Cayman draws with Haiti, falls in Olympic bid

| 29/07/2019
CNS Local Life
Cayman goal scorer Leighton Thomas, Jr (left) fights Haiti’s Alexis Djimy Bend for the ball (Photos by Cayman Photography)

(CNS Local Life): Cayman’s U23 national football team came up short in their bid to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, after Haiti scored a tying goal in the final minutes of their Sunday, 27 July match, for a 2-2 result. After losing 1-0 to Grenada Wednesday in their first CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex, Cayman needed to beat Haiti by two goals to top their group of three and move on to the next qualifying round.

However, during stoppage time at the end of the match, Haiti scored its second goal, as Cayman was forced to change tactic in an attempt to increase their lead to the all-important two goals. The more-aggressive formation left Cayman more susceptible to a counterattack, coach Ben Pugh told CNS, and Haiti took advantage of that position to notch the late equaliser and finish top of the group, after its 2-0 win against Grenada on Friday.

In the first half, Cayman opened the scoring in the ninth minute with a goal by Leighton Thomas, Jr, with Haiti answering in the 25th minute. In the second half, Cayman once again struck first with a 61st minute goal by Elijah Seymour. Once Cayman was up by one, “we knew we had to win by two clear goals which meant, unfortunately, we had to push forward a little bit more and we got caught in the counterattack, and it finishes 2-2,” Pugh said.

CNS Local Life
Christhofer Nunez-Reeves works to get through two Haitian players

He added they were disappointed with the result, “because again (as with Grenada) it was a game we felt that we probably deserved more out of…But I’m really pleased with how we played against a really strong Haitian team.

“Even though we knew it was going to be a really tough game, I think we matched them in terms of our commitment and our desire. For long periods of the game, I thought we outworked them.”

In talking to the team in the locker room after the match, Pugh said, “We focused on the fact that we played so well, and there were lots of positives with that. We also spoke about that though it hurts now and it’s disappointing, this is a long-term plan that we have, so it’s not just about these three games, it’s about the future of the senior team which a lot of the players will filter into.

“If we can continue to build upon the good stuff that we’ve done, and we can tweak one or two other things, maybe add a few more senior players where we were maybe a little bit lacking, the future’s going to be bright. We have to focus on those positives and keep moving forwards.”

Looking back at the two matches, Pugh said the team’s performances were reasons for optimism. After speaking to the team after the Haiti match and again on Monday, the coach stressed “the camp is in a good place, players are in a good place. There’s a lot of belief that we can kick on and we can improve as a group and as individuals. Going into the senior team games, (we are) full of confidence.”

Pugh is hopeful that this improvement will lead to future success. “The group has been excellent; the commitment has been outstanding. For me it has been a pleasure to work with them…and hopefully we can continue to push forward.”

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Category: Football, Sports

Comments (4)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I believe if we are to have a well trained national team the time has come to select then, pay them so they don’t have to work while they should be training and get them training year- round. I am tired of reading all kind old excuses and getting embarrassed when they can’t pull off consistent wins. I can only imagine what it does to them!! Stop giving concessions to investors and earmark some of the money to pay the athletes or forget about having a national football team.

    • Anonymous says:

      Precisely my arguement about properly supporting the NT. In any country a NT usually brings the joy or tears to the nation, whatever it is, people come together and support the team. Having our players been paid should be great, however, that requires funding and sponsors and cifa still under a cloud of suspicion, that needs to be addressed.
      In any case at the very least cifa/CI government should make sure that they are paid for time to travel and have insurance benefits. Most of our players make huge sacrifices to be able to represent our country, let’s support them. They will come good.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This result in this qualifying tournament does not surprise me one bit. Why was the full side that played in the CONCACAF U15 tournament back in 2013, that was so successful and full of talent, not played against Grenada or Haiti? Surely, they were there on the squad….the huge defensive players such as Kameron D’Hue and Dante Ramon, who play with might and determination like warriors as well as skill; the goal-scoring, play- making Forwards/Midfielders like Sebastian Martinez, Antwan Nelson and Zachary Scott, who play with the skill and heart of Pros!! These were the boys that light up the field in 2013 under the Coaching of Dion Brandon (a then very young Caymanian footballer, I must brag) and ignited the fans with pride and joy to watch them perform, so much so that the stands were ablaze with the CI Flags waving brilliantly, thunderous cheers heard all over GT and hope for great success in each game. I’m certain once again these young men now, would have gave their 110% to repeat the same glory for this tournament. Pugh could have always played in the others (which he put as starters and kept as finishers) he played instead of these young men mentioned….for goodness sakes these were qualifier matches after all!! Anyways, once again Cayman Islands (players & countrymen) come up short….really disappointing for the selected Team members who put in so much time, energy and effort to train for these qualifier matches!! God bless our Cayman ppl to see foreign (ppl/things) isn’t always better…sometimes we must give our young and the experience folks of our soil a chance to see if they will make good of the opportunity, too, instead of paying a foreigner a hefty pay to say they proud of Cayman sportsmen giving their all, but yet it’s because of them at the helm making terrible mistakes that nothing they tried or did came to fruition!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Good result, Haiti is always very difficult for anyone. Hopefully CIFA do not throw this group by the wayside as it is normally the practice and start over with another younger group to provide us with the excuse that we are the younger team in the tournament!
    Most of these players along with some more senior players should form the base of the senior national team and must be supported properly.