Final qualifier ‘biggest game’, says Lightbourne

  • One-game supsension: Bermuda midfielder Tre Ming

Kyle Lightbourne believes that Bermuda’s final Concacaf Nations League qualifier away to the Dominican Republic will be the “biggest game” in the island’s football history.

Bermuda are seventh in the qualifying standings with two wins from three games and in a strong position to qualify for the Gold Cup for the first time.

“I think this is the biggest game in Bermuda’s history by far,” Lightbourne, the Bermuda coach, said.

“I really don’t think people in Bermuda realise what this competition is all about. But they will be able to see it a lot clearer after the qualifying stages are out of the way.

“This is the beginning of the Nations League and just think of it ten years down the line what it will be like if Bermuda can play at a high standard of international football.

“This is where players will be able to showcase their ability at the highest level in a full international and not a friendly here or there, and that hopefully will filter to impact our domestic league.”

Bermuda will face the Dominican Republic at the Estadio PanAmericano on March 24 with the top ten teams in the Nations League qualifiers advancing to the Concacaf Gold Cup, which is held every two years for North American, Central American and Caribbean nations.

Lightbourne’s side began their campaign on the back foot after losing away to Aruba in their opener but bounced back with victories away to Sint Maarten and at home to El Salvador.

Meanwhile, midfielder Tre Ming has been ruled out of the match against the Dominican Republic as he is serving a one-game suspension after picking up a second yellow card of the tournament in Bermuda’s 1-0 win over El Salvador.

In any case, Lightbourne has kept his options open in the lead-up to Bermuda’s final qualifier as he seeks to bolster his squad.

“I’m still looking to build the squad up,” he said. “I’m still looking for any players that catch the eye. I try to get around to as many games as possible to watch the [local] players.”

One player in particular who has impressed the former Stoke City striker is Jaizel Smith-DeShields, the North Village forward, who scored a brace in his team’s 4-0 win away to Paget Lions in the Premier Division at the weekend.

“Jaizel scored a few goals and we already know of him from the under-20s,” Lightbourne said.

“He was one that trained with [the team]. Players still stand a chance of breaking into the squad and I’m saying that to players who should still be fighting to catch the eye.”

When asked whether his squad will be involved in any warm-ups prior to their clash against the Dominican Republic, Lightbourne said: “There’s a few things in the works and we’re hoping to be able to announce that soon.”