Name tags will be needed when Jamaica's Reggae Boyz assemble at their Mexico City hotel for Wednesday's Hexagonal opener against Mexico.
Five Englishmen are joining the team for the first time, all signed up following a recruiting trip Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) boss Horace Burrell and Coach Theodore Whitmore took to England last fall. Their targets? English players with Jamaican roots.
This isn't the first time Jamaica has drafted Englishmen for its World Cup campaign. Late in qualifying for the 1998 World Cup, Deon Burton, Paul Hall, Fitzroy Simpson and Robbie Earle -- all born and bred in England -- joined the Reggae Boyz and the fab four helped them qualify for the finals for the first (and only) time.
The JFF plan to bring in reinforcements was already in the works following Jamaica's qualification for the Hexagonal, but the shakeup took on new urgency after its exit in the group stage of the Caribbean Cup, where the Reggae Boyz, the two-time defending champions, went winless against French Guyana, Guyana and Martinique.
"One of the mistakes that we will never make again is to have Jamaica parade an 11 on the field that we know is not the strongest 11 available," said Burrell. "We should never repeat what happened in the Caribbean Cup. We have gone all out to try and secure the strongest 11 possible players to represent this country. We have gone for the most experienced players ever in the history of Jamaica."
What Burrell didn't say was that there were bigger fish out there that the Reggae Boyz failed to net. Newcastle's James Perch and Danny Simpson, Swansea City's Nathan Dyer and Jonathan de Guzman and Queens Park Rangers' David Hoilettall failed to commit to the Reggae Boyz -- at least for now.
The short preparation time -- just 48 hours -- before the Hex opener is a worry.
"I am very concerned about the limited time with the team in practice, but very confident with the quality of players that we are assembling together," Whitmore said. "We want to go over there and give a good performance and the result will come. If we go down to Mexico thinking that we are going to lose, the game then we have already lost the game."
WHY THE USA SHOULD BE CONFIDENT.The USA has lost only once in 20 games to Jamaica. Before the 2-1 loss in Kingston in September, no other team had faced the USA more times (18 games) without winning a single game than the Reggae Boyz.
WHY THE USA SHOULD BE WORRIED. The 1-0 win over Jamaica in Columbus four days after the Kingston game was only the third victory over the Reggae Boyz in 10 World Cup qualifiers to go along with six ties and the 2-1 defeat.
WHO YOU ALREADY KNOW. Nine players from MLS clubs were in Whitmore's squad for their two-game September series the USA and Jamaica split, but only three of them are headed to Mexico City: Ryan Johnson (Portland Timbers), Jermaine Taylor (Houston Dynamo) and Dane Richards (who has since joined Burnley from the Vancouver Whitecaps as a free agent). Portland Timbers keeper Donovan Rickettsreturns to the Reggae Boyz after being unavailable because of injuries last fall.
WHO YOU'LL SOON KNOW.The five new players the Reggae Boyz have added from England are midfielders Marvin Elliot (Bristol City) and Joel Jobi McAnuff (Reading) and forwards Garath McCleary (Reading), Theo Robinson (Derby County) and Jermaine Beckford(Huddersfield). (Help is needed up front for the opener against Mexico because all-time leading scorer Luton Shelton is injured.) Whitmore also called up 18-year-old schoolboys Alvas Powell and Andre Lewis for "development purposes."
Day 1: Feb. 6 at Mexico (TV: UniMas, ESPN2, 9:30 p.m. ET).
U.S. Series:Day 4: June 7 -- Jamaica vs. USA in Kingston; Day 9: Oct. 11 -- USA vs. Jamaica at site TBD.
ROSTER (Mexico game):
Goalkeepers:Donovan Ricketts (Portland Timbers), Dwayne Miller (Syrianska, Sweden), Duwayne Kerr (Strommen, Norway).
Defenders:Alvas Powell (Portmore United), Nyron Nosworthy (Watford, England), Damion Stewart (Notts County, England), Adrian Mariappa (Reading, England), Demar Phillips (Aalesunds FK, Norway), Jermaine Taylor (Houston Dynamo)
Midfielders:Andre Lewis (Cavalier SC), Joel Jobi McAnuff (Reading, England), Jermaine Johnson (Sheffield Wednesday, England), Tremaine Stewart (Aalesunds FK, Norway), Rudolph Austin (Leeds United, England) Marvin Elliot (Bristol City, England), Jason Morrison (Aalesunds FK, Norway), Jermaine Hue (Harbour View), Omar Daley (Motherwell, Scotland)
Forwards:Garath McCleary (Reading, England), Jermaine Beckford (Huddersfield Town, England), Theo Robinson (Derby County, England), Ryan Johnson (Portland Timbers), Dane Richards (Burnley, England)
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