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Jamaica’s Gold Cup run partially due to youth movement

Jamaica is younger - and better - than they have been in years.

Semifinal2 - 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Over a year ago I wrote an article that predicted the end of Jamaica being a CONCACAF power due to the aging out of some of the team’s regular players.

I’m happy to report that rumors of Jamaica’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Sunday night’s thrilling victory over Mexico proves that Jamaica is still a force to be reckoned with in CONCACAF.

Critics will argue that Mexico played a B team against Jamaica - and that’s a valid argument to an extent. A lot of the Mexican “Europeos” were missing - Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez was signing with West Ham United, Hirving “Chucky” Lozano is getting acclimated to life with PSV, and Miguel Layun, Hector Herrera, Diego Reyes, and Jesus “Tecatito” Corona are all getting in shape with Porto (referred to as PorTri by Mexican soccer aficionados). That said, Jamaica was without the services of their European-based players as well, notably Chelsea’s Michael Hector and Wolfsberger’s Dever Orgill.

Jamaica was also missing four England-based players who are 30 or older - Adrian Mariappa, Wes Morgan, Jobi McAnuff, and Clayton Donaldson. The reason that this is significant is that it shows that manager Theodore Whitmore is breaking cleanly from former manager Winfried Schaefer’s dependence on these men in important tournaments - the last time those four men appeared was in a match against Haiti in September of 2016. This has opened up slots for younger players based in the United States (both in Major League Soccer and the American lower divisions) as well as in Jamaica’s Red Stripe Premier League. These younger men are getting to cut their teeth against some strong competition and doing well.

Whitmore hasn’t totally eschewed players over 30 - and that’s important too. The Gold Cup roster has seven players age 30 or older, and Shaun Francis, Jermaine Taylor, Je-Vaughn Watson, and Jermaine Johnson have all seen significant minutes in these games. But you’re also seeing the young players getting opportunities to shine. Darren Mattocks (27) and Romario Williams (22) both have two goals each through the tournament, Kemar Lawrence (24) hit the critical free kick against Mexico, and Andre Blake (26) has been the tournament’s best player (and it’s not even close). But you’re also seeing guys like Alvas Powell (23), Kevon Lambert (20), Owayne Gordon (25), and Cory Burke (25) play and prove they belong with guys like Jesus Duenas, Erick Torres, Cyle Larin, Alphonso Davies, and the like.

Whether or not they beat the United States at this point is irrelevant. They’re in the Gold Cup Final for the second consecutive cycle - with a completely different team comprised mostly of younger players. The confederation is no longer a two-horse race between the United States and Mexico - Jamaica must be mentioned in the same breath as these two traditional powers.