CALEDONIA will head off to a Colombian challenge prior to a Concacaf Champions League opener against Mexico’s Toluca.
Caledonia AIA Football Club is following the footsteps of its TT Pro League compatriot, DIRECTV W Connection, with a Colombia training camp ahead of their 2013-2014 Concacaf Champions League opening matches. Connection defeated Mexican powerhouse Chivas Guadalajara 2-1 in the home tie of the quarter-final round of the CCL in Trinidad back in 2007 but lost 3-0 in Mexico.
In 2009 Connection held Mexico’s Club Universidad Nacional 2-2 at home in the group stage but lost 2-1 in the second leg in Mexico City. Caledonia can learn from the experience of Connection as both clubs share a common goal in representing the Trinidad and Tobago flag proudly in Concacaf’s version of the UEFA Champions League.
Only last week Connection left for Colombia with a 27-man squad for a three-week pre-season camp in Cali, and will travel to Panama on August 6 prior to its opening Group 1 match against home side ArabeUnido on August 8 at the Estadio Amando Dely Valdes from 10 pm.
On the same day (August 6) that Connection travels to Panama, Caledonia will tackle 10-time Liga Mexico champion and last season’s runner-up, Deportivo Toluca, from 8 pm at the Estadio Nemesio Díez, Mexico City to kick off the 2013-2014 CCL. Caledonia and Connection were commended during the CCL draw in Miami in June, having qualified for consecutive Champions League spots.
Both clubs are now determined to build on the attention gained. Caledonia, in its efforts to better last season’s bottom of Group fourth finish behind Major League Soccer outfit and group winner, Seattle Sounders and Honduran club CD Marathón, departed from the Piarco Airport on Thursday on two flights out with the destination Bogotá, Colombia for a 10-day camp.
Caledonia’s Technical Director/Head Coach Jamaal Shabazz, coach Jerry Moe and assistant coach Rajesh Latchoo led a contingent of 30 persons inclusive of a 23-man squad.
The squad includes; veteran midfielder and team captain Stephan David, Densill Theobald, Jamal Gay, Aubrey David, Andre Toussaint, Keyon Edwards, Nuru Abdullah Muhammad, Akim Armstrong, Kareem Joseph, Abdallah Phillips, Nathan Lewis, Argentine midfielder Miguel Alejandro Romeo, Marcus Ambrose, Antiguan defender Akeem Thomas and goalkeepers Glenroy Samuel and Grenadian Shemel Louison.
New signings Noel Williams, a 23-year-old Montserrat striker, Julian Wade and 25-year-old Canadian defender Jamal Smith also made the squad along with Under 21 players Nical Stephens, Aaron Lester, Keiron Matthews and Keron Bethelmy.
The rest of the technical staff includes goalkeeper coach Steve Frederick, physiotherapist Donna Marie Wickham, equipment manager Jimmy Roach and media officer Rawle Toney. Practice matches against second division club Forteleza FC and division one club Santa Fe as another top club are being set up by the Caledonia management, while Connection’s practice opponents in Columbia includes Deportivo de Cali and America de Cali.
Speaking to ttproleague.com on Tuesday, Moe said, “We have three games lined up in Colombia, so by the time we get to (Mexico), we shouldn’t be that out of it, in terms of match practice,” said Moe.
But Caledonia, pooled with Toluca and Guatemala’s CSD Comunicacionesin Group 6 of the CCL, must find match-form quickly as both Toluca and Comunicaciones are already into their respective domestic seasons.
“Overall it may be a negative (as our league is yet to begin), but I think we will be better prepared with three quality games in Colombia, as appose to last year we only prepared against local teams,”explained Moe. “We will also be in a camp environment (this time) so we can push the players more.”
Moe said that plan is to get the team ready by August 6. He said preparations would continue in Colombia between matches while the focus is on preparing the players’ bodies to acclimatise playing at high altitude — against Toluca in Mexico City.
Psychologist Camasha Robertson was also brought in for a couple sessions to help in preparation for what could be marked as Caledonia’s toughest challenge in the club’s 34-year history. Densill Theobald, Caledonia’s 2006 World Cup midfielder, declared, “Playing away from home in Mexico City is going to be one of the biggest challenge Caledonia is ever going to face, thus far.”
As the fixtures continue, W Connection in Group 1 with MLS outfit Houston Dynamo and Arabe Unido, will host Dynamo on Tuesday August 20 in its second match, and Caledonia will welcome Comunicaciones on Thursday August 29.