Barbados’ stand-out striker Thierry Gale scored a 93rd minute goal to give the youthful Barbados Tridents a 1-1 result against Guatemala in their opening fixture of the 2019 CONCACAF Under-17 Football Championship in Bradenton, Florida, yesterday.
Both teams were off to a tentative start with most of the action concentrated in the midfield with neither custodian called upon to deal with any early anxious moments. Both teams were solid at the back with several searching balls being cut out by the respective defenders, though a 24th minute effort by Guatemala went just wide of the Bajans’ goal.
Barbados’ number 9 Abiola Grant who posed a constant threat on attack and also played stoutly in defence, created plenty of initial problems for the Guatemalan youngsters. A pass into the area was met by Grant in the first-half but his effort at giving the Bajans an early lead was stymied by some solid defence. The Guatemalans also made a few forays into the Barbados area but found a back-line that allowed very little spacing and even less goal-scoring opportunities. The half-time whistle saw the two teams return to their quarters with the score at stalemate.
Both sides picked up on the intensity in the second half with Gale and captain Roshon Gittens trying their best to find an opening for the Bajan lads. Most of these players have come through the National Sports Council’s BICO-sponsored Primary Schools Football Tournament and their familiarity with each other and time spent together at junior level training showed in their much better cohesive play in the second period. But they would still fall behind in the 55th minute of play.
A free-kick from the left-side of the field found its way into the box and after a scramble by defenders to clear the ball and an error in judgment by goal-keeper Brandon Sumpter, defender Mathius Gaitan was able to poke the ball into the back of the net from very close range and initiate Guatemalan celebrations. Almost immediately, though, Gale nearly brought parity back to proceedings. He got on the end of a through-ball and a blistering left-foot shot went just wide of the upright.
Both sides created further opportunities without breaching each other’s final defence. In added time it appeared as though the Tridents’ game determination would not be rewarded. But in the 93rd minute they got the equalizer through another piece of brilliance from Gale. He received a pass on his right side from substitute Tajio James, outpaced his marker leaving him and another onrushing defender in his wake. A right-footed effort that went just wide of the diving Guatemalan goalkeeper Jose Aguirre Dardon found its way into the back of the nets to the jubilation of those on the field and those in the dug-out. Gale ran to the dug-out immediately to celebrate with his team members. It was a tremendous effort by the rising star.
Barbados will now come up against CONCACAF powerhouses USA tomorrow evening and will be hoping for a favourable result, perhaps even going beyond the draw earned against the Guatemalans.
Barbados and the USA have never met before at the CONCACAF U-17 Championship with this year marking the island’s third appearance at the tournament, participating previously in 2011 and 2013. Barbados have never advanced beyond the first round of play at this competition, carrying an all-time record of 0-3-2. Yesterday’s draw against Guatemala marked Barbados’ second-ever point in the CONCACAF competition.
The Barbados Tridents, coached by former international Renaldo Gilkes, will come up against an opponent tomorrow with an imposing 22-4-7 all-time record against Caribbean teams at this CONCACAF tournament.
This year marks the 19th CONCACAF championship at this age level. Started in 1983, the regional competition sends four teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean to the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Brazil.
The top three teams from each group qualify to the Round of 16. Four teams – Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico – advanced directly to the Round of 16 from a pre-tournament qualifying phase. The four tournament semifinalists earn berths to the U-17 World Cup.
In this group stage, Barbados are drawn against Canada, USA and Guatemala in Group F. The top 16 teams in the CONCACAF U-17 ranking were drawn into the main group stage, while the bottom 19 teams battled it out in a pre-qualifying tournament for four Round of 16 berths.
The Barbados team is goalkeepers – Shaquan Phillips, Brandon Sumpter, defenders – Andre Applewhaite, Lemar Catlyn, Shaquanie Phillips,
midfielders – Hashim Brewster, Ethan Bryan, Axel Funk, Jaylan Gilkes, Roshon Gittens, Jahmali Hutson, Asher Jn Pierre, Devonte Richards, Nathan Skeete and forwards – Thierry Gale, Abiola Grant, Tajio James, Jamol Williams.