As USL prepares for its playoffs, the league's official site sat down for a chat with John Wolyniec, NYRB II's head coach. It's a good read, highlighting the job Wolyniec has done in rotating a multitude of players (37 over the course of the USL regular season) while retaining a consistent playing identity and coaxing sufficient consistency out of the seemingly ever-changing squad to win a berth in the post-season.
The article highlights a few stand-outs on the current roster, including hitherto unheralded prospects like Konrad Plewa and Devon "Speedy" Williams - both players who have benefited from USL experience and significantly raised their profiles with their work for NYRB II. Case in point: Williams is back on the Jamaica national team's radar, says Wolyniec:
"He’s just gotten called into the Jamaican national team, so the club and Devon are really proud of that,"
Wait. What? Scarcely a week ago, Williams told Once A Metro he hadn't heard from his national team since his lone appearance for the Reggae Boyz back in 2010, when he was 18. We can only assume the Jamaica Football Federation reads OaM. (Say what? Fine. We can assume many things. We choose to assume the JFF reads OaM.)
He is 23 now, and approaching the end of his first season as a pro. He joined NYRB II relatively late in the season - in July - but has become a regular starter since. A call-up to the Jamaica squad, even if it is to what one suspects will be a roster deliberately focused on fringe and emerging players, is a massive compliment to his work this year, and the scouting and player development set-up within the New York Red Bulls.
We don't yet have an official squad for Jamaica's October 13th friendly against South Korea. The Reggae Boyz are between a busy but successful summer and the start of a tough group in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. It is not unreasonable to speculate the roster sent to South Korea might depart significantly from the relatively settled squad that contested this year's Copa America and Gold Cup. Many players, including RBNY's Kemar Lawrence, have shown great commitment to their country's cause and will doubtless be integral to Jamaica's effort to qualify for Russia 2018. They could also use a rest, or the chance to stay focused on their club's current schedule.
It's a long road to Russia, and injury could strike down key players at any time. So the South Korea friendly could be a good opportunity - perhaps the only opportunity for a while - to test the depth of the player pool and see who might be ready to challenge for a place in the established squad, or step up when inevitable injury or suspension forces head coach Winfried Schaefer to switch away from his increasingly tried and tested favorites.
We'll find out exactly who has made the cut when Jamaica announces its official roster for South Korea.
We do know the Jamaica Football Federation is currently on a relatively aggressive drive to expand its player pool. Bradley Wright-Phillips has been mulling an offer to join the Reggae Boyz since August. Captain Horace Burrell, President of the JFF is in England, soliciting the renewed commitment of existing Jamaica-eligible players such as Jobi McAnuff, and reportedly (per the Jamaica Observer) looking to sign up new recruits like Karl Henry, the 32-year-old midfielder currently attached to Queens Park Rangers.
Burrell and the JFF came under fire from some quarters in the Jamaican media for what was seen an unduly forgiving attitude toward Alvas Powell, the Portland Timbers' right back who walked out on the Reggae Boyz during the Gold Cup. He was summoned back to the national team squad for the September World Cup qualifying series against Nicaragua, which struck the Jamaica Observer's Paul Reid as further evidence of the administrators' craven inability to define and uphold a code of conduct for the Reggae Boyz.
But the Powell recall is also consistent with the strategy of maximizing the depth in the player pool as Jamaica seeks a successful World Cup qualifying campaign. Burrell and the JFF give the appearance of leaving few stones unturned in recent efforts to strengthen and grow the pool of experienced professionals available for selection to Jamaica's national team.
And perhaps that explains why a young midfielder from NYRB II is being lined up for another shot at international soccer. Wolyniec's comments do not equate to a call-up, but they are further indication that the work being done below the level of the Red Bulls' first team is attracting attention. And that is further tribute to Wolyniec, the rest of the NYRB II coaching staff, and the players at the USL level willing to seize the opportunity they've been given, like Devon "Speedy" Williams.
Congrats, Speedy. Here's hoping your coach hasn't misinterpreted whatever the message was from the JFF, and you're currently looking at Seoul's sightseeing options.
NYRB II plays Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Saturday, September 26 at 5:00 pm (Eastern), at Red Bull Arena. If you want to see an emerging Jamaica international in action - tickets should be abundantly available, especially if you know any RBNY season ticket holders (cos they might have a few spare).
The winner will progress to play Rochester Rhinos in Rochester on October 3.