By Samindra Kunti in Chicago
June 25 – Jamaica coach Heimir Hallgrimsson had mixed feelings over “two lost points” after the Reggae Boyz conceded late to draw 1-1 with hosts the United States in the Gold Cup curtain raiser, but said his team will grow with the arrival of the influential Demarai Gray.
A victory would have been most welcome for the Jamaicans who have failed to win a single of their matches in 2023, and they were well on course at Soldier Field to open their campaign with three points before substitute Brandon Vazquez cancelled out Damion Lowe’s first-half header (from a Gray free kick) with an 88th-minute strike from close range. Ultimately, they were left to lament what could have been.
“It’s kind of two lost points,” said Hallgrimsson. “A draw was fair, so we cannot complain. We said before the match that a point would be a good result for us. In the first game in a competition like this, it is important you don’t lose because then the second match is going to be a do-or-die match. I have to give, and I want to give the US credit. There was a lot of energy in the team – that was where they had the upper hand.”
Hallgrimsson had praise for debutant Demarai Gray, the Everton player who switched his international allegiance from England to represent his grandparents’ home country. The 26-year-old featured 26 times for England at the U-21 under then-youth manager Gareth Southgate. He follows in the footsteps of West Ham United’s Michail Antonio who chose for Jamaica in 2021.
Gray had an influential presence on the wing for his new team before he was substituted late in the game.
The manager from Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland, said: “We have watched him a long time, talked to him, so he knew what we wanted and we knew what kind of a player he is. Everybody can see as well that he would give us a lot. He gives us an extra dimension. He is kind of a similar player to Leon Bailey. So, it just adds to our quality and our options.”
On Wednesday, Gray and the Reggae Boyz can write another chapter in their new relationship against Trinidad and Tobago in St Louis.
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