Lightbourne has selection options for Haiti
Kyle Lightbourne, the Bermuda coach, appears to be at least 80 per cent certain of his best starting line-up for his side’s opening game of the Concacaf Gold Cup against Haiti.
Dale Eve, who was rested for the penultimate warm-up match against São Miguel Azores, was handed the No 1 jersey against Guyana and went about his work with minimal fuss, keeping a clean sheet during a quiet night for the goalkeeper.
Having played the final three Nations League qualifiers, it would be a big call by Lightbourne to make such a significant switch at this stage despite Jahquil Hill knocking loudly at the door as the next cab in the rank.
Roger Lee could be the chief beneficiary of Donte Brangman’s misfortune after he suffered a leg injury during the second half against Guyana.
Brangman, one of Lightbourne’s most trusted lieutenants, looked to have played himself into the first team picture with a solid showing, capped off with the winning goal during a flurry forward.
Should Brangman fail to recover in time for the curtain-raiser against Haiti at the Estadio Nacional in San José, Costa Rica, on Sunday then expect the ever-dependable Lee to assume the right-back duties. In the heart of defence, Danté Leverock, the Bermuda captain, and Jaylon Bather will continue their watertight partnership, which kept clean sheets against Sint Maarten and El Salvador in the qualifiers.
Meanwhile, Callon Minors appears to have cemented his berth at left back, although Jalen Harvey, a favourite of previous coach Andrew Bascome, is arguably the more robust alternative.
Once colloquially known as the “Makélélé role” — yes, I’m showing my age here — Kacy Milan Butterfield has likely done enough to be trusted as the defensive cog in Lightbourne’s midfield triumvirate.
With Tre Ming looking short of match fitness against the Azores, having only recently returned from knee surgery, Butterfield did himself no harm at all with a pair of mature displays in Bermuda’s friendly outings.
The rangy midfielder won plenty of plaudits at non-League Kidderminster Harriers last season and offers something different with his extra height, positional awareness and calmness in possession.
Indeed, Lightbourne’s biggest selection conundrum could be who he partners alongside Butterfield and Reggie Lambe in midfield.
Osagi Bascome earned Lightbourne’s praise for his eye-grabbing display against the Azores, although the Darlington man was more subdued against Guyana, his long-range passes not finding their targets in Justin Donawa and Lejuan Simmons with the intended regularity.
Willie Clemons, a sensation at Swedish lower-league side Bodens last season, produced a typically high-octane and energetic showing in the second half against Guyana and has possibly swayed selection in his favour.
Clemons also offers greater defensive protection with his ability to cover ground quickly and block the passing lanes.
In attack, Zeiko Lewis, who like Clemons, Lee and Leverock joined up with the squad late because of club commitments, will almost certainly line up on the left of Bermuda’s free-flowing front three, including the talismanic Nahki Wells.
On the right of the trio, Lightbourne is blessed with plenty of options. Donawa, who along with Lewis netted against the Dominican Republic in Bermuda’s final qualifier to secure their passage to the Gold Cup, and Lejuan Simmons are the main contenders.
Reggie Lambe, while preferring a more central role, remains an attractive wide option and, if deployed as a winger, would make room for Bascome in the middle of the park.
With three games in 12 days, Lightbourne will no doubt shuffle his selection pack. He can take confidence from knowing he is blessed with the deepest talent pool in recent memory.
Our reporter travelled to San José, Costa Rica, courtesy of JetBlue, which provided flights between Bermuda, Boston and Orlando and San José. Flights available at www.jetblue.com