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Team Bahamas!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Bahamas beat the United States last summer in an exhibition match. but the latter got them when it mattered the most — for fifth place in the C ONC ACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) Beach Soccer Championships.

The event came to a close at the Malcolm Park Beach Soccer Facility at the foot of the Sidney Poitier Bridge last night. with Panama doubling up Mexico in the championship game, 4-2. The US. handled The Bahamas by the same score in the fifth place game.

The country‘s top goal scorer Lesley St. Fleur. who finished tied with Mexico‘s Ramon Maldonado for the ‘Golden Boot‘ award, given to the tournament‘s top goal scorer. said that it was a learning experience for them. Both St. Fleur and Maldonado scored 11 goals in the week-long tournament.

“Overall. it was a great tournament for us. and it was fun to be here." said St. Fleur. “We still have a lot of work to do. We have to get back to the drawing board and correct the mistakes that we made in this tournament, but overall we had a lot of fun and we enjoyed it.“

The FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) Beach Soccer World Cup is set for April 27 to May 7, at the same venue. The Bahamas qualifies as the host nation and Panama and Mexico move on as the two finalists from the CONCACAF Championships. For The Bahamas, it's right back to practice on Wednesday, one day after the official world cup draw at the Atlantis Resort.

"This was a very important tournament for us, but this is just the beginning," said Team Bahamas Head Coach Alexandre Soares. “Now, we could look at the video,  fix the negative things that we did wrong, and get back to work. We need to improve in the physical aspect. We have to train more, work hard every day. That is the only way that you are going to get better."

In the match, the ITnited States struck first, capitalizing on a beautifully placed lob pass from Nicolas Perera. Oscar Reyes got his head on the ball, and diverted it past Team Bahamas goalie Torin Ferguson to give the United States a 1-0 lead at the 8:44 mark of the opening period. Later in the period, Alessandro Canale gave the Americans a 2-0 lead. Ferguson bobbled a reception, and Canale took advantage. He got his foot on the ball and pushed it into an empty net at the 3:37 mark of the second period.

Despite beating The Bahamas and finishing fifth. Perera said that they were disappointed that they didn‘t finish in the top two and qualify for the World Cup. They lost their quarter-final match to Panama on Friday, 4-2.

“We only lost one game all tournament, and it just happened to be the one that we needed to win,” he said. “It’s a lil’ disappointing, but being here in front of this crowd with these people was amazing. You guys put on an unbelievable tournament, and it’s been such a pleasure and an honor to be here. The CONCACAF region is definitely getting stronger. You look at a team like Panama that was on no one’s radar, and now they are in the world cup. This tournament is getting better, and it could only improve from here.”

A full house showed up for The Bahamas and the United States’ match last night. As a testament to how much the country has improved, The Bahamas lost to the U.S., 6-2, at CONCACAF two years ago, and 9-2 when the two teams met in the 2013 CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championships in The Bahamas. As expected, the match was very physical last night, and the more experienced American squad seemed to push The Bahamas around on its home sand. There were five yellow cards handed out in total - three for the Americans and two for The Bahamas.

“This is beach soccer. It’s a rough sport, and sometimes it gets out of hand. You just have to be extra careful,” said St. Fleur. “To come out here and play well in front of the home fans is a good feeling. We know that we have plenty work to do - just have to go back and get ready for the World Cup. This was a good tune-up tournament for us. It feels good, and we hope to continue playing well in front of the home fans. We hope that the fans come out and support us in the World Cup just as well as they supported us in this tournament.”

St. Fleur scored his 11th goal of the tournament on a free kick with 19.3 seconds left in the second quarter. AU.S. player got his hand on the ball in the penalty box, and St. Fleur and The Bahamas capitalized. This came about two minutes after St. Fleur uncharacteristically missed a shot at an open goal. American goalie Christopher Toth was caught out of position, but St. Fleur couldn’t capitalize as he missed the shot.

The United States increased the lead to 3-1 at the 10:20 mark of the third period as Perera scored on a well-placed lob, but Team Bahamas Captain, and C.A.Christie's Gavin Christie got that goal back just three seconds later when he scored off a quick pass from Gary Joseph at the resumption of play. He drilled a shot from about 30 feet out, bouncing it past American goalie Toth. Ironically, it was Toth who completed the scoring, dribbling the ball to the midfield point and then powering a shot past Bahamian goalie Ferguson. That goal came at the 4:32 mark of the final period, giving the United States an insurance goal and the 4—2 victory.

“I think the team played very well in this tournament with the exception of the Guadeloupe game that we lost,” said Christie. “That was a learning experience for us, and I thinkthat moving forward we have seen what we need to work on. We did well, but we saw a lot of mistakes that we need to correct. It’s right back to the sand for us. We have a lot of work to do, but we are prepared to put in the work so that we could be ready for the tournament in April.

“Every game is a tough game. You play every game as if it’s your last. The fans came out in droves and supported us, and we are thankful for that. A lot of teams in CONCACAF, and globally, are saying that we have performed well and they saw a lof of good things. We’ve earned respect in the beach soccer community, so we wouldn’t be sneaking up on anyone at the world cup.”

Head Coach Soares is optimistic for the world cup. “We got four victories in six games - that’s very good,” he said. “The game tonight was very difficult. The US. is a very good team and they handled us tonight, but I am happy with the performance. This was a very good warm-up for the world cup. We have to continue to work hard, and once we put in the work, we like our chances.”

It seemed that all of the players, coaches and officials were impressed with the level of play, the new state-of-the-art 3,5oo-seat stadium, and the quality of the tournament staged by The Bahamas. Exciting matches throughout the six days of competition was the icing on the cake of well-structured CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championships staged in The Bahamas.

“This was amazing,” said American forward Perera. “The stadium is wonderful, the sand is super deep, the stands are great, the people are loud and the entire experience was top notch. We’re looking forward to coming back here at some point in the future.”

The Bahamas finished with a 4-2 win/loss record in six games in the tournament and was sixth out of 16 teams. They were undefeated in group stage play, lost their first game of the tournament to Guadeloupe in the quarter-finals and then dropped the fifth place game to the United States last night. It’s now on to the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup for the squad.


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