As Suriname looms, Jamaica is Caribbean Cup confident

Action from the Caribbean Cup match between Jamaica (green jersey) and host Guyana on October 11, 2016, in Leonara.

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Although injuries will force a pair of significant performers to miss Jamaica’s decisive Scotiabank CFU Men’s Caribbean Cup, third-round encounter against visiting Suriname on Sunday, head coach Theodore Whitmore is certain his side can earn a win.

Captain Je-Vaughn Watson (sports hernia) and left-back Kemar Lawrence (hamstring) have been ruled out of a match that guarantees the winner the Group 1 title, a place in the competition’s semifinals and a 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup berth.

“Despite the injuries, we are looking for a good game and a good performance from the other players in the squad,” said Whitmore. “The two players out are key injuries, however, we have depth in our squad and I believe we have enough to get past Suriname on Sunday.”

In Watson’s absence, Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake will wear the captain’s armband.

"It's my first captaincy at the national level,” the 25-year-old Blake remarked. “It's a privilege, an honour, so my job now is to try and get the players on the same page so we can go out and do what we have to do. For me, it's no added pressure. I'm a leader and I will just be me and do my best to get my country and team a clean sheet.”

Whitmore -- the only individual to win the Caribbean Cup as a player and a coach -- has fond memories of playing against Suriname. The Reggae Boyz kicked off their successful 1998 FIFA World Cup Qualifying campaign against the northern South American nation in a two-legged series.

Jamaica won the series opener on the road, 1-0, thanks to a Whitmore strike. Three weeks later, Whitmore provided the assist on a Walter Boyd goal in a victory by the same score.

“I always reflect on that day in 1996,” finished Whitmore. “The Suriname win away was a big momentum builder for us in the 1998 World Cup qualifiers. Prior to that game, we lost a couple of games on the bounce. However, this win really united the team and we pressed on and got to the World Cup eventually.

“Now, 20 years later in 2016, I feel a win over Suriname can help us unite again and perhaps make an impression at the Gold Cup next year. We certainly want this win as it can do wonders for our nation.”