Kyle Lightbourne’s starting selection conundrum for Canada showdown
With just hours to go until Bermuda’s opening World Cup qualifier, Kyle Lightbourne will be busy plotting how best to upset regional powerhouse Canada — and, in particular, how to stop Alphonso Davies.
Of the 23-man squad announced by the Bermuda Football Association that could take to the field at the Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida, the head coach will still have a number of decisions to make regarding his starting XI.
The majority of Lightbourne’s back five is likely to have a familiar look to it with Dale Eve fully expected to retain his place as Bermuda’s No 1.
The custodian drew plaudits for his performances throughout the Concacaf Gold Cup and Nations League campaigns and brings overseas experience to the squad, having spent this season as Spennymoor Town’s first choice in the Vanarama National League North before the campaign was curtailed.
In front of Eve, Danté Leverock is fully expected to retain his place, and captain’s armband and will more than likely be joined a the heart of defence by his long-term defensive partner for club (Robin Hood) and country, Jaylon Bather.
Either side, Eusebio Blankendal could retain his spot at left back having equipped himself superbly away against the might of Mexico in the Nations League, while Calon Minors will be vying for the position.
The right back berth, however, remains up for grabs in the absence of Dante Brangman, with Richard Jones, Azende Furbert, Minors, Jomei Bean-Lindo, Roger Lee, London Steede-Jackson and Trey Tucker all in contention.
With the notable omissions of talisman Nahki Wells as well other senior players Reggie Lambe, Willie Clemons, Milan Butterfield, Justin Donawa, Osagi Bascome, it is Bermuda’s midfield and attack that pose the most significant questions.
Lightbourne previously alluded to the significance of the experience still present within the squad and so it is likely that Zeiko Lewis and Lejaun Simmons should retain their positions on the respective flanks.
The central-midfield positions are a little more tricky to predict but Lee could be asked to anchor the midfield as he has done in the past, while Jahkari Furbert and Knory Scott are listed as other midfielders in contention.
Ahead of that is Lightbourne’s biggest conundrum as he attempts to best fill the void left by Lambe and Wells, who have so often linked to positive effect as a front two in a 4-4-1-1 formation with the former playing ad a 10.
The experienced option would be to opt for Cecoy Robinson but the head coach also made a point of highlighting Bermuda’s new faces as having a chance to seize their opportunity.
If that is to be the case and despite the daunting level of opposition, Lightbourne could opt for the exciting young duo of Watford’s Kane Crichlow, who would be making his senior international debut, and PHC’s Enrique Russell, who impressed at this month’s training camp, scoring in the 3-0 friendly victory over the Bahamas.
Other options to lead the line are from the local contingent of Robin Hood’s Chae Brangman or North Village’s Keishon Bean.
Play in the group began last night with Suriname beating Cayman Islands 3-0.
Shaquille Pinas opened the scoring in the 22nd minute and the home team took a two-goal lead into the half after captain Ryan Donk converted a penalty in the 38th minute.
Gleofilo Vlijter killed off the game to give the Dutch-Caribbean island the ideal start to their campaign with the final goal 12 minutes from time.
Bermuda, who face Aruba on March 30, are scheduled to play Suriname away on June 4 and Cayman Islands at home four days later.
Bermuda (probable team to face Canada; 4-4-1-1): D Eve — C Minors, J Bather, D Leverock, E Blankendal — L Simmons, R Lee, C Robinson, Z Lewis — K Crichlow — E Russell.
Referee: A Villarreal (United States).
Television: OneSoccer (livestream).
Kick-off: 9pm Bermuda time.
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