TRINIDAD and Tobago Premier Football League (TTPFL) runners-up AC Port of Spain will need a win on Wednesday versus Martinique champions Golden Lion FC at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, if they are to keep their hopes of advancing from the Concacaf Caribbean Cup.
AC PoS currently sit bottom of group A with no points from their two matches, following road defeats to Moca FC (1-0) and Cavalier FC (2-1) on August 25 and 31 respectively. Meanwhile, Golden Lion are yet to earn a point in the five-team group, as they were beaten 1-0 by inaugural TTPFL winners Defence Force on August 30 in their lone match thus far.
From 6 pm on Wednesday in Mucurapo, the talented AC PoS team will need to change their fortunes immediately.
"The team is ready to play. I think we were ready to play from the time the tournament started. But sometimes, these things do happen," said AC PoS coach and technical director, Gilbert Bateau, speaking at Tuesday's pre-match press briefing.
"We don't have any points just yet. But looking at the standings right now, it gives us a window of opportunity where we can compete and try and win these two games."
Up to press time, Defence Force and Cavalier led group A with four points apiece, although the youthful Jamaican team had a slight edge over the Army on goal difference and played Moca in a late kickoff on Tuesday night. After four group matches, the top two teams will advance to the Caribbean Cup semifinals, while the tournament winner qualifies for the Concacaf Champions Cup round of 16. The Caribbean Cup runners-up and third-place team will qualify for round one of that competition.
AC PoS captain Duane Muckette featured in TT's two Concacaf Nations League (CNL) A wins over Curacao and El Salvador on September 7 and 10 respectively. The midfielder says his team is now in a "do-or-die" situation and he is confident they can turn things around.
"The team is ready. We have prepared well. We understand the position that we have put ourselves in," Muckette said. "We just have to do what we can do to give ourselves the best chance of progressing to the next phase.
"It's very important for us to bounce back. We are actually in a do-or-die situation now to get the points. We have to give everything because we still have a chance to progress from this tournament. Those were two good results for the national team and obviously, I was a part of it and it boosted my confidence. It allows me to bring confidence to my team here as well."
AC PoS have experienced T&T internationals such as goalkeeper Marvin Phillip and defender Radanfah Abu Bakr within their ranks, as well as a promising midfield quartet that includes Che Benny, Michel Poon-Angeron, John-Paul Rochford and Muckette. AC PoS scored over 60 goals in the TTPFL season, but they have been unable to replicate their goal-scoring touch on the regional stage so far.
Bateau says his team has been unlucky in front of goal, and they are working on their production in the attacking third.
"To give out the game plan here right now wouldn't be wise," Bateau said. "Having said that, our sessions were mostly based on final-third play and getting the ball in the back of the net because we have the quality of players to do that.
"When we played those games, we actually dominated both games with about 60 per cent ball possession. Sometimes it happens that way and it just doesn't go in the net for you – especially in the second game (versus Cavalier). We had 19 shots at goal and that's just unfortunate that we couldn't capitalise."
Tyrone Charles, who moved to AC PoS from Terminix La Horquetta Rangers prior to the start of the tournament, has been cleared to play by the team's medical staff after being ruled out of contention for the CNL matches with an injury.
"We brought in Tyrone Charles and we brought in (Mark) Ramdeen," Bateau said. "These two players would be valuable assets to how AC Port of Spain wants to play football."
Both Bateau and Muckette commended their Golden Lion opponents, who ousted Tiger Tanks Club Sando from the preceding Concacaf Caribbean Club Shield tournament.
"I've been watching Golden Lion since the tournament started and even in the (Concacaf Caribbean Club) Shield. This is a good team," Muckette said. "They play very good football. We have to come out and do the best that we can do."
At the end of 90 minutes at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Muckette will hope AC PoS can tame Golden Lion and get their first Caribbean Cup win.