The Cayman Islands national senior men’s football squad have made wholesale changes to their roster ahead of the final CONCACAF Nations League qualifying game Friday (22 March) versus Montserrat.
Having collected just one point in three games, Cayman sits in 26th overall out of 31 teams and are destined for the tournament’s third tier when plays begins in the 2019-20 CONCACAF Nations League in September.
Sitting in 15th overall, Montserrat have a chance to make the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the first time in the country’s history. With nine teams clustered at six points, the Emerald Boys are 2-0-1 with +2 goal differential. Needing to reach tenth place to qualify for the Gold Cup, a convincing win versus Cayman could get them through. By comparison, the Dominican Republic currently occupy the final Gold Cup spot with a record of 2-0-1 and a +10 goal differential.
Front to back changes for the Islanders
After goalless losses to both Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, Cayman began to show life in a scoreless draw versus Saint Lucia. However, with offenses chances squandered and multiple defensive lapses, Head Coach Alex Gonzales will look to inject life on both ends of the pitch in his first game atop the senior team after replacing Elbert McLean.
On offense, the Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) Premier League’s top goalscorer Christopher Reeves returns to the squad after being dropped versus Saint Lucia. After playing in both away games, the Elite Sports Club standout is confident he can make an impact.
“It feels good to be representing the Cayman Islands one more time,” said Reeves. “Hopefully, we get the result that we looking for which is a win. I have been training hard to give my best.”
Reeves will hope to replace some of the offensive firepower vacated by Academy Sports Club’s Jonah Ebanks who is likely to sit due to an injury suffered in the Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) President’s Cup semifinals. Starting attacker Theron Wood has been left off the squad.
“More than likely I won’t play,” said Ebanks. “The injury is getting better. I am going through the strengthening process right now. I should be back in the next two weeks.”
Cayman will also hope for an offensive injection on the wing courtesy of Academy Sports Club’s Romario Dixon. Like Reeves, the attacking midfielder was left off the roster versus Saint Lucia after playing against both Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. Academy’s Lucas Christian will also return after playing the first two away games. Midfield starter Jermane Wilson was left off the squad. Dixon says he’s motivated to make an impact.
“It was disappointing, but it gave me that push to make the next squad,” said Dixon. “Going into the Montserrat game, we are underdogs and have nothing to lose. I think we will play with more freedom, less pressure and try to impose our style of football.”
Making his Cayman Islands national senior team debut will be 21-year old wing Anton Nelson. Playing professionally for the Llanelli Town AFC of the Welsh Premier League, the former Savannah Tigers junior hopes to be an example for young Caymanian footballers.
“Everyone has talent, the thing is your work ethic and having the right attitude” said Nelson. “I can’t reiterate the fact that I’ve been turn down when I’ve thought I’ve made it. You make your own luck, I’ve made it through hard work.”
On defense, Elite Sports Club’s Benjamin Cupid and Jameal Welcome will make their Nations League debut, along with Future Sports Club’s Ackeem Hyde. Starting defender Tyler Lee has been dropped. Welcome says the vibe around the team has been positive.
“In training, everyone seems to be happy and motivated and looking forward to a positive result,” said Welcome. “We are expecting a competitive and physical game, and I do believe we have a stronger team than the previous matches.”
Captain Ramon Sealy, who was brilliant in net versus Saint Lucia, says the newly formed unit is prepared to compete.
“The guys are ready to go out and put on a good performance for the fans,” said Sealy. “We have been preparing together for the last couple of months, and the preparations have gone good. I believe the team are adapting to the methods being put in place. We just need to go out and execute, and I believe we will get the result we want.”
Here is a look at the Cayman Islands national senior men’s roster versus Montserrat Friday 22 March in the CONCACAF Nations League Qualifier:
(G) Ramon Sealy, (G) Shakur Welcome, Karl Solomon, Wesley Robinson, Benjamin Cupid, Brian Martin, Kyle Santamaria, Ackeem Hyde, Joshewa Frederick, Jameal Welcome, Lucas Christian, Matthew Subaran, Andres Ruiz, Colby Seymour, Michael Martin, Jonah Ebanks, Anton Nelson, Romario Dixon, Mark Ebanks, Christopher Reeves
Head Coach: Alexander Gonzales
Assistant Coaches: Ben Pugh, Shailer Thomas, Michael Johnson.