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Concacaf Gold Cup ‘out of the equation’, admits rueful Kyle Lightbourne

Kyle Lightbourne has accepted that Bermuda’s chances of qualifying directly for the Concacaf Gold Cup, and probably even reaching the play-off, have passed them by after a second successive Nations League setback on Saturday night.

The 3-2 defeat by Montserrat in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, with all the goals coming in the second half, has not only left Bermuda bottom of League B group B but facing the real prospect of relegation to the nether regions of Concacaf football.

“For us going forward, first place and second place look they are out of the equation,” Lightbourne said. “We know first is definitely out of the equation. Second is still a possibility, but it's a hard road for us now.”

Bermuda have one point from three matches, trailing leaders Haiti by six and second-placed Guyana by five, with two matches to play.

Favourites Haiti got into their stride after a goalless opening draw against Bermuda with nine goals in their next two matches — including a 6-2 thumping of Guyana away from home on Saturday.

Even with the likelihood of being awarded three points from the cancelled home match against Montserrat match — full details of which are still to be released by a secretive Concacaf — Lightbourne’s men would likely need to win the home match with Guyana in March 2023 and then get something in Haiti a few days later to have any chance of grabbing second, whose prize is a place in a play-off to get to the Gold Cup.

“I’m disappointed in the two away matches. I think we let ourselves down with our starts, and we’ve talked about it. But we're a unit and we have to stick together. We have to keep fighting and hopefully these things change. It's just ironic that on our last campaign, our away performances were better and home performances were poor. It seems like it's gone in reverse for us.”

Bermuda were coming up against a Montserrat team who were motivated by a good performance against group favourites Haiti last week, losing only 3-2 after going two down inside the first ten minutes.

Kyle Lightbourne has accepted that direct qualification to the Concacaf Gold Cup is now beyond Bermuda after a second straight defeat on their travels (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

This time, it was they who threatened to make the quick start, albeit aided by Bermuda being short-handed for what seemed an eternity after an errant elbow left forward Luke Robinson bleeding profusely from a gash over his right eye.

“We were down to ten men for, I don't know, seven, eight minutes, it was quite some time before we were able to get him back on the pitch,” said Lightbourne of Robinson, who was starting alongside Nahki Wells in place of Jonté Smith.

“We wanted to give him a chance, an opportunity to play. So in one sense, it’s a setback for us because we probably didn’t get the best out of him after he’s taken the blow and had to get stitches at half-time.”

By then, Montserrat had established a foothold in the match and could have been three up were it not for the interventions of goalkeeper Dale Eve, and defenders Danté Leverock and Reece Jones Jr.

“We wait until we go a goal behind to start playing,” Lightbourne lamented. “These are the things that we talked about and worked on. And you could see us fight back. We got back into the game, but we had to deal with a lot of aerial threat from them. We were playing against seasoned pros, a lot of experience in their team, and we found it difficult to deal with. But we kept going, then kept giving away sloppy goals and ultimately paid the price.”

Lightbourne revealed that Zeiko Lewis, who was a mainstay of the Bermuda attack during the glorious Gold Cup run of 2019, opted out of international duty to concentrate on his domestic career with new club Sacramento Republic in the USL Championship.

The wide player’s dribbling and link-up play were noticeable for their absence in a Bermuda team that often struggled for sustained meaningful possession, with the midfielders pushed deeper into their own half and talisman Wells often cutting an isolated and frustrated figure.

“Zeiko made himself unavailable late, I don't know, maybe two, three weeks before we were due to travel,” the coach said. “His reasoning was that he was moving to a new club and wanted to concentrate on getting into the starting line-up.”

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Published June 13, 2022 at 7:45 am (Updated June 14, 2022 at 8:09 am)

Concacaf Gold Cup ‘out of the equation’, admits rueful Kyle Lightbourne

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