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Reggae Boyz lack rhythm in Gold Cup stalemate

CHALLENGES: Reggae Boyz boss Theodore Whitmore

JAMAICA PICKED up a precious point against El Salvador on Friday (Jun 21) to remain top of their group in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

But there are underlying problems off the pitch, which probably accounted for their sluggish performance in the drab draw at BBVA Stadium in Houston.

In their third meeting on the bounce at Gold Cup tournaments, the scoreless stalemate was the result of a slow-paced midfield battle.

However, goals were never going to be coming thick and fast following their previous cagey contests.

Jamaica's Reggae Boyz, having defeated Honduras on home turf last Monday, had expected to show some swagger after snatching a third win in six outings.

But the Boyz, who were locked in monetary negotiations with Jamaica Football Federation authorities at the team hotel on Tuesday, upset the Honduras delegation as they were delayed at the airport by Jamaica's meeting over running.

Striker Dever Orgill, who bagged a brace against Honduras for his first international goals, and midfielder Leon Bailey were both given little room to turn on the style as they were marked men throughout this uninspiring encounter.

The forgettable first half didn't produce any goalmouth excitement whatsoever. And after the turnaround it remained a dreary affair until Jamaica head coach Theodore Whitmore intervened.

He yanked off the ineffective pair of Orgill and Brian Brown in a double substitution on 66 minutes. The introduction of Darren Mattocks and Shamar Nicholson added some pace and width to liven things up.

And with some fresh legs Jamaica seemed more likely to make the breakthrough, at the other end El Salvador star striker Nelson Bonilla was given no service and kept mute by the solid back four.

Shaun Francis came close to scoring with the game's first shot on target that came, astonishingly, in the 76th minute of a flat match. His thunderous 35-yarder forced keeper Henry Hernandez into action to parry the effort over the crossbar.
The Boyz were fortunate to finish the game with 10 men as Junior Flemmings picked up a yellow card for a hand to the face in the second half, and repeated the same offence 10 minutes later but escaped punishment and was simply spoken to by referee John Pitti.

The result, which avenged Jamaica's 2-0 Nations League defeat in March, keeps the Boyz top of Group C on goal difference ahead of El Salvador. Honduras cannot progress further following their shock 1-0 reversal to Curaçao.

And it is Curaçao who are Jamaica's next opponents on Tuesday, with the winner moving into the knockout stages.

But Jamaica, from this lacklustre display, appeared to have taken their eye off the ball. Their goal needs to be to focus on reaching a third successive Gold Cup final, and if money is paramount to the players they will surely realise that by winning the lucrative tournament will bring riches.

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