AFTER meeting in the final of the inaugural First Citizens Cup 14 years ago, — known then as the League Cup — San Juan Jabloteh and Defence Force will renew their tournament rivalry today, but in a play-off contest of the 2014 edition.
Both former winners, Defence Force (2002 and 2009) and Jabloteh (2001 and 2003) will tackle each other from 6 pm at the Marvin Lee Stadium – based on a random draw last Thursday – for a place in the quarter-final round on Friday against six-time (2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008) First Citizens Cup winners W Connection.
Back in 2000 – one year before the acquisition of title sponsors First Citizens – Jabloteh lifted the inaugural crown after edging the Army-Coast Guard combination1-0.
Since then Jabloteh managed to reach two finals, winning the 2003 title but losing in 2005.
Defence Force, meanwhile, are seven-time finalists winning the title in 2002 and again in 2009 — the first season of present coach Ross Russell.
“This (First Citizens Cup competition) is one we hold dear to us,” said Defence Force assistant coach Marvin Gordon.
Gordon was a playing member of the Defence Force team that won the title in 2002 and was Russell’s deputy when they won the title in 2009.
“It’s a title we will go all out to win,” continued the Army- Coast Guard assistant coach. “We are on the hard side of the draw having to play in the play-off for a quarter-final spot but we welcome it anyway.”
Gordon said that the Army/Coast Guard combination have “a number of scores to settle” against Jabloteh.
The most recent, last season’s 1-0 Digicel Pro League third round defeat, which saw the Defence Force finish third behind Central FC on goal-difference and lose out on qualifying for this season’s Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship, the qualifying tournament to the Concacaf Champions League.
“We have a number of scores to settle (against Jabloteh),” Gordon added. “especially with our last meeting last season when they denied us a qualifying spot towards the Concacaf Champions League.
“We also have scores to settle from past seasons, when they were at the top of their game, and embarrassed the Defence Force. So the 2000 title isn’t the only score to settle on our minds.”
Gordon revealed that midfielder Jerwyn Balthazar and attacker Balondemu Julius are back into the squad following promotional courses with the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force and will be available for selection along with striker Devorn Jorsling, coming off a hat-trick scored against Police FC in a 4-2 league win.
The Army/Coast Guard combine, undefeated in their opening two Pro League matches against North East Stars 1-0 with a late penalty, will go up against a side that has not conceded a goal in their opening matches of the 2014-2015 season. Jabloteh played to a goalless draw against Police in their first match and edged St Ann’s Ranges 1-0 in the second.
“We (the players) are entertainers, so playing against Defence Force at the beginning of the tournament is really good,” said Jabloteh captain Kerry Baptiste following the draw executed during the launch of the 2014 First Citizens Cup at the VIP Lounge, Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo.
“It’s going to be an exciting game for the fans,” continued the league’s all-time top scorer. “It would also be a nice test for some of the guys in our team.”
In the quarter-final round defending champions Central FC, with new coach Zoran Vranes will tackle Point Fortin Civic and two-time winners (2011 and 2012) Caledonia AIA are to play North East Stars; and Police FC meet St Ann’s Rangers.
Six-time winners W Connection will play the winners of today’s game.