The Cayman Islands Under 17 Boys National Football team defeated Grenada 2-0 in the Group A opener of the CONCACAF Under 17 Boys Championships qualifying round on Saturday at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
A penalty in the 63rd minute from Jahrion Bodden and a strike from substitute Breshawn Watson in the 84th minute was more than enough to seal the victory for Cayman.
Grouped with Nicaragua, Grenada, the U.S. Virgin Islands and St. Vincent and the Grenadines in Group A of the qualifying round, only the group winners will advance to the final round, scheduled for May.
Things did not start too well for the Cayman side, as midfielder Barry Dre Tibbetts received an early knock to the head, which required treatment on the sideline.
Tibbetts soon returned to the field and the Cayman team were back to full strength.
In the early stages of the game, midfielder Jahmai Griffiths hit the post and centre forward Syrus Conolly was causing endless problems for the Grenadian defence with his speed and size.
The back line of captain Daniel Wallace, Luke Byles, Victor Thompson Jr. and Caleb McFarlane were dealing well with their opponents’ attacks. Micah O’Garro, making his international debut in goal, showed signs of nervousness during the early stages of the half, but soon settled into his new role.
With neither team able to break the deadlock, the halftime whistle sounded with the score tied at 0-0.
The second half started without Tibbetts as he had not fully recovered from his first half knock. Jackson Kirkconnell was given the nod by coach Bruce Sigsworth to come on as substitute, and he slotted in the midfield alongside Jonah Sigsworth, Corey Smith, Jahrion Bodden and Jahmai Griffiths.
Grenada was pressing slightly more than they had done in the first half, but the Cayman boys retained their discipline and absorbed whatever pressure their opponents could gather.
Kameron Bennett replaced Smith on the left side of midfield and soon after, Cayman was awarded a penalty as Conolly was tripped by the Grenadian goalkeeper on his way to goal.
Up stepped Jahrion Bodden, who made a clean strike from the penalty spot to take the score to 1-0.
With the game clock winding down and a second goal needed to ease the nerves, 15-year-old Breshawn Watson replaced Conolly up front. In the 84th minute, he latched on to a pass from Daniel Wallace to score his first competitive international goal and make it 2-0 to seal the victory for the Cayman Islands.
The result was a good start for the Cayman squad, with an all-round solid performance put in by all the players.
Commenting on the game, coach Sigsworth said, “Our boys dominated much of the possession, but took a little more time than what we wanted to gain the ‘cutting edge’ needed to breach the resolute Grenadians. The team responded very well to losing Barry Dre [Tibbetts] at halftime as they continued to push forward for the win, which they achieved.”
The Cayman team is scheduled to play the U.S. Virgin Islands on Tuesday, March 18; St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday, March 22; and Group A favourites Nicaragua on Sunday, March 24.