Thanks to his success as a player and coach in the USA, former St. Vincent & the Grenadines star Ezra Hendrickson (pictured) is helping the Caribbean country's national team prepare for an upcoming World Cup qualifier against the CONCACAF power. (Photo courtesy of Seattle Sounders FC)
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent & the Grenadines – St. Vincent & the Grenadines will seek to add another chapter to the age-old tale of David versus Goliath, when it visits the United States on Friday in the fourth-qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Although the U.S. (33rd) sits 96 spots ahead of the Vincentians (129th) in the latest FIFA World Rankings, the difference in population is even more eye opening: 321,000,000 – 109,000.
Those numbers, though, do not deter Ezra Hendrickson. The former SVG legend – capped 123 times -- is working with the national team as a coaching consultant, supporting head coach Cornelius Huggins.
"The US has a name and some of their players are experienced, but the game is played on the field and it’s eleven against eleven,” said Hendrickson, who appeared in 24 World Cup Qualifying matches over the course of three cycles. “We’re going to give them a good game and try to get points from the game.”
Hendrickson’s presence in the camp could prove pivotal. He won three MLS Cups and a CONCACAF Champions Cup during a professional career spent entirely in the United States. Currently, the 43-year-old is the head coach of Seattle Sounders FC 2.
That level of background and familiarity has played a role in the SVG's approach to the encounter, which will be played at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri.
“We’ve been working on a few things over the past two to three week and I think the players are getting on to it,” Hendrickson remarked. “If you prepare well, once the match comes, anything can happen. Our focus has been on preparation and making sure that every player on the pitch knows his role.”
In order to advance to this stage of the competition, SVG overcame Guyana on the away-goals rule after a 6-6 aggregate score and Aruba (agg: 3-2) in the second and third rounds, respectively. Tevin Slater has a CONCACAF-best five goals, while Oalex Anderson – who plays for Hendrickson in Seattle – has struck twice.
With such impressive firepower, can the Caribbean side pull off an all-time upset?
Hendrickson maintained a measured perspective, while refusing to rule out anything.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day, it’s a work in progress,” he finished. “It’s a six-game series and this is just one of six games.
“We’re very confident, but, most importantly, the players are confident.”