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Bulls Abroad: Jamaica and Lawrence bow out of World Cup qualifying with 2-0 loss in Panama

The Reggae Boyz are no longer on the road to Russia.

William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

Kemar Lawrence summed up his national team's night in Panama when he petulantly walloped the ball into the stands, narrowly missing the ballboy who had tossed it to him in the first place.

The New York Red Bulls defender got a yellow card for his troubles, and that was pretty much all Jamaica got out of its trip to Panama City. A late shot from Jobi McAnuff was too little, too late - it fooled neither 'keeper Jaime Penedo nor anyone watching into thinking the Reggae Boyz were capable of getting even the point they needed to at least defer elimination from CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

For maybe 15 minutes at the start, when legs and motivation were freshest, Jamaica did challenge Los Canaleros. But the home team found the first goal. In the 28th minute, Alberto Quintero loosed Gabriel Torres, who duly hit the net.

Jamaica's ideas for the match seemed to start and finish with finding a big man up front and hoping for a set piece in the final third. It wasn't a great plan. It didn't work. By the end, even the Reggae Boyz themselves seemed a little fed up with their one-note tactics.

Andre Blake's impressive reflex save to deny Blas Perez a goal near the end of the game seemed almost unfortunate: it kept the score at 1-0; it made it appear Jamaica had hope. Fortunate, therefore, that Abdiel Arroyo scored in injury time to make the final score a better reflection of the match. The Reggae Boyz were never convincingly in this one. Panama's 2-0 win was well deserved.

So too is Los Canaleros' place in the Hex. They will contest the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying with a core of players who might be a little too old to make a real impact in Russia in 2018, but seem to have the necessary energy and ability to get Panama to the tournament. Top four in the Hex goes through the World Cup, and Panama will like its chances of in what looks set to be a three-way tussle with Trinidad and Tobago and Honduras for the right to accompany Mexico, USA, and Costa Rica to Russia.

As for Jamaica: the team is now officially building for a better future. It has a relatively young core of players that can be the spine of the squad all the way through qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, if their form and fitness hold up. Alvas Powell (22 years old), Kemar Lawrence (23), Michael Hector (24), and Andre Blake (25) should have their best years ahead of them - years that will coincide with the first half of the next World Cup qualifying campaign, at the very least.

One suspects Jamaica will shortly have a new head coach. Winfried Schafer has been in charge since July 2013. The team seemed to peak under his guidance in 2015, with a creditable Copa America performance and a run to the Gold Cup final. Since then, it has been mostly downhill. This qualifying campaign started with a home loss to Nicaragua. The Reggae Boyz opened this round of qualifiers with a home loss to Panama.

Most of the last year has seemed like a long and futile quest for a reliable strike force. It hasn't worked out. In five games in this qualifying group, Jamaica has scored two goals. And two goals doesn't yield a lot of points from five games. It's remarkable the Reggae Boyz managed to get as many as four points out of their anemic attack.

Whatever benefits there may be to continuity under a respected and experienced coach, the logic of international soccer tends to predictable: a manager gets one cycle to do something good; if that goes well, maybe there is another cycle as reward; if it does not, it's time to find a new manager.

Kemar Lawrence has a long future with his national team. But the coach who gave him his Reggae Boyz debut almost certainly does not.