Golden Jaguars go down to Haiti in final warm-up match; off to Minnesota for Gold Cup debut

The Golden Jaguars XI which started against Haiti
The Golden Jaguars XI which started against Haiti

All the Guyanese players were afforded valuable playing time in their friendly international match against Haiti on Tuesday at the CAR Turrucares Playfield in San José, Costa Rica, which is at least 2900 feet above sea level.

The closed-door friendly, which was played at 10:00h San Jose time (12:00h Guyana time), saw both teams playing all their players as they sought to get in valuable match time ahead of the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

In Tuesday’s match, the Golden Jaguars conceded an early (questionable) penalty which was scored by the Haitians and they got their second midway in the opening half via a corner kick.

The starting XI of Akel Clarke in goal; defenders – Kadell Daniel, Ronayne Marsh-Brown, Terence Vancooten, Jordan Dover; midfielders – Neil Danns, Brandon Beresford, Callum Harriott, Anthony Jeffrey and forwards Terell Ondaan and Emery Welshman held their own despite falling behind and focused on the plan that the technical staff wanted them to execute.

The Golden Jaguars had the first shot on goal in the encounter as they started the match pushing forward; the first 20 minutes also saw Guyana forcing three corners before the Haitians were able to notch their first.

The second half saw the Haitians further increasing their advantage when they tucked in goal number three. A number of chances were created by the Golden Jaguars, but Haiti defended well to keep the Jaguars at bay.

However, the Guyanese were able to pull one back in the final 10 minutes, thanks to a well-placed shot at the first post by Keanu Marsh-Brown.

Head Coach Michael Johnson, commenting after the match, said that it was a good exercise for his charges once again in high altitude, citing that each player got in valuable competitive match time lending to a higher degree of fitness.

“Again you saw the progression and there’re lots of positives to take while there are areas that we have not [progressed] which include defensive corners. The first goal was a penalty which was debatable and the second goal was from a corner; we’ll now tighten up as we go to our USA camp. We’re in positive spirits, I’ve just reminded the players not to focus on the results, focus on what we tried to do, what worked, what we need tidying up on and there’re a lot of things that we can now move into this final stage with,” Johnson said.

He shared that playing at a high altitude was much more intense, but once you got back to normal sea level, it was beneficial even though it was tough for some of the players to get through.

The Golden Jaguars played the first of two friendly internationals against Bermuda last Thursday in Bermuda and went down by a lone goal in that match.

As the team now head to Minneapolis, Minnesota today (Wednesday) ahead of next Tuesday’s debut match against the USA, Johnson informed that the focus now would be on tidying up a couple of areas that they have cited with a view of being ready for the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The Gold Cup kicks off on Saturday, June 15, with a Group A double header at the Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California from 16:30h when Canada oppose Martinique followed by Mexico against Cuba.

Guyana, drawn in Group D, will face off against the USA at the Allianz Field, St Paul, Minnesota in the feature match next Tuesday evening; the opening encounter in this group pits Panama against Trinidad and Tobago from 18:30h.

Haiti, drawn in Group B, which would commence on June 16 at the Estadio Nacional, San José, Costa Rica, will open against Bermuda from 16:00h, with the main attraction being between home team Costa Rica and Nicaragua.