Jamaica's World Cup qualifying campaign suffered its second consecutive bad day at The Office - aka, the National Stadium in Kingston - on November 13: a 2-0 loss to Panama. On the bright side, the last time a home defeat sent the Reggae Boyz on the road needing a win to get back on track, they avenged a 3-2 defeat by Nicaragua in Kingston by securing a 2-0 win in Managua. So there is evidence to suggest Jamaica can bounce back quickly from a disappointing result.
On the less bright side, the loss to Panama in the opening game of this round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying was the team's fourth loss in its last five games. The glorious summer run to the Gold Cup final is a fading memory. And there are rumors of discontent within the camp: the Reggae Boyz cancelled their last training session prior to the Panama game without explanation. The Daily Gleaner reported the cause may have been a dispute over monies owed the players by the Jamaica Football Federation. Whatever the reason, the distraction was unwelcome and cost the team in the worst possible way: it has dropped points at home in what is expected to be the toughest group in this phase of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament for the 2018 World Cup.
Three points in Haiti is the obvious consolation for the recent disappointment. But Les Grenadiers are not expected to be pushovers. The Haitians had a good Gold Cup themselves, and will want payback for the 1-0 defeat by Jamaica that eliminated them from that tournament. Recent form has been encouraging: brushing aside Grenada in the preceding round of World Cup qualifying; a friendly win in El Salvador; most recently, a narrow loss in Costa Rica in their opening game of this group.
Haiti doesn't yet look like one of CONCACAF's top teams, but it does look capable of handling a top team that isn't well prepared or motivated. Jamaica might fit that bill.
Les Grenadiers have elected to play their November qualifiers without former New York Red Bull Andrew Jean-Baptiste. So the only RBNY interest in this match-up is on Jamaica's roster: Kemar Lawrence, and former Red Bulls trialist Junior Flemmings. Lawrence should start. Flemmings might see a few minutes off the bench if the match permits the deployment of an uncapped teenager.
Jamaica needs a reliable goalscorer if it is to get out of this group (and beyond). Flemmings is the least qualified of the players on the current roster to meet that need, but he got called up for a reason - and the reason might be the Reggae Boyz coaches can see circumstances under which they would be willing to roll the dice on a 19-year-old who might not yet even be a pro player (Flemmings had been playing without pay in Jamaica's Red Stripe Premier League to preserve his US college eligibility; it is unclear whether that is still the case now he is no longer in high school).
Before reaching for Flemmings, however, Jamaica has Clayton Donaldson and Dever Orgill in the squad: more experienced attacking options who saw time off the bench against Panama.
For Haiti, the priority is also to get three points. Any team that can win its home games can nurture hope of getting out of this group - and as Jamaica has just shown, winning at home is not to be taken for granted. Les Grenadiers' loss to Costa Rica was not unexpected, but the fact they limited the score to just 1-0 suggests the Gold Cup results were no fluke: they can compete with the better teams in CONCACAF. Beating Jamaica would suggest we might need to start thinking of Haiti as one of those better teams in CONCACAF.