Lightbourne shuffling midfield pack
Kyle Lightbourne’s midfield merry-go-round is showing no signs of slowing down ahead of Bermuda’s final group match in League A of the Concacaf Nations League against Mexico tonight.
The Bermuda coach has regularly interchanged the pieces of his midfield jigsaw throughout his side’s Gold Cup and Nations League excursions.
At no point has he named the same midfield for successive matches.
It’s the one department in his preferred 4-3-3 formation that he has happily tinkered with, depending on the quality of opposition, where the match is being played, and in particular, how much possession his side expects to have.
That’s certainly not been the case regarding Lightbourne’s approach to selecting his defenders and forwards, where continuity has largely characterised his choices.
Indeed, captain Danté Leverock and Jaylon Bather have been unmoved at the heart of the backline, with makeshift defender Donte Brangman at right back and Callon Minors and Jalen Harvey sharing the left-back duties. Minors and Harvey will miss the Mexico trip because of school commitments and injury, respectively.
Up front, Nahki Wells has unsurprisingly served as the focal point of the team’s game plan, while Zeiko Lewis and Lejaun Simmons have largely provided the pace and width.
The contrast between the ever-changing personnel in midfield and the familiar faces elsewhere could simply be down to the increased options Lightbourne has to deploy in the midfield “no-man’s land”, where footballing battles are often won and lost.
Although winger Justin Donawa, who has displayed a keen eye for goal at non-League Darlington this season, albeit from the substitutes’ bench, could consider himself a smidgen unlucky not to have featured more often.
It’s in midfield, however, where Lightbourne has felt the necessity to shuffle his selection pack with all the precision of a Las Vegas card dealer, as he searches for the correct combination for each particular assignment.
Reggie Lambe, Osagi Bascome, Willie Clemons, Milan Butterfield, Tre Ming, Roger Lee and Marco Warren have all been used, although the midfield triumvirate has primarily been a blend of Bascome, Clemons, Lambe and Butterfield, who at 6ft 4ins offers greater physical presence than any other option as the defensive pivot.
Bascome, too, has performed that role as more of a deep-lying passer than protective shield, while Clemons has usually provided the energy and bite, as well as cover for Lambe’s forward bursts through the middle to support Wells.
It was against Panama away, however, where Lightbourne sprang a surprise by partnering “spoilers” Ming and Lee alongside the offensively minded Lambe.
Looking to soak up pressure before hitting the Central Americans on the counterattack, the ploy worked to perfection, Bermuda winning 2-0 against a side who featured at last year’s World Cup and had beat them 4-1 at the National Stadium three days earlier.
Lightbourne, perhaps tellingly, opted to sit Ming and Lee in midfield against Guatemala in last month’s home friendly and after the match, which ended goalless, and initially suggested the pair were in his thoughts for the Mexico mission in the high altitude of Toluca.
“It tells me something that both times [Ming and Lee] have played we’ve kept clean sheets,” Lightbourne said. “We have some fantastic midfielders. Our general way of playing is brave and sometimes they [Lee and Ming] aren’t always the clientele for us to be brave. We’re going to high altitude and those are the things we’re talking about.”
Bermuda, bottom of group B on goal difference, may well opt for a similar ploy as they attempt to stifle Mexico, who inflicted a 5-1 defeat upon Lightbourne’s men at home last month, although Ming is unavailable because of personal reasons.
Relegation to League B may beckon, but don’t expect Bermuda’s midfield merry-go-round to stop anytime soon.
The Royal Gazette’s coverage of Bermuda’s game against Mexico in the Concacaf Nations League has been sponsored by Living Legends @living.legends.bda
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