By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Jul 3, 2009) USSoccerPlayers — Depending on who you ask, some will know Grenada as a small island that was once a British colony. Others will recall that it’s famous for a variety of tasty spices such as ginger and nutmeg. The Trivia Pursuit buffs will remind you that the US invaded the island in October, 1983.
What they would like to be known for after the 2009 Gold Cup is their soccer. Though Grenada will be heavy underdogs on Saturday in Seattle and throughout their Group B schedule, there's still a lot to play for.
“This will be a great chance for my players to play on a big stage and on TV,” Grenada coach Tommy Taylor said during a recent interview.
Taylor, 57, took over as manager two months ago and is famous for winning the FA Cup with West Ham in 1975. Despite his past exploits as a player, Taylor has a tough task ahead of him at the month-long CONCACAF tournament.
“We have been training for the past few weeks,” he said. “We know the US game is a big one for us.”
The US, fresh off its second place finish at the Confederations Cup in South Africa and 2-0 all-time against Grenada, should have a relatively easy time against the island nation.
Grenada, however, is not going to give in without a fight. Ranked 88th in the latest FIFA rankings, the Spice Boyz lost the Digicel Caribbean Cup final to Jamaica 2-0 this past December, but their second-place finish secured them an historic, first-ever berth to the Gold Cup. Paired in Group B of this year’s Gold Cup along with the US, Honduras and Haiti, reaching the knockout phase will be a very tough task for minnows Grenada.
The nation is the smallest to ever qualify for the tournament. With a population of just 90,000, Grenada first fielded a national soccer team in 1934, even though it did not gain independence from Great Britain until 1974. The country did not try to qualify for the World Cup until 1982 and has been unsuccessful over the past 26 years given its relatively small player pool, lack of resources and overall inability to compete with regional heavyweights.
Many of the players on the roster are based in England. Taylor has called up Delroy Facey, a 29-year-old striker who plies his trade with Notts County in England’s League Two. The Grenadian-born forward has played in England for the past 12 years with clubs such as Bolton, West Bromwich, Hull and Oldham Athletic. Facey, who led Notts County in scoring this past season with nine goals in 45 games, is uncapped and could make his debut against the USA.
The most famous player from Grenada – captain/midfielder Sharie Joseph of the New England Revolution – is on the roster but is recovering from a sprained knee that is expected to keep him out of the opener in Seattle and beyond. As a result, Taylor will need the rest of his roster to stay healthy, particularly veteran defenders Franklyn Baptiste and Patrick Modeste. Midfielder Finbar Williams and striker Denis Rennie are the players Taylor will look to in order to get the offense going. Unfortunately, the bulk of the roster plays domestically in a league made up mostly of amateurs.
For the US, the game against Grenada should be a cakewalk. With no real experience at the professional level (with the exception of a handful of players), Grenada will struggle to keep up against a team comprised mostly of MLS players and second-stringers.
The Americans will need to score early, and often, in order to get three points and build its goal differential. For Grenada, it will need to play defense and limit the damage on a day where America will be celebrating its birthday – No. 233, to be exact – with the US players in great position to put on a goalscoring pyrotechnics show on the field.
Clemente Lisi is the author of “A History of the World Cup: 1930-2006.” Contact him at: CAL4477@yahoo.com