Loc: Smyrna, GA, USA
After watching the El Salvador game highlights and speaking to Khari Stevenson about the El Salvador match to gain some insight this is my summary of where the Senior ReggaeBoyz stand at the moment. They won a good game in El Salvador on Tuesday night. Despite all the travel issues and the loss to Venezuela a few days earlier they went into a hostile environment and won against a very strong El Salvador team. Now we are ranked higher than El Salvador, so we were supposed to win this game and we did. So basically we did what we were "supposed to do." But as many of you know in real life this is usually easier said than done.
The first El Salavdor goal against us, right before half time was a clear defensive lapse that I can assure you won't happen when we have our strongest and most prepared team for the Gold Cup. Our goalkeeper saved a penalty BUT he also let go of the ball that caused the 2nd goal. Again I don't envision that happening at the Gold Cup when its win or go home and we are in full concentration mode. However we still have issues creating attacks from the defensive to the forward line. The defense is stll kicking long balls, bypassing the midfield and if not for the individual skill and brilliance of Dane Richards and Omar Cummings we have have no goals to show for our efforts on Tuesday night. The attacks are not fluid, there is no confidence in the midfield players. We have solid holding midfielder to keep possession and clear up midfield issues. This will continue to be our biggest weakness. The issue is that we have no ball possession ability. We simply just give away the ball all the time and we'll get caught on counter attacks if we keep doing this.
Look for Tappa for sure to have Fuller, Ryan Johnson and Shelton on the Gold Cup team. Don't be surprised to see left sided midfielder Shaun Francis in the squad. Don't be surprised to see Bibi Gardner if he keeps up his form and playing time at Preston North End, recalled the squad. We need our most experienced defensive team on the field. This means Shavar Thomas, Jermaine Taylor (if healthy) but NONE of the others that featured vs Venezuela and El Salvador. If Ryan Johnson or Shaun Francis starts on the left side of midfield with Dane Richards on the right with Fuller, Shelton and Cummings up front and Shavar, Taylor (if he's available) and one other good defender in the back we'll be ok. With this lineup we would have strength on the field and we'll have strength on the bench.
Our depth will important at the Gold Cup. Why? We'll be one of the few teams capable of playing our strongest team against Grenada and Guatemala to kick off the Gold Cup. We should win those two games with a strong performance from our strongest starting 11. But in the 3rd game against Honduras we might be able to rest certain players. We have so much in attack and midfield that we might be able to rest certain players for 3rd Gold Cup Game against Honduras. Why is this important? If we rest some of our best players in the 3rd game we can against start our strongest and RESTED team again in the quarter-finals, a match that again we should win if we have our BEST starting team and they give their strongest performance. In my humble opinion only the USA and Mexico will have this kind of depth. No doubt after spending time in Brazil Tappa knows that player management in a tournament format is important.
Now that we see that Venezuela drew 1-1 with Mexico in Mexico, our loss to Venezuela was no fluke. We gave a poor performance, with not our strongest team against a good Venenzuela team. This loss will no doubt quell the overconfidence of the ReggaeBoyz team that won consistenly at the Digicel Cup. They had not played together as a group in a while but they needed to be brought back to earth. Honestly a good test prior to the Gold Cup would be a rematch against Venezuela in the USA prior to the Gold Cup with our strongest team. They owe us one! The USA is playing a friendly match 2 days prior to the start of the Gold Cup. If we could pull off a similar arrangement 4 days prior to the start of the Gold Cup in California where we'll play our first Gold Cup game, that would be ideal.
But overall we are on the right track. We need the players I mentioned above and we need to work on distribution from defense to midfield and midfield to forward line. We are depending way too much on the individual talents of our forwards to score goals. That will still come into play, its an advantage we have over every other Gold Cup team. However this form of atttack shouldn't be our one and only strategy. This will come back to bite us in the rear!
I think we squeezed that one against el Salvador which we all knew from the get go was a weaker opponent than Venezuela. Hopefully Tapparino is done with his experiment and we will be able to see a strong team in the next warm up game. The guys played a decent game under extreme pressure playing away. But it's quite obvious we have a serious issue on our defensive department. They are not playing like a unit. But hopefully it will be worked out once tappa calls up Claude Davis, and shaun Francis supported by Taylor and mr thomas.
One of the most if not the most skillful, speedy, talented kid at the current U20 concacaf tournament is an 18 year old american kid of Haitian heritage (No.7) named Joseph-Claude Gyau. He was signed by Bundesliga 1, Hoffenheim from the previous US under 17 squad. His dad played for the Haitian national team back in the days. He scored the 2nd goal against Suriname last night. Speed, craftiness, trick plays, and dribbling skills to dazzle ones eyes. I watched him run rings around the Brazil national U17 squad only to then get the big hook from the coach, Wilmer Cabrera. He was messing up the shape and formation of the game. Team work means everything guys.