The Lowdown: Antigua got off to a strong start to their inaugural season in USL PRO, at one point stringing together six consecutive victories, but as the season wore on and the team wore down, victories became harder to find. There were some notable exceptions, a 2-0 win against Orlando City at the Citrus Bowl being one, but with a year’s experience under their belts, Coach Tom Curtis is expecting more from his side in 2012.
“It was a difficult season for us last year,” Curtis said. “It was a season where we were acclimatizing to the amount of games we had, the amount of travel we had to do, the logistics were challenging at times, but this year we’ve got that little bit of experience under our belt, the players know what to expect, and we expect a little bit more in terms of results.”
Key Losses: The good news for Curtis that the bulk of his side will return, with almost all having gained valuable experience in the club’s first season in USL PRO. The only notable absence from last year’s opening roster is forward Peter Byers, who departed mid-season to join the Los Angeles Blues.
Key Returnees: Center back George Dublin will be a key figure again as team captain, but a trio of younger players that made an impact could help the side make the jump to the next level this summer. Midfielder Lawson Robinson was selected to the All-USL PRO Second Team last season, while Curtis is also expecting big things from 20-year-old Quinton Griffith and 22-year-old Stefan Smith.
Key Additions: One player Curtis is pleased to have added is also a youngster, who moves up from the country’s development academy into the professional ranks. 19-year-old wide player Eugene Kirwan has already played for the national team, and could have an immediate impact.
Coach’s View: “We’re setting our stall out to certainly qualify for the playoffs, and I think any team that comes to Antigua and hosts Antigua this year will certainly be in for a battle, and certainly come up against a quality opposition, and an opposition that’s certainly improved from last year.” –Tom Curtis.