One of these teams isn't going to make the Hexagonal qualifying tournament that will decide CONCACAF's 2018 World Cup representation. Group B of the current round of CONCACAF qualifying was always going to eliminate at least one team that made the Hex during the 2014 World Cup cycle, since three of those teams - Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Panama - are in the group and only two can move on to the next round.
Costa Rica has proven too good for the other teams in the group, and should canter into the Hex since it only needs one point from its remaining two games.
Panama and Jamaica are battling for the second qualifying spot in the group. The advantage lies with Los Canaleros, who beat the Reggae Boyz in Kingston back in November. Win this game and Panama is through to the Hex.
So the shrot-term goal for Panama is clear: get three points. Whether Los Canaleros are going to the Hex or not, they will soon need to start planning for a future without Felipe Baloy (35 years old), Luis Tejada (34) and Blas Perez (35). Overall, the squad looks a little too old to make it to 2018 as is - but the time to bring through the emerging generation (19-year-old Ismael Diaz perhaps foremost among them) is after the immediate future has been settled.
For Jamaica and the New York Red Bulls' Kemar Lawrence, the task is to get at least a point out of this match. If qualification is still mathematically possible after this game, the Jamaicans will like their chances of getting to the Hex. Next up is Haiti at home, while Panama must play Costa Rica on the road. If this game is tied, the Reggae Boyz will need Panama to lose to Costa Rica (not unlikely) and also need to beat Haiti by sufficient goals to pip the Panamanians on goal difference.
The better result would of course be the win, but Jamaica's form since reaching the 2015 Gold Cup final has been poor. A friendly win over Chile in May suggested the Reggae Boyz might be finding some momentum - but they were bounced out of Copa America Centenario without scoring a goal (while Chile went on to win the tournament).
Goals are Jamaica's persistent problem at the moment: not nearly enough of them are being scored. The team has scored three times in six matches in 2016 - and two were in the win over Chile.
Head coach Winfried Schafer - surely out the door if Jamaica doesn't make the Hex - has yet to unearth a reliable scorer for his team. He's tried a lot of options, and is still trying: the current roster includes uncapped Cory Burke, a 24-year-old forward who has four goals and an assist in 17 appearances for mid-table Bethlehem Steel in USL. Schafer passed over Junior Flemmings (seven goals and four assists in 23 appearances for USL's top team, NYRB II) for reasons that doubtless make a lot of sense to him.
For better or worse, Schafer has picked the squad he'll ask to get Jamaica to the Hex by getting the necessary results out of the last games of this qualifying round. And if the squad doesn't perform as required, it will probably be the last Reggae Boyz roster Schafer gets to select.
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