Thursday, April 25, 2013

USL Pro Spotlight Week 5 - Antigua Barracuda FC “Traveling Band”

Article By: Pedro Gomes

At the start of any professional soccer season many fans, players, and coaching staffs eagerly await the release of the upcoming match schedule. It is a time for everyone involved to begin the tedious process of planning, whether it be tactically, motivationally, or logistically for many supporters. Although most of the teams across the United States professional scene were able to conduct these vital preparations without much hubbub, there was one team in USL Pro who unfortunately did not have the opportunity to do so. That team was the Barracudas from Antigua and Barbuda.

When the 2013 USL Pro schedule was announced many fans of the Barracudas were happy to see their club listed as part of the participating franchises. However, upon further inspection they would notice that the club would play each of its 26 matches on the road. As any soccer fan, player, or coach knows, road games are tough. Well, the Barracudas will have nothing but road games. Now that’s even tougher.

Many people who are new to USL Pro and to the Barracudas may be wondering why would a team be scheduled to play all of its games on the road. Quite simply it boils down to money. The club does not average enough attendance to maintain a balanced ledger and travel to and from the tiny Caribbean nation is not cheap.

Although financial difficulties are not a new concept for the Barracudas who have struggled since their inception, there has been renewed hope that the club could find the 1.6 million East Caribbean Dollars (Roughly 600K USD) it takes to fund the team for a full USL Pro season. So far it seems as though they have found enough investors and money to get the team up and running, at least for the time being and they have been able to sign roughly 20 players total.

As if dealing with their financial uncertainty in the off-season as well as facing a 26 game road schedule wasn’t enough, they also lost one of their most talented players to the Charleston Battery, Quinton Griffith. Many US fans may remember Griffith for not only the stellar performances he put on against the US in World Cup Qualifying but also for his outlandish hair style and extremely “unique” selection of wardrobe (He likes the short shorts). The Barracudas have surely missed this talented 20 year old causing havoc up and down opposing sidelines.

Quinton Griffith and his Unique Style

So far 2013 has not been kind to the Barracudas who have gone 0-0-3 and have lost each game by no less than 2 goals and have yet to find the back of the net themselves. Although the club may not have had an ideal start to the season, the purpose of this week’s spotlight is to shed a little light on the unique challenges they have had to face and provide some context to their poor record. Any team facing financial uncertainty just days prior to the start of the season and having little to no time to have organized practices with a full squad are likely to have the same difficult start to a season.

The future of the Barracudas is still very uncertain as they continue to try and scrape together funding to continue their 2013 campaign and beyond, and whether you are a supporter of the team or not there is one additional reason to at least hope they can pull it together. That reason is for the improvement of the Antigua and Barbuda National Team.

The Barracudas are almost entirely composed of A&B Internationals and the improvement of the national team during the last round of Qualifying can largely be attributed to the players being a part of a professional club system. The day-in day-out experience of the Barracudas had a positive effect on the national team as many US fans will remember from that hard fought 2-1 “Squeaker” down in Antigua. So the uncertain future of the Barracudas should extend past the desire to maintain another club in USL Pro but also to anyone who wishes to see an increased competitive level in CONCACAF. Along with the competitive positive the Barracudas bring there is also that opportunity the club offers to the youth of the nation.

The Club is currently off competing in the Caribbean Football Championship and will get back to USL Pro action on Friday May 3rd, against VSI Tampa Bay. This is definitely a story to keep an eye on for any Soccer fan in North America.

For a good profile on The Antigua Barracudas visit The Reckless Challenge