Theodore Whitmore, the Jamaica head coach, will get an opportunity to rue his eye over his European-based players in an exhibition match against the USA in Austria on 25 March.
The contest, a rematch of the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-final that Jamaica lost 3-1, falls on a FIFA fixture date so Whitmore will have his pick of players available and will probably consider bringing in new faces.
Austria’s venue will be the 10,000-capacity Stadion Wiener Neustadt south of Vienna, which is home to the club SC Wiener Neustadt although the purpose-built stadium has also been used for speedway.
The United States have previously been successful in the stadium, having defeated Panama 6-2 in a friendly in November 2020.
Although the US have won 16 of the past 27 encounters against Jamaica since 1988, the Boyz have been battling back with results improving over recent years.
The Boyz have claimed two important moral-boosting victories from their past five meetings with the United States. Jamaica famously stunned their old foes 2-1 in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-final, with the Boyz surprisingly capturing the tournament’s Fair Play award.
Yet back-to-back defeats against the US in 2017 scuppered Jamaica’s progress on the world stage. Fast forward two years and an intriguing 1-0 success over the United States kick-started a new-found belief under Whitmore. However, their joy was short-lived as the US denied them a place in the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup final.
This friendly will help both sides prepare for a busy year, which comprises the CONCACAF Nations League and the CONCACAF Gold Cup followed by the start of regional qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
With the ongoing coronavirus crisis neither side has competed since November. The US were held to a scoreless draw in Wales and then smashed Panama in Austria.
The Boyz, FIFA world-ranked no.47, last competed in whistlestop friendlies against hosts Saudi Arabia. They were outplayed to produce arguably their worse performance under Whitmore, subjected to a hefty 3-0 defeat in their opening match with a generous scoreline for the Boyz. But Whitmore brilliantly masterminded a sensation 2-1 success in the second game inside the imposing Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium in Riyad.
Whitmore is always aiming to boost his squad, with West Ham United’s Mikhail Antonio on the radar despite turning the Boyz down five years ago. The head coach will also be able to call on some of his star players. A number of Jamaican players have recently moved to Europe, including stalwart defender Kemar ‘Taxi’ Lawrence who has swapped New York Red Bulls for Belgian top tier team Anderlecht.
Despite the friendly being played behind closed doors, Jamaica’s troops will be aiming to fire on all cylinders as the battle continues to be part of Whitmore’s squad to tackle the forthcoming Qatar 2022 qualifiers.