbean Cup, he reached across the pond for much of his current group.
Players born and raised in Europe but of Jamaican descent like Jermaine Beckford, Jobi McAnuff and Marvin Elliott – to name just three – claimed starting roles. The dual national-centric group started well with a scoreless draw at the Estadio Azteca vs. Mexico to open the round, but was not able to continue that success. They claimed just two points out of the 18 on the table, and have scored just twice.
“It was always going to be tough when you have a unit that’s worked together for so long, where we were kind of like 'this is the group we’re going to work with,'” Houston's Omar Cummings, long a mainstay of the Jamaican squad, said. “Obviously some guys from over in Europe were called in and that’s always going to be tough to get that chemistry right away. I think the first game against Mexico was surprisingly good and we wanted to get better from there.
“I don’t know if we lost focus or what happened but it seemed to take a little bit of a nose dive.”
Would a cohesive MLS-based group have avoided the nose dive and actually thrive as they'd done in the third round? Whitmore may be asking himself that question on his way out, but we will never know the answer for certain.
“A coach’s tenure depends on the results, which have not been good,” JFF president Captain Horace Burrell said in a report in The Voice. “I have, without any reservation, accepted coach Whitmore’s resignation.”
A replacement has yet to be announced, but the successor will have the unenviable task of trying trying to coax four straight wins out of a demoralized and dispirited squad. And even that might not be enough to punch Jamaica's ticket to the World Cup in Brazil.
What a difference a year – and a roster – makes.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.