After weeks of speculation, the big match is almost upon us.
Cayman face Bermuda at the newly refurbished Truman Bodden Complex in the second leg of the World Cup qualifier on Sunday. When the match kicks off at 7pm a roar of encouragement will rise that should be heard all the way to East End.
Three thousand Caymanian supporters all dressed in red screaming the national heroes on for the next 90 minutes. Haviing drawn 1-1 in the first leg, Cayman only need a 0-0 draw to go through. Tough ask but with a solid defensive unit spearheaded by captain Tom Elliot, defensive partner Martin Laud and Tuda Murphy in goal, that wealth of experience could be the vital factor that will take Cayman through.
Murphy is the only full-time pro in the team, in fact. He plays for Glenavon in Irish Premier League. He is doing so well that Murphy was approached by top side Linfield this week but as this is his first season in Ireland, he turned a move there down. Murphy felt obliged to stay with Glenmavon for at least another year to show his appreciation.
Carl Brown expects a tough game for Cayman but knows they’re capable of going through. The technical director has analysed every aspect of Bermuda’s game instead of focusing on individual players. He said: ‘The Bermudan team as a whole is what I’ve been focusing on. We saw a Bermudan team which was very good in the first leg.
‘I believe the coach had a right to be coming down on them because they probably let us off the hook in that first game. It’s about the movement of all their players. Their mobility is very good and they have good speed.
‘The introduction of Khano Smith from the New England Revolution will add some power to their left midfield. He’s their only franchise player and is coming back to them so we’ll definitely have to play a lot more attention to him.
‘He has been doing very well in Major League Soccer in the last four or five years. We are pretty conscious on what we have to do and we’ve worked hard towards that.’
Brown denies that he does not single out Bermuda’s danger men for tactical reasons. ‘It’s just that I’m concentrating on the entire team. They work strong as a unit. I don’t believe there are brilliant individual players, they just play well as a unit.
‘Their pace from midfield and inter-changing of players from right-back, inside midfielders, centre backs… all very good, that’s why I’m concentrating on the whole team and not so much individuals. I believe that if they have a change of personnel, they’ll still play the same way against us. It’s about what we need to do to stop them from dominating against us, particularly in the midfield like they did in the first game.’
Shaun Goater is Bermuda’s most famous former player who had a distinguished career in English football. He claimed Cayman are no better than a pub team. Brown uses that barb to inspire his players. ‘I keep feeding to them what people think of them and it’s something that we have to face across the Caribbean.
‘If we are rated No.183 in the FIFA list then we really have no right to be competing with teams that are No.145. But that is on paper. It’s not automatic that it works that way on the field. That’s where all the decisions are made. Goater has his opinion and he has stated it. I don’t believe that we can kill him, but it’s for us to prove them wrong. And if they come short of what they’re capable of doing they will be in for a big surprise.’
Sports Minister Alden McLaughlin has predicted a 2-1 win for Cayman. Brown refuses to make one himself. ‘The players are the ones who do all the predictions out on the field and this is where it’s at. All the talking will be done on the pitch.’