ATLANTA, Georgia: The last time Jamaica tackled the United States at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, they appeared primed for the battle, reeling off some good first round performances, including a 1-0 victory over Honduras at New York Red Bulls Stadium that was hailed as the country’s best display in decades. In the Honduras game there were seven changes to the Jamaica line-up, as the team had already qualified for the knockout stage and players were rested for various reasons. For the next match against the United States, in the quarter-finals, the same seven changes were made to the Jamaica team. They lost 2-0. On Wednesday, both countries will meet in the semi-finals of the Gold Cup and Je-Vaughn ‘Hacker’ Watson, one of the players who provided some star quality in a wonderful offensive display that night in New Jersey is very much at the heart of Jamaica’s team again and believes the time is ripe for a win “There’s no better chance to beat them than right now. We’ve a very good bunch of guys who are playing well both sides of the ball in attack and defence. We’ve to go out there and believe in ourselves and beat this team,” he said, after training on Tuesday at Emery University. “The US are a hard fighting team, they’re going to put their best foot forward, no matter what, they’re not going to give up, whether they’re down 2-0, 3-0, we’ve to be disciplined and make sure we come out victorious,” Watson explained. “Now I think the guys are more determined. We’ve a lot to prove as Jamaican players right now. You can see the difference, we’re not conceding goals like before. In the tournament we’ve played four games and we’ve only conceded two goals,” he pointed out. Both teams are unbeaten, with three wins and one draw in four contests. Jamaica have a losing record against the US, 13 losses, one win and eight draws. However, they have played strong in this tournament, registering five goals and conceding two, while the US have also been hot, pumping in 10 while letting in two. Clint Dempsey has been their talisman, netting six of the goals, including his first hat-trick for his country in Saturday’s 6-0 quarter-final hammering of Cuba. Watson says they will have to put a lid on Dempsey and Michael Bradley, the US’s other top player. “They’re top quality players, Bradley and Dempsey. Dempsey is a good goalscorer, if he gets a half chance he’ll put it in; Dempsey is a guy who dictates the pace of the game, he’s always on the ball, so we’ll have to go out there and try to lock those players down,” Watson said. The midfielder, who has won man of the match awards in two matches, missed the last game against El Salvador with yellow cards, as well as striker Darren Mattocks, who picked up a red in the same match. “Coming back in the team I want to give a strong performance,” Watson said. “In the back of everybody’s mind we want to win the tournament and to win the tournament we’ve to get past the US. “The team vibe is good, I think anybody who goes out there is ready to die on the field. We’ve never beaten the US on US soil and everybody wants to make history and win the game. There’s no better chance than right now.”
BEIJING, China: Team manager Ludlow Watts has rejected Stephen Francis’ arguments about the management of Jamaica’s training camp ahead of the IAAF World Championships. Francis questioned the usefulness of the camp and blamed the team’s management for causing some of his and other athletes to miss several days of training and compromising their preparation, with the World Championships just around the corner. The MVP Track Club coach said some athletes were given extremely difficult travel itineraries, which in some cases grossly extended what is a two-hour direct flight from Tottori to Beijing, while there were also issues at check-in at the team hotel in Beijing, with athletes waiting for hours before they were given keys to their rooms. These were among the issues that irritated Francis, who didn’t mince his words as he questioned the competence of the JAAA management group here, which is headed by Watts. “These people obviously can’t organise their way out of a garbage pan and they should leave it alone. Get some people who can do this properly, and I am sure there are people in Jamaica who can,” Francis had said. However, speaking to The Gleaner yesterday, Watts defended the travel arrangements made for transferring the athletes from Tottori in Japan, where the camp was based, and into Beijing for the championships itself and pointed to what he described as unavoidable delays experienced upon arrival at the team hotel. “If there is a criticism – and I don’t know where that is coming from, it would not be based on good judgement,” Watts rebutted before establishing his assessment of the camp, which ended on Tuesday. VALUABLE EXERCISE Watt, who also serves as treasurer for the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association, insisted that the camp was a valuable exercise and believes it was the best the team has organised in recent times. “Let me say that I am not 100 per cent satisfied with everything, but I believe we have made enough preparations to do well here,” Watts stated. “What I would say is this is the best camp we have had in history and we have had several. The feedback that we have had from the athletes, coaches, and management staff is that we have had a fantastic camp,” said Watts yesterday. “I think the mood in the camp is generally good. Nothing is perfect, but the mood is generally good.” “I don’t know if there was any difference from people travelling internationally, from Germany to France for instance. I think it was a normal transport arrangement, I think it was normal,” said Watts in reference to the travel arrangement made for the athletes. He also sought to explain the delays during the checking-in process at the team hotel in Beijing, noting that language issues and high traffic were the main reasons behind this. “When you get into a hotel when you have 10 other teams and 1,000 people coming in and five teams coming in at the same time, it cannot be as smooth as people walking through the alley, but we are satisfied with what we did with the resources available and the circumstances,” said Watts. The Jamaicans are sharing a hotel with several other teams such as the United States.
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