With Haiti on horizon, Jamaica mindful of task

Je-Vaughn Watson (yellow jersey) and Jamaica will meet Haiti in the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals on July 18, 2015, in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo: Mexsport)

BALTIMORE, Maryland -- Not only does Jamaica want to defeat Haiti on Saturday in the first-ever Caribbean derby in the knockout rounds of a CONCACAF Gold Cup, the Reggae Boyz have set their sights on the trophy as well.

No Caribbean team has captured the title in the previous 12 competitions and the Jamaicans are aiming to make history.

"Our chances are as a good as any," defender Kemar Lawrence remarked after Friday’s training at Stevenson University.  “I said that before and some people laughed."

No one is laughing now because the Caribbean champion has been one of the tournament’s revelations. It turned heads by topping Group B, drawing 2-2 with 2014 FIFA World Cup quarterfinalist Costa Rica, before defeating Canada and El Salvador by the same 1-0 scoreline.

"It didn't just start yesterday," Lawrence said.  "It started even before Copa America because we didn't win any games in Copa America.  We had a talk as a team.  We wanted to make this Gold Cup a turning point.  We're going to win some games and we're going to go as far as we can in the tournament.  Everyone wants to get to the final and win the final."

Last November, Jamaica posted a 2-0 victory over Haiti in the Caribbean Cup semifinals on first-half goals by Simon Dawkins and Darren Mattocks. 

That was then, though, and this is now.  Jamaica realizes that the past will have no impact on the meeting at M&T Bank Stadium.

"The game is going to be a hard-fought, physical game," Jamaican midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson said.  "Caribbean soccer players are physical, so it’s going to be a hard game.  Haiti is a good team.  They've brought in a lot of new players.  We just got to go out there and do our best because we want to win the tournament."

The Reggae Boyz are confident, but are not cocky.  They practiced penalties at the end of the session to prepare for a possible shootout.  In the Caribbean final, penalties were required to overcome Trinidad & Tobago after a scoreless draw.

"Just in case you go that far, you have to prepare for everything," Watson noted.  "You go to a game you've got to carry two different sets of cleats in case it rains.  If it goes to PKs, we're ready and we're going to come out victorious."