2019 W'Cup veterans Sweatman, Asher recalled as Gilbert finds makeshift squad for Gold Cup qualifiers

By October 20, 2023
Marlo Sweatman (left) and Chinyelu Asher Marlo Sweatman (left) and Chinyelu Asher

Having managed to pull a full 23-member squad out of the hat, interim Reggae Girlz Head coach Xavier Gilbert is now cautiously optimistic about their chances of springing another surprise in the upcoming Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup qualifying fixtures against Panama and Guatemala.

Gilbert, who was appointed late Thursday, skipped his first hurdle by securing the services of a fairly youthful squad, which also includes some out-of-favour experienced players for the games scheduled for October 25 and 29 respectively.

However, the second hurdle remains the fact that Gilbert has a short window to try and achieve some semblance of cohesiveness with his new squad, as they are scheduled to arrive in Panama on Monday and will train on Tuesday, with the game scheduled for Wednesday. They will then return to Jamaica on Thursday to host Guatemala on Sunday.

“Yeah, it is tough, and I always knew it will be a difficult task but that’s the thing with these FIFA windows and how we manage ourselves will be important at the end of the day,” Gilbert told SportsMax.TV.

“The good thing for us is that we have individuals who understand and know what we have to focus on. So, it is good that we managed to find persons and it is also an opportunity for the younger players to showcase their talent and secure themselves a spot in future camps to come,” he added.

Gilbert’s squad includes a new call up in 32-year-old England-born Melissa Johnson of Charlton Athletic, while Canadian-born Israela Groves, 24, who is also up to earn her first international cap, was a part of the senior Reggae Girlz training camp in Florida earlier this year.

Meanwhile, 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup veterans Marlo Sweatman and Chinyelu Asher highlight the more senior players, along with goalkeeper Chris-Ann Chambers, Jayda Hylton-Pelaia, Alika Keene and twins, Malikae and Mikayla Dayes. The remainder of the team comprises mostly Under-20 representatives now transitioning to the senior level.

The coach’s predicament stems from the fact that all 22 members of the successful 2023 World Cup squad have made themselves unavailable, while Cheyna Matthews has retired.

Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) in a release on Friday, announced the suspension of selection for all 22 players until they meet with the federation's hierarchy to resolve all issues regarding payments among other things.

“It is what it is, I can’t control some of the variables, so I just have to control what I can. At this point in time, we managed to assemble a squad and we must give credit to the ladies who have accepted the offer to represent their country on short notice and we just want to build on that,” Gilbert, who is still without an assistant said.

“We have a lot of players who will be earning their first caps so again, it is an opportunity for them to show the world what they have to offer, and we just hope that they will make full use of it. It is going to be difficult against two tough oppositions, but we are hopeful that we can do what we have to, to ensure we get two positive results,” he noted.

Gilbert pointed to the fact that fitness will not be much of a concern with the selected players as his biggest positive as it will allow him to jump straight into technical and tactical work when they arrive in Panama.

“The good thing is that all the players are currently active with their clubs and colleges, that was of some concern, but these players are coming in with games under their belts which is a positive. So again, we just hope that we can get them together as soon as possible and manage to squeeze out some results,” he ended.

Following the opening fixtures, the 37th-ranked Reggae Girlz will then host Panama on November 29 and close away to Guatemala on December 3.

Squad- Chris-Ann Chambers (Dinamo Sokhumi); Javanae Jones (ultnomah University); Lauren Reid (University of Maryland); Malikae Dayes (AAB (Denmark); Zoe Vidaurre (George Mason University); Nevillegail Able (University of Maine at Fort Kent); Chinyelu Asher (SCU Torreense); Alika Keene (SK Slavia Praha Zeny); Israela Groves (London City Lionesses); Ricshya Walker (LaSalle University); Marlo Sweatman (Viktoria Haladas); Christina Salmon (William Carey University); Davia Richards (Hill College); Mikayla Dayes (Rodez AF (France); Shaneil Buckley (Frazsiers Whip); Natoya Atkinson (Seaward County); Destiny Powell (Frazsiers Whip); Melissa Johnson (Charlton Athletic Women FC); Sydnie Street (Seneca College); Jayda Hylton-Pelaia (Woodbridge Strikers); Alliyah Morgan (George Mason University); Shanhaine Nelson (Cavaliers); Tyiesha Nelson (Reinas Academy)

 

 

Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

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