Jamaica's Malcolm Stewart #7) in CONCACAF Under-20 Championship action against Trinidad & Tobago (white jersey) on January 9, 2015, in Kingston. (Photo: Mexsport)
KINGSTON, Jamaica – It wasn’t exactly how tournament-host Jamaica hoped to start its 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship campaign.
Within 15 minutes of their Group A opener against rival Trinidad & Tobago on Friday, the young Reggae Boyz dug themselves into a 2-0 deficit.
“We started the game a bit flat,” said head coach Theodore Whitmore, who scored two goals for Jamaica in the 1998 FIFA World Cup. “I think it was more a mental than physical problem.”
Suddenly, about midway in the second half, things started to click for the Jamaicans.
Donja Smith made it 2-1 with a well-taken header and, in what amounted to the last kick of the encounter, Junior Flemmings equalized with a stunning free kick.
“In the second half, we made just adjustments,” downplayed Whitmore. “We showed character.”
A team’s true character is displayed during times of adversity. If Jamaica wants to make an impression on this competition, that kind of inner strength needs to be summoned over an entire 90 minutes in the last four group games.
“It is not schoolboy or Premier League any more in Jamaica,” said Flemmings, commenting on the difference between the domestic and global games. “This is international football, way more intense. Move more off the ball. The pace is much faster and, I mean, we just have to adjust and follow the coach’s instruction.”
Whitmore is cognizant that Jamaica -- starting on Sunday against Guatemala -- will need to be better if it wants to compete for a spot in the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
“There is no weak team whatsoever,” finished the 42-year-old. “This is football. You have to come out there. You have to play. You have to work hard for what you want. No team is going to sit back and just allow you to run over. This is international football.”