Two-time former Concacaf Club champions in 1978 and 1987, T&T Defence Force will go into its final match in Pool A of the Concacaf Caribbean Cup, needing nothing less than a win against second-placed Moca FC of the Dominican Republic to advance to the semifinals.
Going into Wednesday night’s clash at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo from 8.06 pm, Jamaica’s Cavalier FC leads the five-club round-robin table with seven points and is certain of a place in the semifinals.
The Jamaicans will be joined by either, Moca (six points) or Defence Force (five points), while Martinique’s Golden Lion, who has three points, is out of contention ahead of its clash away against the group leader at the Pierre Aliker Stadium, in Forte De France, Martinique also kicking from 8.06 pm Wednesday night.
The Dominican Republic team, who has already defeated T&T’s other team in the group, AC Port-of-Spain 1-0 last month on home soil, will enter the winner-take-all clash with a slight advantage by sitting in second place in the group with six points, a single point ahead of Defence Force and will be tempted to be on the counterattack, something which can work in the host club’s favour.
However, for Defence Force and coach Lloyd “Sonoltee” Andrews, the mission is straightforward - win and earn the full three points to guarantee a semifinal spot and could possibly be enough to win the group as well, depending on the outcome of the match between Golden Lion and Cavalier.
Moca also defeated Golden Lion 3-0 to put themselves in this position to advance, while Defence Force edged Golden Lion 1-0 but drew 1-1 at home to Cavalier and AC PoS, the last result coming seven days ago in a lacklustre performance which dented their chances of qualification to the next stage.
Having only scored three goals from as many matches, coach Andrews will hope his attacking options of Reon Moore, who has a pair of goals, Jamali Garcia, Jameel Cooper, Hashim Arcia, Brent Sam and Lashawn Roberts could find their scoring boots which has deserted them so far in the competition, along with defender Justin Garcia, who came up with vital goals during their successful T&T Premier Football League (TTPFL) and Cup-double triumph earlier this season.
Speaking ahead of the all-important match, Andrews admitted that his team has hit a bad patch after a long and gruelling season.
“We would have played 16 matches unbeaten to end the 22-match TTPFL and our season began since January with preparations, so with us now being in October, it’s kind of expected that our level would drop off a bit.
“Sometimes even during a good run, a team can have a bad game and against AC PoS, we had a really bad game by our (Defence Force) standards and against Moca, we will be looking to put the wrong, right,” said a confident Andrews.
For tonight’s encounter, Andrews said national player Kaihim Thomas will be the lone player out as he is yet to fully recover from the effects of being involved in a car accident.
Questioned on his team’s lack of goals after racking up 53 in the domestic league competition, Andrews said it has hit his team at a bad time.
“We are suffering from a lack of goals when we need to be scoring goals, and it’s the same thing which has happened to AC PoS, and maybe it’s because of the pause in our local season, which has caused our form to drop off.
“But, we go into this match full of confidence that the players will come good. We have to continue to be patient and hope that when one goes in, it will continue to flow because we need to win to advance.
Commenting on his opponent, Moca, the Defence Force coach he has not seen much of them.
“What we do know is that they like to play a short passing intricate game, so we have to be focus and alert and win the key match-ups and challenges, play as a team and take our chances,” said Andrews.
For Moca coach Sergio Guzman will look to the duo of Gustavo Ascona and Victor Sanchez to get his team past the host with a combined three goals between the pair of the four scored by the club.
Overall, Defence Force have 13 Concacaf Champions Cup appearances to their name and an all-time record of 24 wins, 11 draws, and 18 losses in the tournament
In Group B, Jamaica’s Harbour View leads with seven points and is already through to the semifinal ahead of its clash away to Cibao, which is bottom of the table with one point from three matches, while second-placed Robin Hood with six points host Pantoja, with three points.
The knockout stage comprises home and away semifinals, third place, and final and at the conclusion of the Caribbean Cup, the champions qualify for the Concacaf Champions Cup round of 16, while the runners-up and third-place finisher for the opening round.
Match Officials Defence Force FC (T&TI) vs Moca FC (Dom Rep)
Referee: Shavin Greene (Guyana)
Assistant Referee 1: Kleon Lindey (Guyana)
Assistant Referee 2: Sardjoe Widjay (Suriname)
Fourth Official: Shekiel Jokil (Suriname)
SOURCE: T&T Guardian