Players from Jamaica (pictured) celebrate after the defeating the United States in a 2015 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship match on March 11, 2015, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. (Photo: Mexsport
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras – Prior to its 1-0 win on Wednesday, Jamaica had defeated the United States only once in five previous CONCACAF Under-17 Championship meetings. If the Reggae Boyz want to qualify for the next FIFA U-17 World Cup, they’ll have to repeat the feat Sunday at the Estadio Francisco Morazan.
With two of the Confederation’s four tickets to Chile 2015 already claimed by Honduras and Mexico, the winners of a pair of single-game playoffs will determine the other representatives. Canada and Costa Rica will battle for the other spot.
Jamaica head coach Andrew Edwards appreciated the significance of beating the U.S., but realized the job is not yet complete.
“The USA is a very good team,” said the 39-year-old, whose squad finished as runner-up to Haiti in the 2014 Caribbean Under-17 Championship. “It is not a team that Jamaica has had many victories against, so this is a very sweet one for us.
“It’s a tournament and you have to get stronger as a tournament progresses. That was part of our plan coming here to Honduras. Fortunately, it has worked very well for us. We have 90 minutes or probably 120 minutes left to decide our fate and look forward to that with a great level of excitement and enthusiasm.”
One of the keys to Jamaica’s success has been its ability to outlast the opposition as the clock elapses. In its last four Group B outings, the Reggae Boyz went unbeaten with three wins and a draw, allowing only one goal in the second half during that stretch.
Being able to hold the U.S. at bay after the break was just as critical as Noah Nicholas’ game-winning penalty conversion in the 17th minute.
“We have not conceded many goals in the second half of games played in the tournament,” Edwards noted. “So once we got in nil at halftime, we were very confident that we would have gotten a positive result. We were able to hold on and carry across the line.”
“This [the U.S.] is not a team we beat very often, so once we got our noses in front, it becomes a management situation for us and I thought the boys did extremely well.”
Edwards’ unit will be called upon to duplicate that performance against an American side looking to return to the U-17 World Cup after missing out for the first-ever time two years ago. Jamaica is targeting a third trip to the FIFA event, last qualifying in 2011.
“Hopefully, we can put on another very good performance,” Edwards finished.