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Defence Force FC head coach Marvin Gordon wants to reunite with the First Citizens Cup, a trophy he holds dear to his heart, and his beefed up squad with forwards Brent Sam and Dwight Quintero and 20-year-old Trinidad and Tobago international Kathon St. Hillaire among recent acquisitions, gives him added confidence.

The Soldiers must face two-time former winners San Juan Jabloteh from 6pm on Sunday at Ato Boldon Stadium in the second game of a Paria Group double-header after MIC-IT St. Ann’s Rangers and two-time former winners Central FC battle from 4pm.

But competition in, arguably the most prestigious Cup, kicks off on tomorrow (Friday) with an Abercrombie Group double-header at the same Ato Boldon Stadium with reigning Pro League champions North East Stars taking on Police FC from 6:30pm and Point Fortin Civic against First Citizens Cup holders and recent Charity Shield winners W Connection from 8:30pm.

“We have a much better squad with new players like Dwight Quintero, Brent Sam, Tyrik (John) and Kathon St. Hillaire [plus] we still have guys like [all-time Pro League top scorer] Devorn Jorsling,” Gordon told the gathering during the 2018 First Citizens Cup launch yesterday in the VIP Lounge of the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain.

Ex-Jabloteh prodigy Sam, 22, who had a stint last season in Portugal with lower division side Dezembro, and former North East Stars player Quintero, 24, are both former T&T youth forwards.

While Tyrik John, 22, is the son 0f legendary Trinidad and Tobago forward Stern John and joined from Central FC, the side currently coached by his father.

Hillaire, a former Rangers attacker, and Shaquille Holder, 24, also bolsters Gordon’s offence along with Jelani Felix, 24, who returns following last season’s Pro League-winning stint at North East Stars.

“We want to go one step further [this season],” continued the Defence Force coach whose side lost last season’s final 3-1 to W Connection, who celebrated a record-extending eighth First Citizens Cup.

“This time we [are] going one more to win the final. [And based on the round-robin groupings] it looks in our favour.”

The First Citizens Cup is very special to Gordon, having won it as a Defence Force player in 2002, as assistant coach to his predecessor Ross Russell in 2009, and as coach in 2016.

Gordon wants to start the season strong and the First Citizens Cup will be fitting in honour of his father and all-time best supporter Bernard Gordon who passed away a fortnight ago.

Gordon barked warnings to his opening opponents Jabloteh, saying he defeated the Keith Jeffrey-coached side “whole pre-season”.

“That’s motivation to change the script,” Jeffrey responded.

Club Sando coach Angus Eve meanwhile would watch on from the stands over the weekend with a keen eye as his side and two-time former champions Morvant Caledonia United receive a bye on the opening weekend.

“It gives us (Sando) the opportunity to assess future opponents since no (Pro League) team wanted to play us a practice match all pre-season,” said Eve, who, along with Connection assistant coach Earl Jean, welcome the new round-robin format.

For the first time in the First Citizens Cup’s almost two-decade history, clubs will contest each other in a round-robin format to determine the semi-finalists.

Connection, two-time former winners Morvant Caledonia, Civic, North East Stars and Police were drawn into Abercrombie Group, while Sando, Jabloteh, Rangers, Central and Defence Force will contest Paria Group.

The top two finishers from each group at the end of group play will advance to the semi-final round on 13 July with the Abercrombie winners facing Paria runners-up and Paria winners against Abercrombie runners-up for a place in the final on 20 July.

Defence Force FC 2018 roster

Goalkeepers: Andre Marchan, Sheldon Clarke and Jameel Enill;

Defenders: Curtis Gonzales, Jamali Garcia, Rodell Elcock, Aklie Edwards, Jemel Sebro, Thurlani George, Jerome Mc Intyre, Justin Garcia.

Midfielders: Hashim Arcia, Dave Long, Jerwyn Balthazar, Kerry Joseph, Levi Serries, Cassim Kellar, Dillon King.

Forwards: Devorn Jorsling, Akil Morris, Kellon Serrette, Shaquille Bertrand, Jameel Cooper, Reon Moore, Dwight Quintero, Tyrik John, Kathon St. Hillaire, Jelani Felix, Brent Sam and Shaquille Holder.

Staff: Marvin Gordon (Head Coach), Devin Elcock (Assistant Coach), Stephon Webster (Trainer), Mc Allister Estrada (Medic), Keron Dookie (Club Manager), Keston Greene (Equipment Manager) and Akini Wilson (Photographer).