Youth football in the Cayman Islands continues to be a force in the region.
Cayman advanced to the knockout phases of the inaugural Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football Under-15 Girls Championship with a 4-1 demolition of the Bahamas. Truman Bodden Sports Complex hosted the action last Friday. While Cayman had a final group match against Curacao on Sunday, the local girls guaranteed a spot in the quarterfinals – which take place on Aug. 13 – with six points and a +8 goal differential atop Group A. Cayman’s coach, Ruben Flores, says the goal was to show his squad’s opening 5-0 win over the British Virgin Islands was no fluke.
“The important part of the game was to convince, to show the first game wasn’t a fluke; to keep them working on what we’ve been doing and to try to get better every game,” Flores said. “I think they had a solid performance. They stuck to the plan, they did what they were asked and the results paid off.”
From the beginning, the home team came out with more intensity and poise than their opponents. Another dominant start for Cayman led to the edge in possession, shots on goal and early scores. The game’s first goal came just two minutes into the contest as nerves led to a defensive miscue by the visitors and a loose ball in the box, which forward Chelsea Green jumped on for a simple tap in.
Green, who was named girl of the match for the second straight contest, said she is fortunate to produce four goals in two games.
“Every time I look up and see the goal, I just take a shot,” Green said. “If you don’t shoot, there’s no way you can score. Every time I get in front of goal, I shoot but I guess the pole loved me against the Bahamas.”
More anxious defending by the visitors led to a defender being called for a handball in the box while blocking a cross from Sabrina Suberan. The result was a penalty kick, which Cayman captain Lauren Scott fired into the top right corner in the fifth minute. Cayman enjoyed a 3-0 advantage at halftime as Suberan produced a lovely strike from 20 yards out in the 17th minute that soared over the keeper and settled into the far left corner. The other notable happening in the first half was a yellow card issued to Bahamian midfielder Tyra McKenzie for a sloppy foul.
Suberan said, in spite of the goal, she felt her overall play could have been better.
“I think I played better because it was a harder competition,” Suberan said. “I think I could have done better with lots of things but we played good.”
During the interval, the national Under-20 boys team were recognized for playing in Curacao last week. They received a nice reception from the crowd, who had plenty to cheer about in the second half. Cayman continued to pressure their opponents and Scott put the proverbial nail in the coffin with a spectacular shot from 30 yards out that the keeper was helpless to stop.
Scott, listed as a midfielder, said she was happy to contribute to the win.
“I think that we played well,” Scott said. “We stuck to our plan and everything went as planned. We’re happy to go through to the next round.”
While the result was no longer in doubt, it was not exactly smooth sailing until the final whistle. Suberan picked up a yellow card in the 55th minute for an ill-advised challenge and Shayla Connor also saw yellow for a reckless tackle in the 68th minute. Forward Laurann Brown netted a soft goal for the visitors in the 70th minute, courtesy of a mental lapse by the Cayman defense.
Coach Flores said allowing the goal did not take away from an otherwise stellar defensive showing.
“You know what, we have a very solid defense,” he said. “The goal that we got was a long ball, with a little bit of a hiccup in the back, but that doesn’t bother me. I believe that when the team works hard, when the team does work properly, they are going to get the result. If you can score once and we can score two or three more goals, then we’re going to win the game. That was the case against Bahamas.
“We could afford that because we played well for the rest of the game and we take one for a little fluke. Look, these are 15-year-old kids that were concentrated for 70 minutes and [for] 70 minutes last game so not taking a goal for about 137 minutes was pretty good for 15-year-old girls. It doesn’t worry me too much, it won’t happen much.”
Tactically, Flores put the onus on the opposing defense to cope with an attacking 3-2-3-2 formation. As with the BVI game, the resulting hallmark of Cayman’s play was constant pressure on the ball, loads of possession against the Bahamas and ample opportunities to shine on set pieces. While Cayman missed some easy scoring chances, the overall picture is that of a team with a potent attack and stout midfield. A number of players deserve props for their consistent play, namely, defenders Tyra McField, Halle Medina and midfielder Derricka Neysmith.
Several countries were in action heading into the weekend. On Thursday, Costa Rica beat Anguilla, 5-0 and Jamaica defeated Belize, 5-0. On Friday, Honduras clobbered Barbados, 3-0; Trinidad and Tobago had a 1-1 draw with Bermuda and Curacao edged BVI, 2-1. In total, there are 16 teams in the competition split into four groups. Aside from Cayman’s division, Group B features the Hondurans, Trinidadians, Bermudans and Barbadians. Group C features the Jamaicans, Costa Ricans, Anguillians and Belizeans and Group D has Canada, Cuba, Haiti and Puerto Rico.