In-form Jamaica shows signs of progress

(ABOVE) Action from the international friendly between host Jamaica (yellow jersey) and Cuba on March 30, 2015, in Montego Bay.

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – Jamaica head coach Winfried Schafer was pleased with his team’s performances in victories over Venezuela (2-1) and Cuba (3-0) over the past week.

With preparations in full gear for this year’s Copa America and CONCACAF Gold Cup, there are numerous positive signs that the Reggae Boyz are ready to take the next step forward.

In addition to extending its winning streak to five straight games, the Caribbean champion continues to bolster the roster with quality talent.

Debutant Giles Barnes, 26, netted an equalizer on Friday against the Venezuelans, while first-time starter Romeo Parkes found the back of the net Monday in the first minute against Cuba.

Schafer has yet to settle on a squad for either of this summer’s competitions and remains on the lookout for more players.

“Everyone knows we have to look at many players as we will need many players for the Copa America and the Gold Cup,” said the German.  “This is a test to see who will make the teams and who needs to work harder.”

Even Cuba head coach Walter Benitez was impressed by what he saw from the Jamaicans at the Montego Bay Sports Complex, admitting that they were a handful, especially on set pieces.

“Jamaica is the strongest team in the Caribbean,” Benitez commented.  “We were very surprised in the first few minutes and it was hard to recover after that.”

Though Jamaica does not have any friendlies officially scheduled prior to its Copa America opener on June 13 against Uruguay, Schafer confirmed that efforts are being made to add games.

He wants the momentum to build and hopes to develop further the side’s spirit, which the 65-year-old says is “very good right now.”