Gilbert not rushing Blackwood despite delay in WCQ start

October 13, 2021

Although the timetable for the Women's World Cup qualifiers has been pushed back to next year, national assistant coach Xavier Gilbert says they will not be rushing defender Denisha Blackwood's recovery time from her knee problem.

Concacaf announced recently that the start of the first round will be February 2022 instead of next month. The regional body cited the travel restrictions for some countries because of the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the reasons for the new dates.

The additional four-month period gives more time for Blackwood, who suffered a season-ending injury in August while playing for her National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) club, the Houston Dash. However, Gilbert says that they are taking a cautious approach so as to not rush her too quickly and risk not having her at all for the games.

"I'm not sure she will be ready by February. It is a possibility but because of the rehabilitation and all of that to get back to match fitness, what we are trying our best to do is to make sure our form is strong and everybody is playing competitively. She (Blackwood) might be match-rusty by the time February comes around," Gilbert told STAR Sports.

Blackwood would have missed the start of the campaign with the previous November timeline and her injury is among the many concerns that the Reggae Girlz have to monitor. Midfielder Havana Solaun had to be substituted during her NWSL game with the North Carolina Courage with a non-contact injury, and Tiffany Cameron who plays in Hungary is recovering from an injury which will keep her from the international friendly against Costa Rica on October 24.

Gilbert says that they are taking the long-term view in Blackwood's case as she is very important to the team.

"We have to see how the rehabilitation goes. It will give her some time to get back to playing but it's something that for the first set of qualifiers it is going to be a tough task to bring her right back in," Gilbert said. "We need her for the long haul so it is important that she does the rehabilitation properly, and we don't rush her into action and then lose her for another couple months."

Jamaica will now open their campaign against Bermuda on February 17.

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