Boyz in hunt for goals - Barnes: We need that killer instinct
Audley Boyd, Assistant Editor - Sports
JOHN BARNES wants his Reggae Boyz to get their executions right at the business end of the pitch, when they return to 'The Office' for a friendly international against Panama, beginning this evening at 6:00.
The match is a build-up to next month's CONCACAF Gold Cup and the Jamaica team's head coach, more than anything else, hopes the finishing of his team will be clinical.
"In and around the goal," Barnes said, pointing to the area he believes needs most improvement.
"We want to keep the ball, we want to pass the ball well, we want to progress, but most of all we want to score goals," he stressed. "We just need a bit more of a killer instinct in front of goal."
In recent international warm-up matches over the past fortnight, Jamaica drew goalless with Haiti in Florida and followed that up with a 2-2 draw against El Salvador in the United States capital, Washington, DC, last Saturday, when busy striker Nicholas Addlery and defender Damion Stewart scored.
Addlery, mainly, will be expected to reproduce similar form in a squad bolstered with the addition of several Europe-based players. They include the speedy Luton Shelton, who scores regularly in the Jamaica shirt, along with the midfield foursome Rodolph Austin, Khari Stephenson, Demar Phillips and the wily Jamal Campbell-Ryce.
Shelton's pace will trouble any defence and he should start upfront, with one of the local-based trio who highlighted the Digicel Premier League's scoring chart. They are Roland Dean, Navion Boyd and Devon Hodges.
Stephenson hasn't played in well over a year and faces the difficult prospect of competing for a spot in the pivotal central midfield area, under a coach who is not very familiar with his play.
Since Barnes has been handling this team during an unbeaten tenure that begun with the Digicel Caribbean Championship last December, Rodolph Austin and Jason Morrison, and for the past couple games Morrison and Richard 'Shortman' Edwards, have formed partnerships that have served the team well.
Importantly, the latter two have worked in the past two games when Barnes made a tactical shift from playing two at the centre of defence, to the long-functioning system with three that brought a fair amount of success.
"It (formations) doesn't matter if you keep the ball and not give it away," noted the coach, who is keen on high possession and game-control. "I'm more pleased about the way we're keeping the ball and making the balance.
"Playing with three central defenders gives you a little bit more strength at the back, but it limits your effect going forward," observed Barnes, who clearly wants more from his team in attack.
Much of the stability that facilitates that balance comes from the central midfielders, which Barnes says makes it easier for the attacking talent of Jermaine 'Teddy' Johnson to create for the team, as he did while taking El Salvador apart.
"As much as he (Johnson) had a good game, the two midfielders contributed greatly with their hard working ... it's the unseen work that others do that allows others like Jermaine Johnson to play so well."
A huge talent, Johnson has not been favoured by coaches in the past but Barnes, a skilful player who excelled in two World Cup Finals appearances for England and starred in Premiership triumphs at Liverpool, appears comfortable with Johnson's undisputed ball-handling qualities and is prepared to give the attacking midfielder the type of freedom he has not generally got.
"He's a talented player and we've to try our best to use him and get the best out of him," remarked Barnes. "It's just a question of finding the best position for him and to get him on the ball in the right areas."
With such licence, no wonder he wreaked havoc on El Salvador and the prospects of Johnson operating in tandem with Campbell-Ryce, who is crafty at befuddling opponents, makes a mouth-watering prospect.
At their best, they could provide the opportunities that lead to the type of finishing Barnes desires against a country that Jamaica have found hard to beat.
In 10 matches, Jamaica have won once, while Panama have won three. One of those defeats included a 2-1 World Cup qualifying loss at the National Stadium in 2004, when Jamaica totally dominated the Central Americans but could not outscore them.
The last contest between the teams ended in a 1-1 finish here in a friendly international in 2007.
Panama arrived here yesterday evening and had one night-time training session at the National Stadium.
JAMAICA (from): Dwayne Miller, Duwayne Kerr, Claude Davis, Damion Stewart, Demar Phillips, Adrian Reid, Desmond Breakenridge, Rafe Wolfe, Jermaine Johnson, Jason Morrison, Jamal Campbell-Ryce, Rodolph Austin, Khari Stephenson, Richard Edwards, Oraine Simpson, Nicholas Addlery, Luton Shelton, Keammar Daley, Navion Boyd, Devon Hodges.
PANAMA (from): Luis Enrique, Joel Solanilla, Felipe Baloy, Roman Torres, Eric Vasquez, Nicolas Munoz, Luis Tejada, Blas Perez, Nelson Barahona, Rolando Escobar, Gabriel Gomez, Alberto Blanco, Anel Canales, Jose Garces, Luis Mejia, Erick Hughes, Luis Jaramillo, Armando Gun.