Montserrat drew 2-2 with Antigua in its first world cup qualifier since 2015. It’s a good result, even though we are getting spoiled by the fact that Montserrat rarely loses these days. Realistically, we have to beat the top seed to progress to the next round, and this still remains true. That will be against El Salvador, in Curaçao again, on Sunday. Lyle Taylor got both goals yesterday, one a penalty, and it is good to see him scoring at international level again.
I’ll start by saying I didn’t see the match. I believe CBS bought up the rights in anticipation of covering the final Octagonal phase of the tournament, which will be a mini-Gold Cup type competition played on a two-legged basis. It’s not the worst consequence of COVID-19, but it felt like it for 90 minutes plus half-time. There were a few people at home last night, dressed in green, staring at a blank screen.
Looking at various websites, it appears that there were only four Concacaf World Cup games not being broadcast somewhere, and Antigua v Montserrat was one of them. The FA got us all a little excited by posting a link to a live stream, but sadly it turned out to be fake. El Salvador TV will certainly broadcast the next game, which means there will probably be an illegal stream somewhere (which I won’t be posting), and a match report (which I will translate).
But we learnt a lot from the game anyway. Montserrat managed to put together a full 23-man squad with everyone available. I was lucky enough to speak to Willie Donachie a couple of years ago, and he told me that the shortage of players meant that the first time Montserrat played El Salvador, team selection was deciding which of the first 11 to play as centre backs. For this game, he had the luxury of keeping a player of Nathan Pond’s pedigree on the bench.
The new recruit I hadn’t picked up through Twitter messages or from pouring over photos from the training camp was Rohan Ince, who took Pond’s place at the back. Ince is still in his 20’s and was a Championship player a few years ago, with Brighton and Hove Albion. He had a year out when his release from Brighton coincided with a long-term injury but is now at Maidenhead United in England’s 5th tier. He has become the fourth Maidenhead player to play for Montserrat under Willie Donachie’s tenure.
The Montserrat FA announced who was in the squad, via Facebook, three and half hours before kick-off, and spelt two of the players’ names wrong. They also didn’t give squad numbers or full names. This list included “Willock M”, which might have caused some confusion to those who are unfamiliar with Montserrat’s current players. The former Manchester United player “Willock M” has not yet volunteered for international duty. This “Willock M” is Marshall, a young man from Birmingham trying to build a career in Norway. Montserrat’s’ PR makes the organisation look far less professional than it is.
Team selection was interesting. We don’t know the condition of the players, several of whom haven’t played for a while, which makes it difficult for an outsider to guess the starting eleven. But the team was virtually the same as the one that played the last game in November 2019. Other than Ince’s introduction, the only change was Lyle Taylor’s return, with Massiah McDonald making way.
Such is the continuity within the Montserrat squad that six of last night’s starting eleven were in the team for the last World Cup match played six years ago. Woods-Garness even came on as a substitute again. Clifton and McDonald were again on the bench. Maybe this is Montserrat’s secret weapon. This will be Montserrat’s fourth attempt at beating El Salvador in three years. We were very close to taking a point last time around, and this time Lyle’s back