Scrolling through the list of 612 players across the 16 Concacaf Gold Cup teams' provisional roster, two names on Jamaica's roster stood out the most.
Is that really Ravel Morrison, the former Manchester United phenom who as a 14-year-old was hailed by Sir Alex Ferguson as the best young talent he’d ever seen?
And was that really Leon Bailey, a 21-year-old starlet at Bayer Leverkusen who turned down the Jamaican federation while England and Germany scouted his eligibility? Is he ready to commit now?
Yes and yes, it turns out. Union goalkeeper Andre Blake, one of the Reggae Boyz' leaders, was very happy to see the news.
"I think they're great additions to the team," he told The Inquirer after Tuesday's Union practie. "They will definitely be good for us. We still have a little bit of time to go, so hopefully they'll stay healthy and they'll make the last cut."
The good news helps make up for the bad news, which is Cory Burke’s absence from Jamaica’s 40-man provisional squad that Concacaf published Monday. A source with with knowledge confirmed to The Inquirer on Tuesday night that Burke was left out due to the U.S. visa issues that have him stuck in Jamaica until late summer.
Morrison, who played for England youth teams but has Jamaican ancestry, has reportedly wanted to make the switch for a while. His star fell when he left Manchester United for West Ham, then went out on loan to a series of other British clubs. Since then, he has been on the books at Italian club Lazio and Mexican club Atlas. Now 26, he’s currently trying to rebuild his career at Swedish club Österstund.
Bailey, 21, has drawn big-money interest from Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and other European giants over the years. If he plays at the Gold Cup, he’s likely to get a new round of major offers. But he refused the national team’s overtures for a while, in part to try to get the program to call in his brother.
Blake said he stayed out of trying to lobby either player, but he isn’t surprised that they’ve apparently come on board.
"I know Ravel has always wanted to come, the same thing with Leon," he said. "I knew at some point that what was to be was going to be [for Bailey]. I think he really wants to play for his country, so it was just going to be a matter of time. There's still nothing yet, you know, so we still have to wait and see how things play out."
It’s a testament to Jamaica’s improvement in recent years that high-quality dual nationals with Jamaican eligibility are choosing the Reggae Boyz. Though they haven’t qualified for a men’s World Cup since 1998, they’ve reached the last two Gold Cup finals. Blake backstopped the last run in 2017 and was an unused bench player in 2015.
“We’ve got a good thing going on right now, we have a very good group of guys,” Blake said. “And because of the results and with the team doing well, we’re going to draw atttention and then more people are going to want to come and play for us. So we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing, and keep getting results and keep moving this thing forward.”
Jamaica has the potential to make another deep run this year. In addition to the team’s talent, the country will host the first ever Gold Cup games played in the Carribean on June 17 in Kingston. The doubleheader includes the Reggae Boyz’ clash with Honduras, a rival to win the group led by Houston Dynamo forwards Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis.