Action from the World Cup qualifier between host Jamaica (yellow jersey) and Panama on November 13, 2015, in Kingston. (Photo: LMA Action Photos)
KINGSTON, Jamaica – A 2-0 loss to Panama at home was not the way Jamaica wanted to open the fourth round of its campaign to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup runner-up also fell to visiting Nicaragua, 3-2, in the first-leg of a two-game series in the previous round, but earned a 2-0 win on the road to advance.
Losing at the National Stadium is not something with which Jamaica is accustomed.
In eight home qualifiers for the last World Cup, the Reggae Boyz posted a 3W-3D-2L record. Both defeats (also back-to-back, coincidentally), though, were by one goal and came against Mexico (1-0) and the United States (2-1), two sides that eventually reached the round of 16 at Brazil 2014.
“It was a tough loss,” said assistant coach Miguel Coley, who gave the orders from the sidelines against Panama due to the suspension of manager Winfried Schafer. “We did not press this Panama team as we had planned to. They, in fact, took the initiative to us and, hence, they came away with the victory.”
The Panamanians scored on an Armando Cooper free kick minutes prior to the break and a Wes Morgan own-goal just seven minutes into the second half.
For its part, the host struggled to generate a sustained offense. Forward Darren Mattocks had scored in four-consecutive competitive internationals for Jamaica, but was replaced in the 62nd minute by 31-year-old Clayton Donaldson, who was making his international debut.
Did Schafer’s absence play a role in the performance? Coley did not believe that was case.
“All I can say is that we were out played tonight,” Coley commented in response to the inquiry. “It was a bad performance from us tonight.”
With the second Group B match at regional-rival Haiti looming on Tuesday, the Caribbean champion has no time for lengthy analytical sessions. Another loss could see it potentially fall six points behind the group leader – which will be either Panama or Costa Rica -- by the end of the second matchday.
“Definitely, we can turn things around,” said team captain Rodolph Austin. “We have a bunch of guys who believe in this team. It (the loss to Panama) is a setback, no doubt. We are willing to go out there and fight for each other.”
In their last meeting, Jamaica edged Haiti, 1-0, in a 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal on July 18. Giles Barnes scored the game’s lone goal in the seventh minute.