The arrival of Under-20 national coaches is set to bring a renewed focus on attacking football. Last week Americans Eric Dobrzanski and Lee Blenman were introduced as the new heads of the recently formed Cayman Islands Football Association U20 womens programme. Both were quick to discuss the tactical goals for the ladies.
“The individual talent and commitment is great but the tactical development has to get better,” Dobrzanski said. “In the States it’s a mixed bag at the college level. Talent-wise I think it’s here with girls like Jessica Ebanks. We have high expectations. But you can’t have a foundation and throw it on kids. Lee and I studied these girls a bit and our system will involve having four girls in the mid-field.
“Our strength is in the back as three of the four defenders are from the U17 team. The mid-fielders I feel need to gel moving forward and we need to use everyone’s strengths.”
“The physical part of the game is not an issue,” Blenman said. “They’re great in the air, decent on set pieces and so on. But the tactics need work in areas like team defending. We got to be sure that we’re organized so that we know what we’re doing on the pitch.
“The players dictate the system and we’re strong at the back. We have some developing to do in attack. We will need to move players in different positions that they haven’t played before. For example captain Brianna Hydes will have a different role as an attacking player. We got to get the best athletes playing in the right spots and get the technical base there to qualify for tournaments all of the time.”
Dobrzanski and Blenman (head coach and assistant coach respectively) have a few months to implement their strategies with the girls. The pair are gearing up for international competition starting in October. The plan is in the next five years Cayman will qualify for a major tournament such as the U20 Women’s World Cup.
Dobrzanski, who is from Miami and just finished coaching at Johnson and Wales University, admits those are lofty expectations but is confident Cayman can get to that level.
“Cayman players have what some of the others don’t: the mentality. Here there’s a great mix of players and the football association is doing a good job. One year in football can do a lot of things. It’s easier in big countries to get talent but we’re planning to compete now with an eye towards 2013.
“I have no doubt at the U20 level we can replicate the U17 girls’ success with a little tweaking. I feel we just have to put across our theories. Is there pressure? Of course. This is a competition level that’s different from high school and college. We can perfect the training but the girls have to learn the system and be successful.”
Both coaches are looking to improve on the work already done by the likes of Thiago Cunha. An assistant coach for Cayman during the famed U17 World Cup run, Cunha now serves as technical director for women’s football. He admits that though the Americans have a long way to go to accomplish their goals, the process is a necessity in Cayman.
“The coaches have worked with the girls who are here and we have others in school abroad,” Cunha said. “They’re American, I’m Brazilian and we all come here with a different outlook. Cayman has already made some strides in the organization of women’s football. In 2001 I helped start the U11 programme and those girls went on to the U17 group. They did one thing that was amazing and I hope they can go on to better things.
“Cayman football will grow on the women’s side. Back when I first came here there were just four female teams in total. Now you’re seeing roughly five U16 clubs, five U17 sides and five senior teams.
“Eric and Lee are good people and they’re coming here with experience building a programme. This five-year project is good for the girls and there will be social parts like beach football. The girls need direction and the U20s and U23s are the focus. I see a very good U15 group coming up that we can use to set up the U17 and U20 teams.
“Step by step things will be growing. I feel we’re developing great women’s national teams. At this point we need the Cayman society to come on board. I hope everyone can support and rally around the U20 programme.”