CHARLOTTE AMALIE, US Virgin Islands -- The U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) has invested heavily in the youth aspect of its squad and is confident the approach will pay dividends, when they visit Barbados in the first leg of their first round CONCACAF qualifying series for the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Sunday.
Sitting 197th in the latest FIFA World Rankings, the USVI is focussed on developing a strong national side and believes the youth element holds the key to a bright future.
Two weeks ago, the USVI fell 2-0 at Antigua & Barbuda in an international friendly. Despite that defeat, head coach Ahmed Mohammed said there were encouraging signs.
“The confidence level in the team is quite high because we had a game against Antigua and we were younger than the Antiguan players,” Mohammed told CONCACAF.com. “What I have in the team are players as young as 16-years-old (Jacob Borden), a right full back player, and he is a great player and I have four to six players who are between the ages of 17 and 18.
“They are really, really willing and have a lot of talent and the mix between young players and experienced players, I am trying to get a collective well-organized team [in this regard].”
Borden will be one of several key players expected to feature in Barbados, along with midfielders Dusty Good and Garrick Mathurin, defender Dewayne Dyer and goalkeeper Erik Mezzo.
The squad has been in training twice weekly for six weeks and, in addition to the Antigua friendly, has played warm-up games against local opposition.
Mohammed has been pleased with the team’s development during that time.
“We worked on different topics, from conditioning to technical and tactical training, and collective and individual training,” he explained. “Those were the main areas we focussed on. The response has been very good. I am really, really happy with this team because I have a lot of young players who are really willing to learn and who are giving 120 per cent. I am satisfied with this team.”
In Barbados, the USVI will face an opponent that is undefeated in friendlies this year, posting a win (3-1) and draw (2-2) against St. Vincent & the Grenadines, while battling Guyana to a stalemate (2-2).
Mohammed expects to get a result in Bridgetown.
“I was looking at the highlights of the last game that they played and I know how they play and how they are organised,” finished the 35-year-old, who was hired in February. “I also saw the highlights from the game against Guyana which they drew 2-2 so I am well prepared.
“What you can expect is a well organised, collective, well compact USVI team. We are going there to win.”