Ray Jones, the Bermuda coach, has high expectations of his players going into their second Concacaf Under-20 Championship fixture against Haiti at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, today.
Bermuda’s youngsters suffered a heavy 5-0 defeat by Costa Rica, the top seeds in the group, in their tournament opener at the same venue on Thursday.
However, Jones is confident his players can quickly put the setback behind them and come away with a more positive result against the Haitians.
“The coaching staff feel that we have the ability to compete at this level and will make the necessary adjustments for Haiti,” Jones said.
“We’re going to make a few tactical tweaks and I’m expecting a better performance from the boys. I think physically we will be in a better space.
“Obviously, we are going to need some help from somebody else, but the first part is we have to get on the board. The boys are in good spirits and will continue to work hard.”
Jones’s charges paid the price for poor defending against the Costa Ricans and were fortunate not to have conceded more goals, thanks to some fine goalkeeping from Quinaceo Hunt.
Bermuda suffered a setback on the eve of the match after captain Rahzir Smith-Jones suffered an undisclosed injury during training, which ruled him out. Jahkari Furbert wore the captain’s armband in the absence of Smith-Jones, whose status remained unclear yesterday.
Bermuda’s players participated in a pool and recovery session yesterday but did not train outdoors because of thunderstorms that suspended the day’s schedule of tournament fixtures.
After today’s clash with Haiti, Bermuda return to action against St Lucia on Wednesday before closing out their group with a match against Barbados two days later.
The top team from the group will advance to the second round of two groups of three, which starts on November 13. The second-round group winners will play in the final on November 21.
Unlike previous tournaments, which included regional qualifiers in the Caribbean and Central America and one final championship, the championships provide more top-level competition, with the top four finishers advancing to the Under-20 World Cup in Poland in 2019.
Bermuda’s squad comprises several players who helped the island impressively to reach the final qualifying round of the Caribbean Under-17 Championship in Trinidad & Tobago two years ago.
Bermuda made their first appearance at the under-20 championship during the previous tournament hosted by Costa Rica last year, which was the final qualifying stage for the Under-20 World Cup in South Korea.
Knory Scott and Furbert are the only survivors from that squad, which bowed out at the group stage.