The twin-islands nation of Antigua and Barbuda dominated the U.S. Virgin Islands Men’s Soccer Team, 8-1, Tuesday afternoon at the Paul E. Joseph Stadium in Frederiksted in the first leg of a home-and-away World Cup qualifier series.
It was the second lopsided loss for the young V.I. team in the last five days as they were also beaten by Haiti, 6-0, last Friday in that country.
However, Coach Terrence Jones did not think that his men played up to their potential on their home soil. Jones felt it would have been a tall order asking them to win the match against a good Antigua and Barbuda team, but they played much better in the loss to Haiti.
“The preparation coming into this match was not there.” said Jones, “From before the match there was problems with the players and the association. There was not even a physiotherapist on hand to start the game, and the players were not pleased with how they were treated; and some of that most likely carried over into the game.”
Antigua and Barbuda, which has a team in the United Soccer League, showed their class in the first half by dominating the time of possession. It did not take them long to find the back of the net as forward Ranja Christian knocked one home in the eight minute. The visitors would keep the pressure on the home side and they went up 2-0 in the 38th minute when their star player and Los Angeles Blues striker, Peter Byers, scored the first of his three goals on the day.
That would be the score at the half.
The V.I. team had its first real scoring chance within a minute into the second half but was turned away. The visitors immediately counter-attacked and were up 3-0 in the 47th minute on Justine Cochrane’s scorcher from the right side of the penalty box. Two minutes later, the host team finally got on the board when Jamie Brown netted the home team’s lone goal of the afternoon to set the score at 3-1, sparking a wild celebration in the small group of fans.
The V.I. goal really sparked Antigua and Barbuda’s offense as they came alive for three quick goals in a span of six minutes to quickly silence the local fans. Byers scored two goals on two headers in the 51st and 57th minute, and George Dublin scored in the 54th minute as the Antiguans opened up a 6-1 lead.
Randolf Burton’s two goals in the 68th and 74th minutes capped the scoring for the game and an 8-1 victory for Antigua and Barbuda.
Visiting manager Fernando Abrahams was quite pleased with his team’s performance. “We have a very young exciting team,” said Abrahams, “and playing in the USL with the Antigua and Barbuda Barracudas has really helped with our development.”
As for Byers, he was also pleased with his performance. “I did not really show much out there today, but it was a good win for us,” he said. Asked about his professional future, the 26-year-old Byers explained that he now plies his trade with the LA Blues but has several tryouts lined up with professional teams in places like Vietnam, Trinidad, Canada, and the MISL on the U.S. mainland.
The V.I. squad will host Haiti before traveling to Antigua and Barbuda for the away game in their head-to-head matchup.