Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Thursday | March 5, 2009
Home : Sport
US coach fancies Jamaica to qualify
Gordon Williams, Gleaner Writer

The United States is expecting "a battle" against Jamaica when the two CONCACAF rivals clash in the first match of final round FIFA Under-20 World Cup football qualifiers tomorrow in Trinidad and Tobago.

According to US coach Thomas Rongen, the current squad is Jamaica's most talented in recent years. He expects both countries to finish in the top two from Group A, which also includes El Salvador and Honduras, and earn an automatic berth at the World Cup in Egypt later this year.

"This is one of the better youth Jamaican teams I've seen in a long time," Rongen said while attending Sunday's practice game between the young Reggae Boyz and Canada in the US "So we're in for a battle, which we understand.

"Based on what I've seen from Honduras and El Salvador, right now, if I was a betting man, I'd put my money on Jamaica and the US."

Impressed coach

America's coach, who also scouted the Boyz during their last qualifying round in St Vincent and the Grenadines, has been impressed by Jamaica's team speed and organisation. He is also wary of the variety of ways the current Boyz can win games, even on the road.

"They have two or three special players," Rongen explained. "(Dever) Orgill, the front-runner, can score some goals obviously. They've got some speed.

"I'm very impressed with the captain at the back (Andre Darby). He's a very good player, plays with the ball, strong physically ... (Andre Blake) the goalkeeper (in St Vincent) I thought was very, very good."

Strikers Reneil Sappleton of Leicester City in England, who joined the Young Boyz last week, and Orgill, who is with Vancouver Whitecaps in North America, are Jamaica's only overseas-based professionals. Several Americans played in the last World Cup, plus nine of their 20-member squad are pros.

"Yes, being able to go to Europe, being able to play in the MLS (US Major League Soccer) daily in a good environment, you would like to think that that could benefit us," Rongen said.

US squad

The US squad includes two players with Jamaican parents. Collegiate goalkeeper Sean Johnson will be a reserve. But Anthony Wallace, a World Cup veteran who is signed with FC Dallas of the MLS, will play a much larger role. The midfielder/defender is also a team captain.

"We expect a lot from Anthony Wallace," the US coach said.

Rongen was not the only possible opponent in T&T who expects Jamaica to do well. Canada, which is in Group B with Mexico, Costa Rica and the host nation, believe the Boyz have narrowed the gap with their regional rivals.

"Athleticism is definitely a great weapon they (Jamaica) have; they have good speed," said coach Tony Fonseca, whose team lost 1-0 to the Boyz.

"The US is always a top team in CONCACAF. You can expect US will be very competitive, very strong and they will match up in the physicality (with Jamaica) ... (But) the teams are very even now."

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