Clemons: no excuses for shock defeat
A Caribbean Cup campaign that started so promisingly came apart at the seams against Dominican Republic with a 1-0 defeat to leave Bermuda's hopes of advancing hanging by a thread.
Victory against Dominican Republic, a side ranked 14 places above them in the Fifa world rankings, would have all but guaranteed Bermuda a place in the third round in October.
Now they must wait to hear their fate, with a decision expected today on when, or if, their opening group game against French Guiana will be replayed, having been called off after 41 minutes with Bermuda leading 1-0.
Bermuda's defeat at an expectant National Stadium on Saturday night was as surprising as it was disappointing.
But this was not the same Bermuda that battled to a superb 0-0 draw away to Guatemala in a World Cup qualifier 12 months ago before suffering an agonising 1-0 defeat in the return leg.
Nor was it the same Bermuda that showed admirable spirit and determination to come from behind to win 2-1 at home against French Guiana in the opening round of the Caribbean Cup in March.
It was not even the same Bermuda that three days earlier had been beating French Guiana 1-0 in their own backyard before the match was washed out by torrential rain, and with it perhaps the island's best hopes of continuing in the competition.
That Bermuda's players had returned home less than 24 hours before Saturday's game may partially explain their insipid display.
Willie Clemons, who impressed on his debut, refused to blame Bermuda's hectic travel schedule, however, and simply felt they failed to play to their potential.
“We had a long trip down [to French Guiana] and a long trip back, but we can't make any excuses,” said the 21-year-old.
“We didn't get the job done and it's as simple as that. We left it all out on the pitch, no one can say they didn't give it their all, but we didn't capitalise on our chances.”
Clemons started in central midfield but finished at right back as Andrew Bascome, the Bermuda coach, frantically shuffled his pack in an effort to conjure up an equaliser after Jonathan Fana Frias's first-half strike.
Although Clemons chastised himself for giving the ball away cheaply too often, he felt he could take positives from his performance and hopes to be part of Bermuda's team for many years to come.
“I'm happy with my performance although I feel I could have done a lot of stuff better,” said the BAA player. “I had a good debut but at the end of the day I wanted to win.
“A good game in a losing effort doesn't really mean too much.”
Jonté Smith said Bermuda “failed to show up” in the first period and lacked cutting edge in the final third as the visiting side sat back to protect their lead.
“It was a bit frustrating because with our ability we should have performed a lot better and won that game,” said the Welling United striker.
“To win a game like that you have to perform for both halves. The second half was a lot better but that crucial pass in the final third just wasn't there.”
Smith insisted that complacency did not contribute to their defeat against Dominican Republic.
“Obviously we knew they had progressed from the first round so we knew they couldn't be that bad,” Smith said.
“We didn't know at lot about them and now we've just got to wait to hear when [the Caribbean Football Union is] going to reschedule the [French Guiana] game.
“Dominican play French Guiana on Tuesday, so we'll definitely be looking closely at that game.”
The second round of the competition features five groups, with the winners and four best runners-up advancing to the third round.