Reinforcements added for D.R. contest

Andres Ruiz (29) is one of seven additions to the squad.

The Cayman Islands national men’s football team is bolstered by the inclusion of seven new players for their second CONCACAF Nations League qualifier against the Dominican Republic this Friday, 12 October.

The team travels to Santo Domingo this week for their second qualifier after losing 4-0 to Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz in Kingston last month. Players who are set to make the trip after missing out on the opener for various reasons are: Romario Dixon, Jonah Ebanks, Charlo McLean, Andres Ruiz, Karl Solomon, Matthew Suberan and Theron Wood. That list includes some of the most talented players on the local football scene.

With a youthful team short on experience at the senior level, Wood adds another player with international games under his belt. Ebanks and Solomon were named the joint Cayman Sports Buzz Footballers of the Year in 2017. Suberan is a gifted ball handler, who can create opportunities where ever his is placed on the pitch. Ruiz tends to find the back of the net regularly and Dixon is an energetic playmaker. McLean also has a knack for scoring and did so in the CONCACAF Caribbean Club Shield competition earlier this year.

In the weeks since the Jamaica game, training sessions have continued under the watchful eye of head coach Elbert McLean, who has been joined by assistant Alex Gonzalez, who was unavailable for the first game. “We’re just adding on what we have established already,” McLean said.

Jonah Ebanks (red) is poised for his CNL debut in the Dominican Republic/

Ahead of the trip to the Dominican Republic, they spent a weekend in Cuba for a training camp and a friendly against that country’s national team. “The training camp in Cuba was a good experience…Cuba is ranked among the best in the Caribbean and to be able to compete against them, we can only get better from it,” the head coach told

In the friendly, Cuba won 5-0 but McLean took positives from the game, especially with the absence of key players like Mark Ebanks, Wesley Robinson and Wood. Added to that were the injuries of forward Michael Martin, who was hurt in a challenge with the Cuban keeper, and defender Joshewa Frederick, who sustained a cut to his hand that bled heavily and led to him being taken out of the game.

“I think that the performance was good because we lost two key players in the first half and that determined the outcome of the game. Regardless of what the score was, they kept playing, especially in the second half…they had a higher level [of play],” McLean said.

“It was a good experience for our Caymanian boys. I know a lot of them have not played at that level before and they can only get better from here. One thing that they took out of that game and the Jamaica game: they believed in themselves that they can perform at that level.”

McLean described the upcoming game as probably the most important of the qualifiers. It is expected to be a tough challenge but the preparation against Cuba, which beat Turks and Caicos Islands 11-0 in their CONCACAF Nations League opener in September, should help. This is especially so, as following the Jamaica game, Cayman’s opposition should theoretically become easier. The third qualifier is at home against St Lucia on 17 November and then another home game in March against Montserrat.

The Dominican Republic beat Bonaire 5-0 in the first qualifier on 9 September.

The full squad for the 12 October game vs the Dominican Republic is: Ramon Sealy (Capt/GK), Lucas Christian, Romario Dixon, Jonah Ebanks, Mark Ebanks, Joshewa Frederick, Tyler Lee, Brian Martin, Michael Martin, Charlo McLean, Christopher Reeves, Wesley Robinson, Andres Ruiz, Kyle Santamaria, Colby Seymour, Karl Solomon, Matthew Suberan, Shakur Welcome (GK), Jermaine Wilson, Theron Wood, Tevin Yen.

Those not returning after being picked for the first game are: Giovanni Bush, Tevon Levien, Darvin Watson and Rohan Williams.

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