Smith to miss Panama opener
Kyle Lightbourne has been forced to “tweak” his attacking options after striker Jonté Smith made himself unavailable for Bermuda’s Concacaf Nations League A opener against Panama.
Smith was a glaring omission from a 22-man squad released by the Bermuda Football Association yesterday from the group that competed at the Gold Cup this summer.
Smith, who has been looking for a professional club in England during the summer, made two substitute appearances during the Gold Cup.
“Jonté did not make himself available for this game and if he was available then he would have been in the squad,” Lightbourne said.
“We have to now look at other front options such as Cecoy [Robinson] being a frontman instead of possibly a wide man. We have to tweak a couple of things around.”
Another player missing from the squad is goalkeeper Jahquil Hill, who has been ruled out because of an ankle injury.
Defender Daren Usher is the only new face, having missed out on the Gold Cup squad, despite featuring regularly during the Nations League qualifiers.
Bermuda will host Panama in their opening group B match at the National Stadium on September 5 before making the trip to the Central American country for the away fixture at the Rommel Fernández Stadium on September 8.
Lightbourne’s side take on Mexico at home on October 11 and away on November 19.
Bermuda qualified for League A after finishing fifth in the Nations League qualifying standings with three victories and a defeat. Lightbourne is wary of the monumental task his team faces up against Panama and Mexico, who both qualified for the World Cup in Russia last year. Mexico reached the round of 16 and Panama were eliminated at the group stage.
“The teams that we are going to be playing against in the coming months have way more experience than us,” Lightbourne added. “We have to play at our maximum and we’re going to have difficult moments if we fall short. It’s how we deal with those moments as a team. We will have a game plan for Panama and we hope it goes the right way for us.”
League A is split into four pools of three with the winner of each advancing to the semi-finals.
The bottom team in each pool will be relegated to League B.
“First and foremost, we want to stay in League A; that is something we have set out to do,” Lightbourne added.
“We know the home games are going to be very crucial. Home advantage is big and I’m glad we are playing our first game at home. It allows us to pretty much set the tempo.”
Group A of League A includes the United States, Canada and Cuba, group C features Honduras, Trinidad&Tobago and Martinique, while group D is made up of Costa Rica, Haiti and Curaçao. The group phase matches will be played during three Fifa international windows: September 6 to 11, October 7 to 15 and November 11 to 19.
Bermuda impressed on their debut at the Gold Cup, losing 2-1 to Haiti and Costa Rica before beating Nicaragua 2-0, to finish third in group B.
“The experience we gained in the Gold Cup will definitely help us,” Lightbourne said. “It showed that there is nothing for us to be afraid of. We just have to do our homework.
“Our mantra in the Gold Cup was to be brave so we have to now take that to the next level; be brave and be accountable.”
Goalkeepers: Dale Eve and Quinaceo Hunt. Defenders: Danté Leverock, Jaylon Bather, Daren Usher, Calon Minors, Donte Brangman, Roger Lee, Chikosi Basden and Jalen Harvey. Midfielders: Osagi Bascome, Willie Clemons, Reggie Lambe, Tre Ming, Marco Warren, Liam Evans, Milan Butterfield. Forwards: Nahki Wells, Zeiko Lewis, Lejaun Simmons, Cecoy Robinson and Justin Donawa
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