Nathan Carr of Caribbean Football looks back at three of the standout Caribbean performers from the recent Gold Cup…
Duckens Nazon – Haiti – 21 – Striker
Haiti scored two goals in the tournament and Duckens Nazon got both of them. The 21-year-old, who was born in Paris but has Haitian roots, came off the bench against Panama in Group A’s opener and made an instant impact: latching onto a long pass, turning his marker inside out and finishing with aplomb. It was a lovely individual goal and made people sit up and take notice. Six days later Nazon was given a starting spot against Honduras and he rewarded manager Marc Collat with another goal, a less clean strike this time but just as important. Les Grenadiers subsequently advanced to the last eight, albeit they lost to eventual finalists Jamaica 1-0. Nazon’s achievements at the Gold Cup are doubly impressive considering he was on the verge of quitting football altogether a year ago, when he was playing at amateur level in France. Receiving a call-up to the Haitian U-21s gave him hope and then in March 2014, he made his senior international bow in a 0-0 draw with Kosovo. Nazon has developed at a rapid rate ever since. At the moment he is contracted to Stade Laval having only recently put pen to paper with the Ligue 2 club. Speaking on securing a place in the Laval first team, Nazon explained: “These two goals [at the Gold Cup] are a bonus for me.” It will be interesting to see if he can maintain his Gold Cup form for the World Cup qualifiers, which begin in early September.
Sheldon Bateau – Trinidad & Tobago – 24 – Defender
Trinidad & Tobago enjoyed a fine Gold Cup campaign as they topped Group C and were a penalty shoot-out away from qualifying for the semi-finals for the first time since 2000. Sheldon Bateau made a significant contribution in both a defensive and offensive sense. He registered T&T’s first goal at the tournament when he met Khaleem Hyland’s corner and calmly guided the ball in with his side foot. Another goal against Cuba saw his tally rise to two which is laudable for a central defender. A physical, well-built player, Bateau was capped at U-17, U-20 and U-23 level before graduating to the seniors in 2013. He displayed great maturity and promise at the Gold Cup, establishing a good understanding with Radanfah Abu Bakr in the heart of the Soca Warriors defence. He possesses recovery speed and is always a threat from set-pieces. Having started out at San Juan Jabloteh, Bateau transferred to North East Stars when Jabloteh dissolved due to financial difficulties in 2012. But he never made an appearance there as Belgian Pro League side KV Mechelen offered him a one-year contract later that year and Bateau still remains at the club. He is a regular starter and consistent performer in their first team. With a little more polishing and refining, Bateau could make the jump to a higher European league. He has all the physical and athletic attributes and T&T boss Stephen Hart appears to think highly of him.
Je-Vaughn Watson – Jamaica – 31 – Midfielder
Football fans in the US will be familiar with the name Je-Vaughn Watson, the ex-Houston Dynamo and current FC Dallas midfielder. He has been an integral part of the Jamaican midfield since Winfried Schafer took charge two years ago. Watson shined during Jamaica’s Caribbean Cup triumph late last year and again, at the Gold Cup, he underlined his worth by playing a big part in the Reggae Boyz’s ascent to the final, where they lost out to Mexico in Philadelphia. The former Sporting Central Academy captain works fantastically well with Rodolph Austin in central midfield, providing stability and protection. Austin is more of a runner and harrier whereas Watson sits a little deeper and uses his intelligence to break up play and play simple yet effective passes. Jamaica’s two successive clean sheets in Group B should not only be attributed to the solidity of the four-man backline but the central midfield duo, too. Watson missed the quarter-final victory over Haiti and although Jobi McAnuff filled in admirably, you could tell that there wasn’t as much discipline and focus in central midfield as usual. Arguably Watson’s best game was Jamaica’s historic semi-final win against the US. He was dogged in his pursuit of American skipper Michael Bradley and efficient in possession, spreading the play out wide to McAnuff, Garath McCleary and Giles Barnes. Watson was even attempting and completing back heels with 15-20 minutes left such was his confidence. The 31-year-old’s tenacity and athleticism will again be needed in Jamaica’s World Cup qualifying campaign which starts in a couple of months.