Rampersad Ready For ‘Biggest Game Of His Life’ Against USA
Halifax Wanderers Captain Andre Rampersad is back on national team duty with Trinidad and Tobago for what he describes as the ‘biggest game of his life’.
“It’s definitely a blessing to come to this place in such a big game like this,” the midfielder said whilst on national team duty. “Where we can do so many things if we can come away with a win…we are all positive and confident.”
A win in the home-and-away bout will determine qualification for the 2024 Copa America. Trinidad and Tobago faces tough opposition as they enter the Concacaf Nations League quarter-final stage, however, as they’re set to play against a tournament favourite in the United States.
That’s a team that will bring back bitter memories for the island country after their Gold Cup exit was curated by the Americans.
“The boys just need to stay focused and we just need to grasp the opportunity,” urges the midfielder ahead of the bout.
For Rampersad, the opportunity to help his country in such a high-stakes fixture comes after a whirlwind five years that saw him venture abroad to Canada, where a fledging domestic professional league has grown by leaps and bounds – effectively putting Rampersad on the map.
“Everything that I’ve been through just makes me stronger every time,” reflected the Wanderers original on his own career path. “Going to Halifax from FC Santa Rosa as a first-time professional, I didn’t know what I was going to get into, and obviously I had to grow faster than I thought.”
After landing in the Atlantic following a recommendation from former Wanderers assistant coach Derek King, the midfielder worked tirelessly to establish himself at the professional level. There were bumps along the road both individually and at the club level, but Rampersad now finds himself having made 119 appearances for the team, the most out of any player in club history.
That platform of consistency allowed him to finally break through to the national team, with Rampersad making his debut in a three-nil win over the Bahamas earlier this year. He hasn’t looked back since.
“Here I am five years later, playing with the national team. Once again, I had to grow up a lot faster than I thought I would. I’m just trying to do the best I can for myself, for my family, and for my country.”
When he was brought into the team, he did so without having any prelude through international youth experience. By all effects, he was a late bloomer. The coach sat him down and told him not to worry about that: with the talent, drive, and will to be better, he was confident that Rampersad has what it takes to always stand out.
His goal against Jamaica in this summer’s Gold Cup reflected that he certainly has the confidence for it now.
The country’s run in this summer’s Gold Cup was ended emphatically by the United States, so drawing against them in the Concacaf Nations League quarter-final stage will bring back an ill taste in the mouths of Soca Warriors fans. The US had trounced them six-nil to round out the Gold Cup group this summer, with Rampersad coming on in the second half – though the team couldn’t claw themselves out of a disaster in that game.
“A baptism of fire, for sure – a very disappointing game, but I think the coaching staff will have done their homework on the team after seeing what happened at the Gold Cup. Going into this game, I think we’ll be more prepared, and more confident, having come second in the [Concacaf Nations League] group. I’m very confident that the boys are going to show up.”
Rampersad’s Trinidad and Tobago have done well in their six-country Nations League group, finishing second behind Panama after three wins and one loss to advance to the quarter-finals. It’s been a path of redemption following that Gold Cup exit.
“We’ve tried to change the narrative of the team and the narrative of the words that have been spoken after the Gold Cup. I think we’ve done that in such a positive way, and I think the boys need to get a lot of praises for what they’ve done, and the coaching staff to that extent,” adds Rampersad.
“At the end of the day, everyone works together. Here we are playing against the US in such a big game where we can quality for so many things.”
Rampersad won’t be the only Canadian Premier League talent on display for the home-and-away quarter-finals, with Atletico Ottawa’s Malcolm Shaw also on the roster.
The Soca Warriors will play away against the USA tomorrow at 9:00PM EST, before hosting their opponents on Monday evening. The victor not only advances to the semi-final stage, but will automatically qualify for the 2024 Copa America as well.
The four losing teams from the quarter-final stage will have a second chance to qualify for the tournament through a single play-in round taking place March 2024. Rampersad, of course, will be hoping not to need it.