Former Grenada national football coach Shalrie Joseph perhaps says it best when he offers that the Concacaf Nations League (CNL) has “revolutionised football in the Caribbean”.
Few, if anyone, would disagree with him.
The success story of Grenada in the inaugural 2019-2020 season of the Confederation-wide competition is mirrored by other islands, which have found a new lease on life with the arrival of CNL.
“I think us in Grenada, one of the many islands in the Caribbean, absolutely benefitted from the new format, which is the CNL, which has revolutionised football in the region.
“Now countries and FAs are going into competitions with a stronger belief that their countries can now qualify for tournaments like the Gold Cup and the World Cup because of the way the CNL is structured,” Joseph told Concacaf.com.
Joseph said that the CNL’s impact on smaller members of the 41-member Concacaf is felt as much as is seen.
“I think the dreams of fans and players are being realised in this tournament, and if the CNL did not have this format, a small country like Grenada would not be able to play these different teams and would not be able to get this far.
“I think it is important that Concacaf continues to do things like that, especially for a small island like Grenada, where we got to play different countries and visit different places, got to meet new people and have new experiences… We wouldn’t be able to do that if the competition was formatted differently.
“I also think it’s ideal that these games are scheduled during the international window, which allows the overseas-based players to come back and play for their country,” Joseph expressed.
The former New England Revolution standout was able to help navigate his country of birth to the top of Group A of League B unbeaten.
As a result of the Spice Boys’ eye-opening performance – winning four games and drawing two – they earned promotion to League A and a spot in Concacaf’s marquee national team championship, the Gold Cup.
“We won our group and were undefeated in the competition, so I absolutely loved the outcome of my team in the competition. I thought we were very outstanding in every aspect of the games. I believe the team was extremely hard-working and did everything right from the perspective of following what the coaching staff expected of them,” Joseph noted.
In its Group A run, Grenada’s results in home and away play read: Saint Kitts and Nevis (2-1, 0-0), Belize (2-1, 3-2) and French Guiana (0-0, 1-0).
For Joseph, the CNL campaign gave rise in confidence and self-belief among the more youthful players in the squad.
“We had some individual players who were standouts who gave their all defensively and offensively. We also got to play some young players and gave them their first caps nationally and gave them their debuts in the CNL, which will be fond and everlasting memories for some of these kids with some of them just turning 19 and 20 years old.
“So overall, I thought it was a great experience for me and the staff, but more importantly for the players. The experience of coaching in the CNL was great, enjoyable, fun, outstanding and every adjective you can find to describe the experience,” said the former Seattle Sounders midfielder.
Joseph, 41, said it is not easy to zoom in on one factor that led to the team’s success, opting to pin it down to a collection of things.
“It’s hard to pinpoint one thing being the key to Grenada’s success in the CNL. I think there were a lot of contributing factors, but one of them is the brilliant play we brought to the field every time we stepped out.
“We also had a bit of luck in a game here and there, plus we had some late winners in games which showed the character of the players on the team. I think, most importantly, we believed in each other and we believed we were going to win games, irrespective of what it took,” he asserted.
When it came to team tactics and general approach to matches, Joseph relied on a match-by-match strategy.
“Our strategies and tactics were different depending on the teams we played, some teams we pressed and other we allowed to build, but it was always all about us and how we wanted to play.
“In some games we would play a more open style in terms of our front three, and some games we would play narrow, but it was always us trying to implement our style on the opponent,” he explained.
Joseph reasoned that the balance of overseas-based professional and young starry-eyed talent lent itself to the depth and range of the team.
“The team was a mix of local and overseas players, and a country like ours we need to have overseas players to bring that professionalism. They also inspire the younger players, give them belief and let them know that they are important to the success of Grenada’s football and where it’s going,” Joseph concluded.