By Dylan Butler
SALT LAKE CITY – Soon after the elation over clinching a first berth in the CONCACAF Gold Cup had subsided, the work began for Belize.
And it was not just on the training grounds.
The Jaguars turned into fundraisers, doing a little bit of everything to get the necessary money to not only prepare for the tournament, but also head to the United States two days early to get acclimated to the climate and the artificial turf at Portland’s JELD-WEN Field, foreign for the tiny Central American country.
“Man we did all kinds of things to reach where we’re at right now,” defender Ian Gaynair said following the team’s training session Thursday morning. “Thanks to our country for supporting us. We did barbeques, telethons, all kind of things. The country is actually supporting us little by little now and I’m so thankful for that.”
Gaynair helped repay some of that support by scoring Belize’s first Gold Cup goal. His header off Elroy Smith’s free kick, which cut the Jaguars deficit to 2-1 late in the first half, was dedicated to his deceased sister.
Gaynair said he dreamed of scoring that goal the night before the game.
“The night before I hardly even slept and the little time I did get to sleep, I saw she came to me,” Gaynair said of his sister. “She was my biggest fan.”
Gaynair’s goal proved to the lone highlight of what Jaguars coach Ian Mork said was a disheartening 6-1 loss against the U.S. Tuesday.
“We know we can play much better,” Mork said. “It’s just a disappointment that we didn’t show up with more confidence and a stronger mentality in that game. We really thought that was going to be our day when we could really prove we could keep up with them. When the score was 2-1, if we could have gone into halftime at that moment it would have made a big difference in the game.”
Belize will try to turn the corner against a powerful Costa Rica team that hasn’t conceded a goal in six straight matches, including a 3-0 victory over Cuba in its opening game of the tournament.
Lacking the depth of some other teams in the competition, the Jaguars have some very real injury concerns. Dalton Eiley was in Mork’s original starting lineup against the U.S., but he was pulled off late when he complained of breathing problems.
“Dalton is still being assessed by the doctors so we just have to wait and see what comes out of that,” Mork said.
Daniel Jimenez was the late addition to the starting lineup, but his mother back in Belize has become very ill.
“It’s a big concern for us right now, too,” Mork said.
There’s also Deon McCaulay, who Mork said is coming off a major pre-tournament injury. McCaulay, who played the full 90 minutes against the Americans, didn’t train with the team in the morning session. Mork indicated that was precautionary and he expects the forward to be fit for Saturday’s match against Costa Rica.