The U.S. Virgin Islands’ senior men’s national soccer team shook up its starting lineup for its next match in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers.
However, the shakeup didn’t produce a change in the USVI National Team’s fortunes, as they came away with a 1-0 loss to Grenada’s national team Tuesday night in St. George’s, Grenada.
The loss was the U.S. Virgin Islands’ sixth straight in international competition, dating back to 2019, and dropped the USVI to 0-2-0 in Group A in the World Cup Qualifiers with two matches remaining. Grenada is now 1-1-0.
“They really made us work harder than we thought,” said USVI head coach Gilberto Damiano Jr., who was back with the team after missing Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Antigua and Barbuda.
“The first half was a game of defending for us, trying to stop them from creating chances. But in the second half, we were more prepared than the opposition. We started getting more chances. I thought a goal was coming for us in the second half.
“But we come out of this game very proud of what we achieved as a team. We’re a very young team, and the future is bright.”
The lone goal of the match came late in the first half, when a pass that deflected off a USVI defender landed at the feet of Grenada striker Saydrel Lewis, who punched it past U.S. Virgin Islands goalkeeper Lionel Brown in the 33rd minute.
It was the sixth career goal in international competition for Lewis, who plays professionally for Honduras’ Real Juventud, and his first since 2-18.
“The guys did great — most times, teams underestimate us and we tend to use that as an element of surprise,” said USVI team captain John Engerman. “Was it great? Unfortunately, we lost on something we didn’t expect.”
The USVI swapped players for Tuesday’s match, with three new starters — forward Tim Herring, midfielder Jake Iller and defender Kassal Greene — and several other players changed positions. Grant Farrell, a forward in Saturday’s match with Antigua and Barbuda, started at defender Tuesday, as did Josh Ramos, a midfielder in the first match. Engerman moved from defense to midfield.
The USVI’s coaches also changed positioning, going from the 3-3-4 lineup used in the first half of Saturday’s loss to a 3-4-3 setup against Grenada.
“Every player that we have now have the capacity of getting and starting as one of the starting 11 right now,” Damiano said. “Based on the opposition and based on our strengths and weaknesses, we’ve decided to make some changes, some adjustments. We thought the adjustments were very positive.
“For us, it’s all about giving some players the opportunity to really show what they’re capable of. At the end of the day, it’s a tournament, it’s a World Cup Qualifier. We have four games to play, and we have to always try to evolve, try to become better. The best way to become better as a group … is to give players the opportunity once they show us in training sessions they are ready.”
While the U.S. Virgin Islands finished with its sixth shutout loss in its last eight international matches, both Damiano and Engerman said the team had several scoring opportunities in the second half of Tuesday’s match.
“The opportunities in the second half were there,” said Engerman, who plays for St. Bonaventure. “We had a few that we thought we could have capitalized on. The Grenada team made a few mistakes that we should have been sharp on.
“Still, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel; very soon, very, very, very soon.”
St. Vincent and the Grenadines 3, British Virgin Islands 0: The British Virgin Islands suffered its seventh consecutive loss in international competition Tuesday in Willemsted, Curacao, giving up two early goals in a Group C loss to St. Vincent.
Oalex Anderson and Zidane Sam scored goals in a 10-minute span early in the first half for St. Vincent and the Grenadines (1-1-0). Anderson scored in the 10th minute, and Sam in the 20th.
Azinho Solomon, who entered the match in the 82nd minute, added an insurance goal four minutes later.
The British Virgin Islands are now 0-2-0 in group play.