When Barbados takes on Caribbean counterparts Cuba in tonight’s Concacaf Nation’s League encounter it will not only be an opportunity for revenge but one of redemption and revolution.
The Tridents will face the Cuban “Lions” tonight at 7 pm at the Barbados Football Association (BFA) Wildey Turf in the return fixture of their Group A, League B assignment.
Last summer Barbados failed to tame the Lions at the Estadio Antonio Maceo, and suffered a 3-0 defeat, one of their four in the opening phase of the competition, which has rooted the Tridents to the foot of the group table.
The last time Barbados tasted victory versus Cuba was 23 years ago, and in the five encounters since then, they have scored just once, while conceding nine goals.
Although qualification for promotion to League A and the Concacaf Gold Cup is out of reach for Barbados, tonight’s clash encounter provides the chance for change, with a new coaching team, fresh faces and a fan base that is eager to lend support.
Coach of the Tridents, Orlando da Costa has led the country in three matches thus far, all versus Grenada and each ending in a tie, and despite not winning those matches with an inexperienced squad, he has solved an issue which has affected Barbados throughout the year of 2022: scoring goals.
In seven matches during 2022, Barbados scored once and conceded 22 goals, while Coach da Costa’s team has scored five times, playing an exciting and brave style of football, which has allowed talented young forwards Tajio James and Nadre Butcher to flourish in their early development.
The Portuguese tactician has added further firepower to assist James and Butcher, most notably home-grown star Thierry Gale, who plies his trade in Georgia in the Crystalbet Erovnuli Liga for FC Dila Gori.
Gale arrives in rich form, with three goals in five matches in the 2023 season, one of which he scored last weekend versus FC Shukura Kobuleti, to lead his team to a 2-0 victory.
Despite just seven international matches under his belt, Gale is the senior attacking figure in the squad with five years of professional experiences in the Hungarian and Georgian Premier Leagues, along with UEFA competitive appearances.
Another European-based attacker in the squad is Ryan Trotman of Lithuanian Premier League outfit FK Kauno Zalgiris.
It will be Trotman’s first home experience since joining the squad in 2021, and he will be eager to make a good first impression on the Barbadian public.
Since his move from Dutch club Den Bosch to FK Kauno Zalgiris, Trotman has not scored in the 13 games he has appeared in and is yet to feature for the 2023 season, therefore tonight’s match will present a golden opportunity to end his domestic and international goal drought.
Curtis Jemmett-Hutson also returns to the roster, after his initial call-up in 2021 for the Concacaf Gold Cup Preliminary Qualifier in the United States.
Hutson did not feature in the match versus Bermuda, where Barbados suffered an 8-0 thumping by the “Gombey Warriors”, but the new coaches have taken a leap of faith and have recalled the winger from Welsh Semiprofessional club FC Merthyr Town.
Roving right-back Zachary Ellis-Hayden has also received a recall to the national team. The Canadian-based defender was a part of the training squad for the previous Concacaf Nations League window, but injury prevented him from making the squad.
Ellis-Hayden is an energetic and aggressive defender, who represents Guelph FC in the Canadian semiprofessional division, League 1 Ontario and can offer quality contributions and experience, offensively and defensively.
The foreign-based quartet will add value to our locally based players, to provide the perfect mix and the desired result against the Cubans who are currently sharing top spot in Group A with Guadeloupe, with nine points from four matches.
If the Tridents are to take a positive result from this game, they will need to be defensively strong and discipline to keep out their opponent who has scored nine goals and allowed just three.
Whoever Da Costa places at the heart of the Barbados defense will need to keep a close eye on Cuban forward Arichel Hernandez, who has scored four times in the competition, three of them which came versus Antigua & Barbuda in their last Concacaf Nations League duel.
Another offensive threat for the Cubans will be Costa-Rican based attacker Luis Paradela who scored against the Tridents in their first match, and also against Antigua & Barbuda.
The last time Cuba came to the BFA Wildey Turf, they left as 2-0 winners.
Kickoff is at 7 pm.