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USVI Men’s Beach Soccer Team Gets Whaled On In Regional Tournament

NASSAU — The U.S. Virgin Islands’ men’s beach soccer team did about as poorly as a team could do — embarrassing the territory by going 0-6 in the 2017 CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championships.

On Sunday in consolation-round play, the USVI Team lost to Barbados 3-1, meaning that it finished 16th out of the 16 teams competing in the seven-day tournament at the Malcolm Park beach soccer stadium.

The USVI squad fell into the 15th-place match after losing to Turks and Caicos Islands 4-1 on Saturday.

Before a packed crowd at the newly built facility at Malcolm Park at the foot of the Sir Sidney Poitier Bridge on Friday night, the Bahamas suffered a heartbreaking 5-3 loss to Guadeloupe in the quarter-finals of the CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championship.

Even with more Bahamians lining the bridge and hundreds locked out in their effort to get into the stadium, the host team found themselves trailing on three occasions but battled back to even the score at 3-3 after two periods. However, Theo Gelas struck a pair of goals late in the third period to complete his hat-trick and secure the win for Guadeloupe which advanced them to a semi-final against Mexico on Saturday night.

The Bahamas, coming off three straight impressive victories to win group A in the round robin segment, was due to play on Saturday at 5.30 pm against Trinidad & Tobago to determine which of the spots between fifth and eighth they will end up playing for on Sunday when the week-long tournament come to a close.

“We started off a little shaky in the first period, but I felt as if we regained our composure in the second and third periods, but some good playing by Guadeloupe held off our strong attack,” said Bahamas’ goalkeeper Ivan Rolle. “Anytime you are playing in sand, it’s difficult, but we trained hard and we tried to stick to our game plan as much as possible.”

Rolle, who had his most difficult match so far in the tournament, said the Bahamas would have preferred to be playing in the semi-finals, but they hope to come back and finish the tournament on a strong note just as they started on Monday.

“We were expecting to finish as least top four in this tournament, so it’s very heartbreaking,” Rolle, who was distraught at the final whistle, pointed out. “We want to use this tournament as a stepping stone to really show the world that we are ready to play at this level.”

Rolle was referring to the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup that will take place at the same facility in April. By virtue of being the host, the Bahamas have already qualified. Two more teams will join the Bahamas at the end of the tournament on Sunday.

As they use this tournament as a stepping stone to the more prestigious tournament ahead, Rolle said he was encouraged when he looked up and saw the tremendous support they received from the Bahamian public as the stadium was packed to its 3,000 capacity and people lined the Sir Sidney Poitier bridge to watch from outside as they couldn’t get in.

Each time Guadeloupe scored in the first two periods, the Bahamas answered until Gelas put the game away for good in the third.

Damien Granchi-Constant, the Guadeloupe captain, took advantage of a loose ball to volley in from long range over Rolle after four minutes but Gary Joseph levelled 30 seconds later after some neat footwork. But within two minutes Gelas nodded in his first at the far post from a throw-in to put Guadeloupe in front and then Lesly St Fleur saw his penalty brilliantly saved by the goalkeeper, who had an excellent match. Sebastien Hell, joint top scorer in the tournament with St Fleur going into the game, gave notice of his threat by hitting the post just before the end of the period.

Joseph struck again early in the second to even the score at 2-2 but three minutes later, the imposingly physical Hell rose above the Bahamas defence to head Guadeloupe in front 3-2. St Fleur, having a sensational tournament, finally got through to tie the score at 3-3 just before the end of the period – his ninth goal of the event.

In the third period, the deadlock was broken when Gelas escaped onto a long ball forward and then punished confusion in the Bahamas defence at a corner to slide in at the far post with four minutes to go. Joseph fired in a free kick as the clock ran down on the Bahamas but the goalkeeper made another fine diving save.

Mexico, the defending champions, await Guadeloupe in the semi-finals on Saturday while El Salvador tackle the surprise package Panama. El Salvador cruised past Jamaica 5-0, Panama upset the United States 6-4 and Mexico saw off Trinidad and Tobago 5-1 in the other quarter-finals.

In the lower placement games played on Friday, Barbados defeated Turks and Caicos Islands 5-2; Belize stunned the U.S. Virgin Islands 6-4 after extra time; Costa Rica outlasted Canada 3-2 on penalties after they were tied 2-2; and Guyana held off Antigua and Barbuda 6-4.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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