The men’s senior national squad are prepared to defeat USVI tonight in their Group A Concacaf Nations League game.
With two overseas-based players in Maccabi Tel Aviv striker Nick Blackman, and Oklahoma's Tulsa Roughnecks FC defender Terence Smith, the 23-man squad, led by Captain Rashad Jules, are set to dominate as they continue their quest to League B and a shot at the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup.
Last month, the senior men defeated Saint Martin 4-0 at home, before going down 3-2 to Cayman Islands days later.
After defeating Saint-Martin 2-1, USVI Dashing Eagles would be out for blood having pocketed their goals in the first five minutes of the game. However, they lost 2-0 to Cayman Islands days prior.
During a press conference at the Barbados Football Association’s Wildey offices on Thursday, head coach Russell Latapy revealed that England-based forward Hallam Hope and Hungary’s Thierry Gale would not be wearing the nation’s black, gold and ultramarine when the starting 11 take the field tonight.
He added that defenders Keason Trench and Carl Hinkson will also be sitting this game out. Trench was red-carded in an earlier game against Haiti while Hinkson picked up two yellow cards. However, they would be replaced by Ricardio Morris, who made a comeback to the national side late last year, and the silent but deadly midfielder Akeem Hill.
Also making a reappearance on the national squad are Barbados Defence Force Sports Programme defender Rashad Smith, who played in the game against (French) Saint Martin and Paradise’s Zico Phillips, also a defender, who last suited up in the national kit last year.
Renaldo Trim and Akeel Applewaite along with Capelli SuperCup impressers Romario Drakes, Darico King and Ramon Griffith were also named in the final 23.
Notably absent from the starting lineup is former national captain, now turned coach, Mario Harte.
“I’ve had a conversation with Mario. We had him playing with the squad for the last two games against (French) Saint Martin and the Cayman Islands. I think Mario still has a lot to offer to the national team, but at the intensity that we are playing at, we are asking that the players' fitness level be a bit higher than Mario’s was at that time preparing. The reason for that is Mario is doing a lot of coaching as well and it is difficult to juggle the two,” Latapy explained.
Additionally, Latapy, a former Trinidad and Tobago Soca Warrior, said this game was very important for advancing onto the next stage.
“I’ve always thought from day one that we have a lot of talented players. In terms of the CFU (Caribbean Football Union) and the region, our players’ technical ability is on par with anybody else. I think my challenge really is to get the boys gelling together and get the intensity up. There is a lot of steady progress. Obviously, these things take a little time, but we’re moving forward and we’re quite happy about that,” he said.
Meanwhile, Blackman said he was hoping to score some goals for the home side following his clean sheet in the team’s last outing against the Cayman Islands and his two goals in the game against Saint Martin.
“I think it is disappointing whenever you lose a game. It is something we reflected on directly after the game. The coach had some honest words for us in the changing room and we remember that feeling . . . . The more time I spend here and play with the guys, the better I understand them and it will only help in the future going forward,” he said.
While Blackman, a former Derby County striker, may be singled out for his professional training, he said he did not believe he was the one to be singled out in terms of play.
“There are a lot of good players here. If anybody thinks I can help, I am open to any questions and I am always there to give them my experience. I am just here to set the example from what I’ve learnt. If they look up to that, then they look up to that, but I am just here to help Barbados go as far as possible and I am really proud to be a part of that,” he said, while Latapy added that Blackman’s professionalism was beginning to rub off on other members of the team.
SQUAD: Rashad Jules (Captain), Kishmar Primus, Liam Brathwaite, Nick Blackman, Ricardio Morris, Mario Williams, Akeem Hill, Rashad Smith, Zico Phillips, Raheim Sargeant, Hadan Holligan, Ranaldo Trim, Omani Leacock, Jomo Harris, Armando Lashley, Darico King, T-Shane Lorde, Akeel Applewaite, Shane Codrington, Terence Smith, Nicolai Brathwaite, Romario Drakes and Ramon Griffith .
OFFICIALS: Russell Latapy (Head Coach), Fitzgerald Carter (Assistant Coach), Ryan Brewster (Trainer), Nicola Yard (Medic) and Patrick Mapp (Equipment Manager).