Any side opening their international account prays for an excellent start, and the Cayman Islands certainly did that in their opening game of the Under-15 CONCACAF tournament, smashing a dozen past hapless St. Maarten.
It may have been raining at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex on Tuesday night, but Cayman smiles dazzled as the goal rush began as early as the first minute when Man of the Match Leighton Thomas poked in the first of his five first-half strikes in the 12-0 win.
Sebastian Martinez returned from playing for professional side Swindon Town in England and scored twice.
Joshua McKenzie also hit two and there was one apiece from Zachary Scott, Elijah Seymour and Cameron Gray, who also returned from duty in the UK where he is with Reading.
The game was watched by CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb, a Caymanian businessman who created this tournament and ensured it was played in his homeland. Other dignitaries included Premier Alden McLaughlin, Minister of Sports and Health Osbourne Bodden and Deputy Governor Franz Manderson.
Cayman team manager Owen Dinnall said: “It was a great game. The players executed everything that they learned in training. They were composed, did really well and I’m proud of my team.
“We attacked early, pressed early but kept possession and our shape. It was an overall team effort and everyone executed everything well.
“We didn’t have a report on St. Maarten so didn’t know who was coming or how well they play, so our mindset was go at them hard, test them and prove ourselves.
“Leighton scoring so early set the tone for the game. The guys were then able to settle and enjoy themselves more.”
There are 11 matches on Thursday. Cayman play the US Virgin Islands in the fourth and final game of the evening at Truman Bodden, kick-off 7.30pm. All games are free entry.
Dinnall said that against the US Virgin Islands, the team will probably be the same personnel with a few tactical adjustments. Despite the overwhelming victory against St. Maarten, he feels they can still move the ball faster, keep possession longer and maintain their shape better.
Probably the biggest problem the Cayman coaches are having is to temper the euphoria amongst the players. Dinnall said: “We will tell them that the St. Maarten game is gone, and against US Virgin Islands it’s a fresh start and we have to show serious discipline again.”
The first day’s play saw an amazing 29 goals from five matches. Three Group A matches produced 24 goals. Besides Cayman’s 12, Bermuda beat the US Virgin Islands 8-0, as Oneko Lowe and Ahria Simons both scored two apiece. Aruba beat the Bahamas at Ed Bush Stadium, 4-0, in the other Group A match.
In Group B, Belize against St. Lucia was the most tightly contested match, with Belize winning 1-0 through Alvin Fontes getting the strike. He was also Man of the Match.
In the other Group B game, Jamaica had to wait until the start of the second half to break down a resilient Grenada defence as they comfortably won 4-0.
The earlier Truman Bodden games on Thursday are Aruba v St. Maarten (3pm), Honduras v Trinidad & Tobago (4.30pm) and Jamaica v St. Lucia (6pm).
At the TE McField Annex, it is Guadeloupe v St. Kitts (3pm), Curacao v St. Martin (4.30pm), Haiti v St. Vincent (4.30pm) and El Salvador v Martinique (7.30pm).
At Ed Bush, the schedule begins with Puerto Rico v Antigua and Barbuda (3pm), Bahamas v Bermuda (4.30pm) and finishes with Guatemala v Grenada (6pm).