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USVI, BVI soccer teams battle to 1-all tie in ‘Virgin Islands Classic’

USVI, BVI soccer teams battle to 1-all tie in ‘Virgin Islands Classic’

KINGSHILL — The “Virgin Islands Classic” lived up to the hype — and made the upcoming rematch on Tortola more interesting.

The U.S. Virgin Islands’ and the British Virgin Islands’ senior men’s national soccer teams battled to a 1-all draw Friday night in their first-round CONCACAF Qualifiers for FIFA World Cup 2026 match at the Bethlehem Soccer Complex on St. Croix.

After a scoreless first half, the Dashing Eagles appeared to take control of the match when midfielder Jett Blaschka scored in the 73rd minute. However, the Nature Boyz pulled out the draw when reserve forward Hugo Liziario put in the equalizer two minutes into stoppage time.

That makes Tuesday’s rematch at the A.O. Shirley Recreation Grounds on Tortola a “winner takes all” game — with a berth in the second round of the CONCACAF Qualifiers at stake.

“We were playing at home, and we really wanted to get the results here,” USVI head coach Gilberto “Giba” Damiano said in an exclusive interview with The Daily News. “We wanted to take the advantage to the game against the BVI in the BVI. That was our initial plan.

“I’ve got to find out what the rules are exactly … but there’s no other option now except for us to go and win.”

The format for the first-round qualifiers were for the four lowest-ranked teams to play home-and-away matches, with the advancing team decided on aggregate score (the combined goals from the two matches).

The second pairing is Anguilla against Turks and Caicos Islands, which is facing a very similar situation after ending with a scoreless draw in their Friday match. The two teams also play again tomorrow.

One of the tiebreaker rules used by FIFA for aggregate matches is the “away goal rule,” which gives goals by the away team double value. So if Tuesday’s match ends in a scoreless tie, the BVI would advance based on a final 2-1 aggregate score.

If the match ends tied 1-all at the end of regulation play — which would be 3-all under the away goal rules — then it would move into overtime, and then into a penalty kick shootout if still tied.

But if the match is tied 2-all (or more) at the end of regulation, then the U.S. Virgin Islands would advance under another FIFA tiebreaker rule — most away goals scored.

“We didn’t get the result we wanted,” Blaschka said. “We always want to win, but we also learned a lot as well.”

Yet there were no thoughts of ties or tiebreaker rules after Blaschka’s goal just past the midway point of the second half.

Making his 20th international appearance with the Dashing Eagles, the 24-year-old Blaschka scored his first career goal for the USVI when he found an open spot on the left side of the BVI goal. Taking a cross from the right side, Blaschka was able to punch in a left-footed half-volley for the USVI lead.

“We know how good Jett is wide, and we decided to bring him up as an extra weapon,” Damiano said. “We had him playing as a wingback on the left side, and bringing in Axel (Bartsch) in as a center back. Literally less than five minutes after we made the change, Jett was able to score the goal that was everything we needed at that point in time.”

But that ended in stoppage time when Liziaro — who leads the BVI Football Association’s National League with 16 goals this season — got in behind the USVI defense for his first international goal.

“We kind of slipped a little bit in a transitional moment as a team, and gave them a chance to get the ball in behind,” Damiano said. “Once that happened, it became a ‘catch up’ game where we had to recover as quick as possible to position ourselves in the box, and stop any chances they would have on a cross. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get there fast enough, and they managed to get the cross … and a player from their team was there to tap it in.”

Said Blaschka: “It’s just how it goes sometimes. We definitely got some things we’ll strategize on that we learned from this game, that we’ll take to the next game.”

By BILL KISER/V.I. Daily News

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