After being dealt a heavy blow on Friday, Jamaica kicks off in Nicaragua tonight in a do-or-die match with World Cup qualification on the line. Giles Barnes, after putting in ninety minutes on Friday, is meant to sit out tonight per an agreement between the Houston Dynamo and Jamaican federation.
"Giles won't play in the game [Tuesday] against Nicaragua. We've had an agreement," said Dynamo coach Owen Coyle, following Tuesday's practice session. "Given that he's been banged about and I think the surface tonight doesn't lend to him coming through unscathed [after] a good shift the other night. We'll hope that he's fit and fresh."
Jamaica will now enter the second leg of a home-and-home series versus Nicaragua, needing to overcome a 3-2 aggregate score to advance in qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. If they're unable to do so in Tuesday's match, then the Reggae Boyz will be eliminated from World Cup qualification.
On Friday night, at home, Jamaica was shocked as they were down 3-0 in the early minutes of the second half. The squad fought back and found goals in the 68th and 78th minute, but could not find the equalizer before the final whistle. Giles Barnes started and played a full complement of minutes but should sit out in Tuesday's vital qualifier, if Jamaica remains true to the agreement.
It's an agreement that looks tempting to break. Down by a goal and playing on the road, the Jamaicans will miss Barnes' pace down the wing and his combination play with teammates. Vancouver's Darren Mattocks has found a stride in recent matches (including a goal in Friday's defeat), and should bear a bit more of the responsibility with Barnes sidelined.
Jamaica look to save their World Cup status Tuesday night in Nicaragua's Estadio Nacional Dennis at 8:30PM (CDT). Houston continues to prepare for their weekend match against Real Salt Lake and looks forward to having Barnes back in camp on Thursday, if all goes well.