Chavany Willis knew going into Jamaica’s Concacaf Nations League game against Aruba on Tuesday night in Curaçao that if the opportunity arose for a penalty kick it would be his to take.
“We practice (penalties) every day after training and the coaches picked me and said you’re the first one to take PKs,” Willis said on Thursday, his first day back training with Bethlehem Steel FC in Chester.
Willis didn’t have to wait long to get his chance. He stepped up in the 7th minute and converted the penalty to give the Reggae Boyz a lead they would not relinquish. It was his first international goal in just his second start and third cap for Jamaica.
It was also an emotional goal for Willis, who dedicated it to his late nephew Kingsley, a 21-year-old footballer who was shot and killed in a confrontation with police in Jamaica in August.
“That goal I scored is for my family,” Willis said. “It’s for Kingsley so it’s a special one.”
Willis, who turned 22 in September, made his senior national team debut off the bench against Antigua and Barbuda in a 6-0 Nations League win on September 6 and made his first start three nights later in a 4-0 win over Guyana.
“It’s a great experience and a great pleasure to play with those guys,” he said.
Willis and Steel FC teammate Jamoi Topey have both made their senior national team debuts since joining the Philadelphia Union’s USL Championship affiliate prior to the start of the 2019 season. Topey made his debut in the Gold Cup against the United States at Lincoln Financial Field in June.
“I think it’s really refreshing for him to go in there because he’s one of the youngest guys in the camp where he’s one of the older guys here,” Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke said. “He’s been able to see both sides of the coin so to speak in terms of his personal development so we’re really happy with his performance and excited for him to get his first international goal.”
Willis has logged 2,000 minutes playing in different roles in the midfield for the Steel this season, contributing three goals on the offensive end and is second on the team in tackles with 49. Player for Steel - he was loaned in from Jamaican club Portmore United - has played an important role this season in his development.
“When you come across to the U.S. you’re instantly recognizable in the national team setup in some of those smaller nations and he’s taken full advantage of that this year,” Burke said.
The Steel close out their 2019 season with a game at Charleston Battery on Saturday at 2 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN+.