The Star (Jamaica)
Coach Chambers banking on Atkinson’s goalscoring form
Impressed by the form of national under-17 striker Natoya Atkinson, head coach Dane Chambers hopes that she can continue to lead the goal-scoring charge as the young Reggae Girlz look to pull off the upset in their Concacaf Women’s Under-17 Championship quarter-final match against the United States today at 3 p.m Jamaica time.
While both teams will enter the Estadio Panamericano in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, with unbeaten streaks, the United States have spared no mercy for their opponents, scoring 49 goals in four matches including their 11-0 thrashing of Curacao in the round of 16.
The bulk of Jamaica’s 15 goals in the tournament have been scored by Atkinson who is the team’s leading goal scorer with five. Atkinson started on the bench for the first two games of the campaign but has emerged as a key player for Chambers, earning starts in their last two games, including the 4-0 in the round of 16 win over Cuba where she scored a brace. Chambers said that even before the start of their World Cup qualifying campaign, he knew that Atkinson’s abilities would be key to their chances, specifically in their 1-1 draw with Canada.
“Based on our analysis before the tournament even started, I knew Natoya would be the key player against Canada because of her movement and how well she could press defenders. We knew we had to get her into the game early,” Chambers told STAR Sports.
While Atkinson has made an impact as a starter, Chambers says he has also seen the value of her coming off the bench to make an impact in the latter stages of games.
“I see where we may benefit more when she comes on with opposing defenders having tired legs because of her ball skills and her speed and as you can see, so far so good,” Chambers said.
The last time Jamaica played the USA in the Under-17 Concacaf Women’s Championship was in 2013 when they lost 8-0 in the third-place playoff. The young Reggae Girlz fourth-place finish that year is to date their highest placing in the tournament’s history.
Despite the odds, forward Sundai Amele believes that their performance against Canada has given them belief to cause an upset against the USA.
“I think with the team that we have, we can definitely take them on as we did with Canada,” Amele said.