Few expected anything more than a lopsided defeat when Bermuda travelled to mighty Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday. John Barry Nusum must not have received a copy of the script, though, as his two-goal show brought a shock victory for the Gombey Warriors before a stunned crowd in Macoya.
"We were just trying to feel them out in the first ten minutes and not concede a goal. It's a normal tactic on the road," said Nusum, 27, who plays professional indoor soccer in the States for the Philadelphia KiXX and recently signed an outdoor contract with the Bermuda Hogges of the USL second division. "But before you knew it, Khano and I linked up and I found myself alone in front of goal. All I had to do was poke it in."
Nusum, a poacher of the highest order since his time at Furman University in the USA, made no mistake. And the Khano he linked up with is none other than Khano Smith of MLS side New England Revolution, the most famous athlete on the island at present.
"Me and Khano have been great friends since we were ten years old," added the likable and soft-spoken Nusum, who opened the scoring after only seven minutes against Trinidad, who at 87th are a full 52 places above Bermuda on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. "We click off the field and I guess that chemistry carries over on to the pitch. He always seems to know where I want the ball and I always know where he's going to go with it."
Expecting nothing short of a lopsided win, the T&T fans at the Marvin Lee Stadium in Macoya were stunned by Nusum's early opener.
"When I wheeled around to celebrate the goal, you could hear a pin drop in the ground," Nusum told FIFA.com. "That's just what you want to do too, take the crowd out of it on the road."
Trinidad, without injured Sunderland star Kenwyne Jones, but with a raft of British-based pros like Carlos Edwards and Dennis Lawrence, managed to hit back in 22nd minute through all-time top scorer Stern John. But Nusum, the man of the hour, was not to be denied. He hooked up with Smith again in the 38th minute and hammered the game out of reach. In doing so, he also became Bermuda's all-time top scorer in FIFA World Cup™ qualifying with 11 goals, surpassing former Manchester City star Shaun Goater en route to the country's most famous of wins.
"Coach (Kenny) Thompson told me I was getting close (to the record) a few months ago," said Nusum, "but I had forgotten all about it. I'm proud to be my country's top scorer but I would trade it right now for a spot in the group stages."
*Journeyman Nusum * Having played briefly for MLS side Columbus Crew, Nusum has spent most of his career in the lower leagues in the USA and Canada, and is looking forward to a future with the Hogges in his native Bermuda. The club, founded by current chairman and Bermudan hero Goater, took shape in 2006 and has had a remarkable impact on the national team.
"A lot of the national team players are playing on the Hogges [ed's note - no less than 10 were in the squad on Sunday] and it's a way for us to get better and learn more about each other," Nusum said. "It's a good thing for the national team."
The striker picked up a slight hamstring pull in the first leg, but has been undergoing treatment and is ready to push through the pain on 22 June in Prospect. "I'll be fine," he said simply and with an air of steely commitment.
Nusum is the centre of attention in Bermuda at the moment as the country's FA tries to keep up with a sudden swarm of activity and demand for tickets for Sunday's return leg.
"There's a real buzz! When we got back from Trinidad on Tuesday there were TV cameras and press and friends and family members waiting for us to offer their support," Nusum said. "It's a special time here."
With only a slim 2-1 edge going into the second leg, Nusum knows that Trinidad will not be keen to contribute to the party currently underway in Bermuda. "We're only halfway there, and we know that Trinidad are going to come out hard in the second leg," he said. "They'll be looking for a fight and we need to stand right up to them."