GOLD CUP: Grenada has goals, too

It's a tiny Caribbean nation with a population about the size of Downey's, but it's not enough for Grenada just to take the field against bigger countries with better national soccer teams.

The Spice Boys want to achieve far more.

Their primary goal as they begin their second successive CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign is modest -- to be among eight teams, out of 12, to reach the knockout phase -- and it might be out of reach following Monday's 4-0 defeat to Jamaica in a Group B opener at Home Depot Center.

“Realistically, what we came out here to do is get to the second round,” said head coach Mike Adams, an Englishman with Grenadian roots who has been working with the country's soccer federation and national team most of the past half-dozen years. “Now we have to go back to the drawing board.”

It might be different -- far more competitive -- if Adams could draw on “our full deck of overseas players,” including midfield general Shalrie Joseph, who declined an invitation to play in the region's nations championship so he could remain with the New England Revolution, and two English Premier League strikers: Everton's Jermaine Beckford and Blackburn's Jason Roberts.

It's not wholly about their skills, either. “The professionalism that gets brought in [when these players are around] would help,” Adams said.

Adams, 51, is a former pro himself. He grew up in south London and played at Chelsea until a knee injury halted his playing career at 21. From there, he went into coaching, played a little semipro soccer, and in 2005 began working in his parents' homeland, as an adviser for the Grenadian federation and as head coach of the national team during the 2005 Caribbean Championship.

The federation asked him to guide Grenada again in this Gold Cup, and even without Joseph, Beckford and Roberts, he's got some talent to work with. Five of his players are with mostly smaller English clubs, and there's Sporting Kansas City midfielder Craig Rocastle, who was forced off at halftime with a knee injury that could be serious.

And goalkeeper Shemel Louison, just 20, was a chief reason Jamaica won by only four goals. Adams also likes forward Clive Murray, also 20, who didn't get onto the field Monday.

“What we'd like to see is some of our homegrown youngsters get into MLS, get into some of the leagues [in the region],” Adams said. “And some of them are capable of doing that. I think if you give these lads the same opportunities and resources as people have out here, you'll see some exceptional athletes.

“That's what's happened to Jamaican football. At one time, Grenada was bigger than Jamaica in football. Soon as [Jamaica] had the success, they kept coming. People took notice of the infrastructure, provided more resources. Now they're producing a chain of players. I think that's the similar situation we'd like to see develop in Grenada.”

Most of the players are product of “village football,” and Adams understands that the country's size -- just 133 miles across six tiny islands at the southern end of the Grenadines, with only about 110,000 residents -- limits what can be accomplished. It doesn't mean they'll stop trying.

“We have our challenges,” he said. “There's no professional leagues, no real resources of any kind. So to get [to the Gold Cup] twice in a row is an achievement in itself.

“But we can't be satisfied with that. We've got to go to the next level.”