Antigua Barracuda FC may have lost their opening contest in the United Soccer League (USL) but they certainly have no reason to hang their heads, as the home-grown squad gave a brave account of themselves, drawing first blood before going down 2-1 to the visiting Los Angeles Blues at the Sticky Wicket Stadium on Sunday night.
Playing before a home crowd of about 3,500, Barracuda started well, running at the visitors’ defence and creating open looks at goal.
The first real opportunity came in the fifth minute when midfielder Gayson “Bubbler” Gregory went on a solo run, eluding two defenders just inside the 18 yards box before hitting over the crossbar from about nine yards out.
The deadlock was broken in minute 16, however, when forward Tamarley “Ziggy” Thomas latched onto a lobbed pass outside the area and sprinted past a defender before heading into the box and slipping the ball through the legs of the advancing Oscar Dautt in goal for LA Blues.
The home team should have stretched their lead about six minutes later when forward Quinton Griffith received a pass from Thomas just inside the area.
The pass left Griffith unmarked as Thomas was being double-teamed by two defenders. Griffith’s right-footed attempt flew just wide of the far upright, however, and into touch for a goal kick.
Blues found themselves back in the contest in minute 33 when a thunderous left-footed effort from forward Walter Gaitan flew into the roof of the net past a diving Molvin James from about 25 yards out.
The strike came off a set piece after Gaitan was brought down outside the area and sent the teams into the interval levelled at 1-1.
Barracuda’s woes began in the second half as they resorted to playing too defensively and found difficulty in stringing passes together, while Blues did the exact opposite where they attacked in numbers and moved the ball around leaving the home team chasing for most of the half.
The winner came in minute 78 when Blues were awarded a penalty kick by referee Brian “Strikes” Willett after a goal-bound header came off the raised left arm of defender Roy Gregory just on the edge of the six yards box.
James had no chance in goal as Gaitan clinically tucked the ball into the lower right hand side of the net while the national custodian went in the opposite direction.
Barracuda will play again on Thursday and Saturday when they tackle Puerto Rico’s Sevilla in back-to-back matches at the Sticky Wicket Stadium.