Caribbean club champions Caledonia AIA leave Trinidad and Tobago for the US today, where they will kick off their CONCACAF Champions League campaign against MLS club Seattle Sounders on Thursday.
The Caledonia squad is captained by veteran midfielder Stephan David, and includes players with international experience such as defender Radanfah Abu Bakr, goalkeeper Glenroy Samuels and striker Jamal Gay. Caledonia technical director Jamaal Shabazz sees his team's Champions League debut as a "major step" in the club's 34-year history.
"This is a big moment for Caledonia and by extension the people of Morvant/Laventille," Shabazz said before the team's departure. "Seattle has the biggest attendance in the MLS [and] we want to do well on this stage."
Caledonia have suffered a big blow with the loss of prolific striker Devorn Jorsling and midfielder Ataulla Guerra. Jorsling has returned to Defence Force FC after last season's loan spell, and Guerra is currently recovering after surgery.
Caledonia squad: Glenroy Samuels, Colin Edwards (goalkeepers); Radanfah Abu Bakr, Nuru Muhammad, Aquil Selby, Kemron Purcell, Walter Moore, Colin Nelson, Aubrey David (defenders); Kareem Joseph, Stephan David (c), Keyon Edwards, Cornelius Stewart, Nathan Lewis, Abdallah Phillips,Trayon Bobb (midfielders); Jamal Gay, Sheldon Holder, Trevin Cesar, Conrad Smith (forwards).
Technical Team - Ricarda Nelson (team administrator), Steve Frederick (manager), Jerry Moe (coach), Donna Wickham (physio).
Caledonia AIA seems very prepared, both mentally and physically, for its debut match of the CONCACAF Champions’ League when the TT Pro League club tackles Major League Soccer (MLS) club Seattle Sounders from 10pm on Thursday night at the CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Washington.
Caledonia departed the Piarco International Airport on Tuesday morning headed by Coach Jerry Moe, Team Manager Steve Frederick, Team Administrator Ricarda Nelson and physiotherapist Donna Marie Wickham along with a 21-man roster.
Goalkeepers Glenroy Samuel and Collin Edwards; defenders Nuru Abdullah Mohammad, Radanfah Abu Bakr, Aubrey David, Walter Moore, Collin Nelson, Aquil Selby, Kemron Purcell and Kareem Joseph; midfielders Stephan David, Keyon Edwards, Cornelius Stewart, Trayon Bobb, Abdullah Phillips, Nathan Lewis and Sheldon Holder; and strikers Conrad Smith, Trevin Caesar, Jamal Gay and Pernell Schultz all traveled for the Seattle Sounders clash.
“I think Caledonia is as ready as we can be,” Caledonia AIA Technical Director Jamaal Shabazz said on Monday night following his team’s final session on local soil before departing Trinidad.
“We are very excited and where we lacked in match practice because we know it’s pre-season now, the guys have made up in eagerness and strong desire. It’s so important for us to have a good start playing at this CONCACAF to show that we are going with no real fear.
“We go with the intention to get a good result. We are also realistic that we are playing away from home and we think it’s necessary to start very safe and very cautious,” shared Shabazz.
Caledonia remains without injured midfield duo, Akim Armstrong and Ataullah Guerra, while experienced central player Densill Theobald is currently exploring options outside T&T and ace striker Devorn Jorsling has re-joined the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force. However Shabazz said that the strongest were selected based on the players available.
“Devorn would have brought a different style of the game,” said striker Gay. “He (Devorn) would have given goals plus he brings that unity in the team.
“He would surely be missed but we have to continue working hard because without him we still have to play. We wish he was here, but unfortunately he isn’t. So we still have to go out there and work hard, and work for him because I know he would be watching on television and wishing he was there with us in battle. We would give our best and work for three points.”
Under guidance from coaches Moe and Shabazz on Monday night at the Larry Gomes Stadium, Caledonia seemed an improved outfit executing tactical and finishing drills in immaculate form.
“We are really enthusiastic,” said T&T international and Caledonia defender Abu Bakr. “We are really looking forward to it and anxious to get out there and put our best foot forward. We have been preparing well, so I don’t think there is any fear or anything. We are definitely going out there to compete. So if we get the three points or at least come away with a point, we would be happy with that.
“We’ve had a few looks at a couple of their (Seattle Sounders) games. We have prepared well for the opposition and believe we can definitely do well.”
Caledonia, Seattle Sounders and Honduran club CD Marathon makes up Group 4 of the 2012-2013 CONCACAF Champions’ League and after the home and away series, only the top team advances into the quarter-final round.
“We are capable of advancing out of the group stage,” continued Abu Bakr. “I think once we play well at home and defend our home turf along with keeping points on the road, we could definitely get through.”
“It’s realistic for Caledonia to advance,” added Shabazz. “We would have nothing else. Our future depends on us advancing out of the group and we want to do just that. Failure is not an option for us. I think it’s going to be difficult but we are going to put our heads down and put our shoulders to the wheel, and we are going to make every effort to advance out of this group.”