The St. Vincent and the Grenadines national football (soccer) team had some glimmer of hope of beating the mighty United States Friday night in the qualifying stage of their World Cup campaign, but that hope quickly evaporated with a sound thrashing, 6-1, before over 43,000 fans at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Mo.
Vincentian fans – who had trekked via bus, car and plane from the length and breadth of the United States, but primarily from New York – had their hopes up early when midfielder Oalex Anderson, 20, who plays for Seattle Sounders 2 in the United States’ third division, stunned the massive crowd in just the fifth minute to give the team, renowned as Vincy Heat, an early lead.
The screams of frenetic Vincentian fans inevitably reverberated across the stadium, but it was short-lived, as the U.S. completely dominated thereafter.
Goals from Bobby Wood, Fabian Johnson and Jozy Altidore gave the U.S. a 3-1 advantage by the halftime interval.
Three more goals on the resumption – from Geoff Cameron, Gyasi Zardes and Altidore – made the U.S. clearly invincible by the final whistle.
Anderson, capitalizing on a poor clearance from Cameron, dribbled around DeAndre Yedlin and banged the ball to left of US goalkeeper Brad Guzan – to the utter consternation of the sell-out U.S. fans but to the delight of the flag-waving, screaming Vincy fans.
But the U.S. quickly composed itself, as Wood, appearing for the eighth time in 2015, ensured the equalizer in the 11th minute by taking advantage of Yedlin’s cross, nodding past Vincy Heat’s diminutive goal keeper Winslow McDowall.
The U.S. increased the lead in the 29th minute, to the cacophonous sounds of their fans, when Johnson sent a scorcher low to McDowall’s left off a free kick deflection 10 yards outside a the penalty box.
Two minutes later, Altimore headed past McDowall, off a right corner kick, to give the U.S. its third goal, sending the host to a comfortable 3-1 advantage by half-time.
With the U.S. continuing its occupation of Vincy Heat’s half of the field, Cameron headed to McDowall’s right in the 51st minute from Wood’s assist, after Johnson’s corner, to increase the lead by the U.S.
The match was now beyond Vincy Heat’s grasp, when Zardes, in the 58th minute, slipped through McDowall’s legs, putting the U.S. up, 5-1.
Sixteen minutes later, Altidore, scoring his 12th World Cup qualifying goal, sank the final nail in Vincy Heat’s coffin, with a high shot to McDowall’s right.
Despite their gallant effort, Vincy Heat was totally overwhelmed by the dexterity and fitness of the Americans, and the weather and magnitude of the U.S.’ fan-support.
“I feel that we tried our best,” striker Tevon Slater, 21, told Caribbean Life in a post-match interview. “The U.S. is more experienced than us. We tried hard still.
“I think the coldness had a lot to do with it,” he added, stating that Vincy Heat will do much better in the return leg in September next year, with better favorable weather conditions.
Still, Assistant Coach Ezra Hendrickson, former Major League Soccer (MLS) defender and current Seattle Sounders FC 2 head coach, said he was “very proud of the boys.”
“We started very well,” he said, adding, however, that “the lack of concentration cost us three soft goals. They (U.S.) didn’t have to work very hard for their goals.
“The weather will always have a part to play,” Hendrickson continued. “We never expected this margin [of defeat], because we came here to win the game. But, all said and done, I’m proud of the boys.”
Hendrickson disclosed that three of his team’s better players also missed the match – Emral George, and Myron Samuel and Cornelius Stewart through injury.
“I believe if we had a full squad, it would have been better,” he said.
Former national football captain and Head Coach of Team SVG in the Brooklyn-based Caribbean Soccer Cup, Stanley “Luxie” Morris, told Caribbean Life that weather conditions also played a key role in the team’s defeat.
He, however, said there were “three fundamental errors” that contributed to the heavy loss.
“Nobody backed the back post,” said the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Sports Ambassador. “Four of the goals were set pieces. The tallest players should be at the back post.
“We missed three players – Stewart, Samuel and George,” Morris added. “That game was a ready-made game for Myron Samuel.”