The V.I. Men’s Soccer Team went through its final practice Tuesday at the Sion Farm Soccer Field before departing for Haiti on Wednesday to take part in the first leg of a home-and-away World Cup qualifier series against that country.
With an average age of about 22, the team made history when they defeated the British Virgin Islands in a first round home and away encounter to advance to the second round for the first time in their brief history.
Head Coach Terrence Jones was very upbeat about his young squad and was especially pleased with the improvement in the side’s defense.
“We used to give up a lot of easy goals.” Jones said, “But right now, with how our defense has improved, I would match them against anybody who we will play, defensively.”
Jones said that the team has really gelled like never before. No longer is there bickering about who’s selected from St. Thomas or St. Croix, or who belongs here or there. The guys on the team are like family, he said.
Some of the team members are college players based stateside. According to Jones, they will be flying directly to Haiti from their stateside locations, and the entire team should be on island Wednesday afternoon. The match is schedule for Friday.
The contingent flying to Haiti is comprised of 18 players and five officials. According to Jones, FIFA recommends traveling with 23 players, but due to financial constraints they had to cut back.
“I feel real good about this team,” said Jones as he looked over practice. “It’s one of the better ones that we have ever fielded. We no longer show up just to play, we now have a team that can and will compete.”
The V.I. Men’s National Team includes:
Strikers – Jamie Browne
Striker/midfield – Kellen Ganiko, Reid Klopp, Junior Laurencin, Michael Beharry, Alexander Nissman and Dwayne Thomas
Defense – Kai Schuster, Joseph Limeburner, Derrick Smith, Alberto Vangurp Jr. and John Phillip
Goalkeepers – Carlos Claxton and Shaun Sells
Utility Players – Ayinde Augustus, Lishati Bailey, Jonas Verhoff and Andres Caesar
Travelling Officials: Head Coach Terrence Jones Sr., Assistant Coach Dale Richards, Technical Director Keith Griffith, Trainer Eustace Bailey, Equipment Manager Alvin Randolph and Team Manager Carlton Freeman