Digicel Pro League Champions DIRECTV W Connection is "raring to go" against Xelaju MC of Guatemala in their opening 2012-2013 CONCACAF Champions' League fixture at the Manny Ramjohn Stadium from 8pm on Thursday.
“Our team is doing well,” said W Connection assistant coach Earl Jean.
“It's a big challenge for our players and I think they are raring to go. I think on Thursday we would try to get a good result.
“We have seen (Xelaju). We know the type of football played by Central American teams. We have watched videos of them over and over in Tobago (during a one week camp) and we had more footage of them (Tuesday).
“We know what to expect and once our team goes out and give what we are capable of, then we stand a chance. I think any team in the (TT Pro) League, especially the top four, can compete with any Central and North American team. It all depends on the day and how the players come out, because if we give a hundred percent then there is the possibility that we can win.”
Connection’s preparation plans struck a hurdle when a planned trio to Colombia dissolved because of unavailable flights, and resorted to a one-week camp in Tobago last week.
“Preparations could have been a little better,” added Jean. “We also had a few challenges because the Caribbean Football Union tournament was a little late and we didn't get enough time to rest properly following our domestic season.
But in saying that, the president (David John-Williams) and the club worked tremendously hard to give us what we wanted to prepare. We had a few practice games in Tobago, so we have done the best preparations under the circumstances.”
Trinidad & Tobago U-23 and Connection striker Shahdon Winchester, one of the team's many CONCACAF Champions' League debutants, seems unfazed by the challenge ahead.
“Everyone is excited for the game (against Xelaju),” said the 20 year old. “We are preparing mentally and physically and coming to give a hundred percent.”
Winchester even looks ahead to add, “I think there is a great possibility that we can advance out of the group stage. W Connection is like the Caribbean, and we want to put Trinidad and Tobago back on the map.”
“I think it’s the most important game for us, for the year [against Xelaju on Thursday],” said team captain and goalkeeper Jan Michael Williams.
“It is something we have been working on for the past year. The main objective last season was to win the (Digicel Pro) League and get into the Caribbean Club Championship and to qualify for the CONCACAF Champions' League. We see it as important because we want to play at the highest level and this is the highest level of (club) football [in Concacaf].
“We also see it extremely important in the development of the younger players. Myself being one of the younger players the last time we played at the Champions' League, I gained tremendous experience in the competition and now it’s a matter of me passing on that experience and helping the team grow.”
The T&T international goalie is also optimistic about advancing past the group stage.
“I think it’s a bit easier with just four games, two home and two away. We want to take the home games as seriously and start with a victory. However we have to take each and every game one step at a time. And our focus now is on Xelaju,”
Connection, Xelaju and Mexican club Chivas Guadalajara are in Group 8, while fellow TT Pro League outfit Caledonia AIA, United States Seattle Sounders and Honduran club CD Marathon are in Group 4. Only the winner of each of the eight groups, 1-8, advances to the quarter-final round following the home and away series.
“The good thing about football is that the underdogs stand a chance and that's the most important thing,” explained assistant coach Jean, a former Connection and St. Lucian international. “And if we are (the underdogs), maybe it’s a good thing.
“I always say that we are a team that is quietly confident about our ability. We know that we have been working hard over the years. We know the tactical information of the technical director Stuart Charles Fevrier and we believe in what he’s doing.
We have played Chivas before so it’s not that we don't know about them. I think they have been through a transition and we have done the same thing. We have a younger team and I think anything can happen on the day. We believe in ourselves. We have a few players coming and we believe we can get the points needed to get to the next stage.”