(ABOVE) Action from the World Cup qualifier between the host U.S. Virgin Islands and Barbados (yellow jersey) on March 26, 2015, in Charlotte Amalie.
CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands – The U.S. Virgin Islands demonstrated Sunday what it could achieve with a 1-0 win at Barbados in the opener of their first round CONCACAF qualifying series for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
On Thursday, though, Barbados called on its most decorated player for the second leg and bounced back in a big way.
With the influential Emmerson Boyce setting a more authoritative tone, the visitor responded with a 4-0 victory over the Dashing Eagles at Addelita Cancryn Field to advance in the competition.
The Wigan Athletic captain, who did not play in the first leg, helped dictate a physical brand of football for which the young Virgin Islanders had little response. As a result, the Barbadians will meet Aruba in the second round this June.
Though the USVI’s qualifying cycle was short, it featured the biggest win in its history and should boost its current FIFA ranking of No. 197.
“When we went to Barbados, the team was really motivated by the coach. We practiced hard and he really pushed us to the victory,” said 22-year-old Tnoy Andrew, who plays Antigua’s Bassa SC. “It's just some simple mistakes in the game, but we can capitalize on that next time. Surely we can come better next time.”
After being unable to solve USVI goalkeeper Erik Mozzo in the first leg, Barbados cracked the custodian in the fifth minute, when Raheim Sargeant finished a cross with a header.
“We couldn't handle the adversity,” remarked USVI head coach Ahmed Mohamed. “From the first second we were too nervous. We never found our game. We tried, they were not better than USVI.”
The Bajan Tridents made it 2-0 in the 25th minute after USVI failed to clear a cross. Mario Harte's effort hit the post, and Jamal Chandler collected the rebound to net from 20-yards out.
Mozzo kept the score at 2-0 with a tremendous save off a corner kick, diving to touch the ball off the crossbar. Then, 16-year-old Jacob Borden – one of six USVI players born in 1995 or after -- cleared the ball off the goal line.
Harte (76’) and Jabarry Chandler (90’) tallied late second-half goals for Barbados to seal the result.
“We keep our heads high,” USVI captain Dusty Good said. “I'm proud of the team, and we're thankful for everyone who supported us. It was great to see football back in St. Thomas and the USVI. It was exciting for us, exciting for the fans. And we give our word, this is not it, this is the beginning. This team is going to be something serious that people are going to be talking about for a long time.”