ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands – Jair Whyte hasn't been able to spend much time practicing with the U.S. Virgin Islands U15 boys’ national soccer team. However, in his first real match with them, he and the team showed that they could be a contender among the Caribbean territories' top national clubs.
Whyte scored two goals in leading the U.S. Virgin Islands to a 5-1 victory over the St. Maarten U-15 Boys National Team in an international "friendly" match Monday at Lionel Roberts Stadium.
Carlos Hennemann, Amir Ottley and Ethan Smith added one goal each for the USVI, which bolted to a three-goal halftime lead despite a serious challenge from St. Maarten in the closing minutes of the first half.
"This is my first game with the national team," said Whyte, whose father is a former Antigua and Barbuda National Team star, Conrad Whyte, now an assistant coach on Merrimack College's men's soccer team in Boston, Mass.
"I think we played really good. We passed it around, we had a lot of shots, we defended good, we moved as a team. We didn't get down hard on each other’s mistakes, but we're still correcting each other, things like how fast we were trying to set the ball in play. If anything, offensively we did pretty good," Whyte said.
The U.S. Virgin Islands took control early, scoring twice in a nine-minute span to open the match. Hennemann scored the opening goal less than a minute in, taking Ottley's rebound off the post and catching St. Maarten goalkeeper Daniel Hobgood out of position from less than five yards out.
Whyte then scored his first goal of the match – and his first with the USVI National Team – in the ninth minute, taking a corner kick and punching it past Hobgood from 10 yards out for a 2-0 lead.
"We started off so well in the game, but mentally it shook our boys – big time, too," St. Maarten Head Coach Guidaire Burton said. "They did recover, but it took a while for them to recover. So the mental strength of our players is something we definitely need to work on. If we were a little bit mentally stronger, we wouldn't have been in that position.
"Overall, knowing what we were expecting and our objectives, we were satisfied with what we saw. We know our technical abilities. For this game, we wanted to see how well we could press and play as a team, and we were doing that quite well for a good time. But once we got the ball, we couldn't capitalize on our chances. That cost us," Burton added.
The U.S. Virgin Islands went up 3-0 just before the end of the first half when Hobgood again got pulled out of the goal, this time on Ottley's crossing shot, opening the way for Smith to score from close in.
St. Maarten broke the shutout 12 minutes into the second half, with Reshawn Eustace scoring past USVI goalkeeper Diamonte Pierre in the 47th minute.
But the U.S. Virgin Islands added its final two goals over a five-minute span – Ottley off a 1-on-1 breakaway in the 55th minute, followed by Whyte's second goal, which slipped through Daniel Hobgood's hands and into the goal in the 60th minute.
The friendly – essentially an exhibition match – was the first good look the U.S. Virgin Islands National Team coaches had of their players in a true game situation, coming six weeks before the team heads to the mainland United States for the Concacaf U-15 Boys Championship in Bradenton, Fla.
"We have a lot to work on," USVI U-15 head coach Dale Richards said. "We have some things we have to tighten up. The strikers are playing good, but our defense – we had a lot of blunders. We have to work with the defenders, to see how we can close up those things that we messed up.
"Still, it's a first nice step and it was a nice game. I like what I'm seeing. I see the drive, the will, and I can't ask for anything better. I'm just taking them up the mountain, and I hope that when we get to where we need to go, we peak at the right time."