Two-time reigning Caribbean Football Union Club and Digicel T&T Pro League champions, Central FC will shift focus from its Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League campaign when it faces Defence Force in the domestic season opening Digicel Charity Shield at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva from 7pm tonight.
Central FC coached by Dale Saunders will be appearing in its third straight Charity Shield match and will be fancied to retain the title it won for the first time last year, a 1-0 win over three-time winners, W Connection after losing by a similar margin the previous season at the same Couva venue.
Central FC, winners of 13 trophies in three seasons of existence had an early start to its season, in August, a 1-0 loss to Vancouver Whitecaps followed by a 1-1 draw with Sporting Kansas City in their two homes matches in the Concacaf Champions League, while Defence Force has only had the benefit of practice matches.
Speaking ahead of the match that will carry a prize money of $10,000 to be donated to charity of the team’s choice, Saunders said his team's only act of kindness on the night will be in donating the prize money and he does not expect charitable battle on the field. He said: “When Central play the Army, there is always fireworks, and more so on Friday as we will be looking to retain the title while Defence Force will be keen to begin the new season with a trophy as well”
A former national midfielder, Saunders is also elated with his squad and stated, “Both Jason Marcano and Marcus Joseph scored regularly for me last season, while young Nicholas Dillon is continually gaining experience and composure and benefitting from playing alongside Kenwyne Jones.
Meanwhile, Defence Force coach, Marvin Gordon while not having a team as deep as his rivals, was adamant he had enough firepower to take home the title.
Changes to Pro League
This season, the T&T Pro League will consist of two rounds of matches which will be contested from September 2016 to January 2017. The following a short break the Pro League will revert to an April to December schedule in 2017.
The teams competing this season includes defending champions Central FC, W Connection, Ma Pau Stars, Morvant Caledonia United, St Ann's Rangers, Point Fortin Civic, Police FC, Defence Force, Club Sando and San Juan Jabloteh.
Kenwyne Jones’ Central FC to attempt Charity Shield defence on Friday.
Ex-England Premier League forward and current Trinidad and Tobago captain Kenwyne Jones is expected to mark his return to the Trinidad and Tobago Pro League on Friday September 9, for the first time since 2004, when holders Central FC tackle Defence Force FC in the 2016/17 season curtain-raising Digicel Charity Shield from 7pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
The 31-year-old former Sunderland and Stoke City forward will don the Central FC kit when the two-time reigning Digicel Pro League (DPL) and Caribbean champions aim to defend the Charity Shield which they captured for the first time last season with a 1-0 score to dethrone three-time winners W Connection (2-0 vs Defence Force in 2012, 4-2 vs Defence Force in 2013, and 1-0 vs Central in 2014).
The Charity Shield pits the DPL and Digicel Pro Bowl winners of the previous season—and in this season’s instance its Central and Defence Force, respectively. The winners receive TT$10,000 to be given to a charity of their choice.
Jones, who represented W Connection between 2002-2004 after kicking off his professional career with Joe Public, went on to enjoy a lengthy career span in England. But after a loan stint with Abu Dhabi outfit Al-Jazira this year, which also saw the expiration of his Cardiff City contract in England, Jones recently joined Central FC – the town rivals of his former club Connection – on loan till December before he heads to new Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise Atlanta United in January 2017.
Jones, who has already scored on debut for Central in a 2-2 draw against MLS outfit Sporting Kansas City last August at the Ato Boldon Stadium in the group stage of the Concacaf Champions League, will surely hope to help the “Couva Sharks” start the shortened 2016-2017 Pro League season in winning-fashion.
This season, the calendar (September 2016 to January 2017) will consist of two Rounds of DPL matches as well as the First Citizens Cup and Digicel Pro Bowl knockouts before reverting to the April to December calendar for the new season in 2017. The major benefits of the change as outlined by the league Directors are the elimination of the Christmas and Carnival breaks and aligning the schedule with regional competitions which will allow Pro League clubs to be in full competitive mode for the Caribbean Club Championship and Concacaf Champions League.
Confident his side can continue from the success of last season and the season before that, Central FC head coach Dale Saunders said, “Obviously, we want to make it a hat-trick of Pro League and Caribbean titles, but as far as I'm concerned, every Cup is up for grabs and we want to win every game.”
Looking ahead to Friday’s Charity Shield, Saunders said, “When Central play the Army (Defence Force), there is always fireworks,” said Saunders. “But more so on Friday as Central will be looking to retain the Charity Shield, while Defence Force will be keen to begin the new season with a trophy.”
Last season Defence Force ended as Pro Bowl champions. Now head coach Marvin Gordon of the Army/Coast Guard combination wants his side to show their quality against the Central, who have made a number of notable signings during the pre-season.
Veteran Defence Force forward and former Toyota/Pro League Player of the Year, Devorn Jorsling, said, “We have been working hard to get ready for this [short] season and we know we must start strong [by] winning the Charity Shield, and that’s what we are going out there to do on Friday.”
Digicel Charity Shield 2016
Friday September 9
Central FC vs Defence Force—7pm, Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva