Trinidad and Tobago Pro League clubs San Juan Jabloteh and Central FC will be part of history when the inaugural Scotiabank CONCACAF League (SCL), part of the Confederation’s expanded competitions platform, kicks off in August with the Round-of-16.
Jabloteh must take on Costa Rica’s Santos de Guápiles and Central are against Panama’s Deportivo Árabe Unido with only the aggregate winners progressing to the quarter-finals later in the month—the home-and-away format being the decider throughout, including the final in October.
Both Santos and Árabe Unido have familiarity with Trinidadian opponents having faced and Joe Public and W Connection, respectively, in past CONCACAF Champions League seasons while Jabloteh and Central are past qualifiers of the CCL.
Jabloteh, the 2017 Caribbean Club Championship runners-up behind champions of Cibao FC of the Dominican Republic, must travel to Costa Rica against Santos on Tuesday 1 August in the first leg at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Aymá before hosting the Costa Rica Premier Division side on August 8 in Trinidad from 8pm at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
Central FC meanwhile, the two-time former Caribbean champions and three-time reigning Pro League champions, are to host Árabe Unido on August 3 from 8pm at Hasely Crawford Stadium in Trinidad before traveling to the City of Colón in Panama for the second leg clash seven days later on August 10 against the Blue Express at the Estadio Armando Dely Valdés.
“We (Jabloteh) want to go and deliver in Costa Rica, then they (Santos) come to Trinidad and we do what we have to do,” said Jabloteh head coach Keith Jeffrey, who is mindful of the combined crowd support Santos will have playing at the home fellow Costa Rica Premier Division side Saprissa due to venue requirements of CONCACAF.
“This is our opportunity to showcase ourselves and compete,” continued Jeffrey. “We are not going to sit down and defend alone. I have a very good idea what to expect although they may tweak things a bit. But they are typical Costa Rican football in their approach. It’s just for us to be compact and disciplined in our approach. We have to be smart and we can’t give away anything. I don’t want the task to be where it is impossible for us in the return leg at home.”
Jeffrey said however, that the biggest challenge in Trinidad and Tobago football is getting players to stay “organized and concentrating for ninety minutes.”
“We have balanced team,” added the Jabloteh coach. “… with experienced players such as Jamaican’s Adrian Reid, Damian Williams, Keithy Simpson among our Trinidadian talents, and if our players keep the focus and retain the instructions they are getting from the touchline, then we can come away with a positive result.”
Jabloteh will fly off to Costa Rica in two batches over the weekend, only fully assembling in Saprissa on Monday due to late travel bookings.
The 2017 SCL features thirteen qualified from across Central America -- Chorrillo FC, CD Plaza Amador and Deportivo Árabe Unido (Panama); Honduras Progreso, Platense FC and CD Olimpia (Honduras); Santos de Guápiles and LD Alajuelense (Costa Rica), CD Aguila and Alianza FC (El Salvador), Real Esteli and CD Walter Ferretti (Nicaragua); and Belmopan Bandits (Belize) -- and three from the Caribbean—Jamaica’s Portmore United—the other.
The overall SCL 2017 champions will also qualify for next season’s Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, where they will join 15 more of the best clubs from the entire CONCACAF region, including the Caribbean and Central America, plus Mexico, the United States and Canada. The overall champions of the SCCL will represent the region at the FIFA 2018 Club World Cup.
Jabloteh, Portmore and Central, by virtue of their runners-up, third and fourth-place finishes respectively at the CFU 2017 Caribbean Club Championship, qualified for the SCL, while Caribbean champions Cibao earned the region’s automatic spot at next season’s SCCL which runs from February to April 2018.
“We were unfortunate in the CFU final (losing 1-0 to Cibao) and didn’t qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League,” said Jabloteh head coach Keith Jeffrey. “(…) but kudos to CONCACAF for this brainchild, the CONCACAF League. It is very good for the development for football in the Caribbean and good for clubs like Jabloteh, Portmore and Central to showcase themselves because matches will be televised all over the world. Players especially, can showcase themselves. A lot of positives for coaching and administrative staff will come from competing on the international stage and understanding what it takes in preparations at this level.”
Jabloteh, 2003 Caribbean champions, fell short of a second CFU crown last May, going down to a 30th-minute Richard Dabas goal in the 2017 final which earned Cibao their debut Caribbean title. It was the San Juan Kings only loss in six 2017 CCC games and the first time they failed to score after hitting the back of the net 18 times.
Both Jabloteh and Central are winless in their last two matches in the domestic Pro League, however the Couva Sharks will seek a confidence booster ahead of Árabe Unido when they host Club Sando from 6pm in Pro League action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Saturday.
“We would love to come out on top in the two games against Árabe Unido,” said Central FC head coach Dale Saunders. “But we are also mindful we have lost a number of key players this season. We have a number of young guys who have never played at this level. We are lacking experience and that’s what you need going into these types of games.
“But we will do what it takes to try and get the win. It’s a very good competition for football in the Caribbean to be part of. This will be a huge boost for our younger players who are eager for the opportunity.”
San Juan Jabloteh 18-man squad to travel against Costa Rica’s Santos de Guápiles
Goalkeepers: Shemel Louison and Andrew Durant;
Defenders: Josiah Trimmingham, Akeem Benjamin Kion Joseph, Jesus Perez, Jevon Morris, Shakiyl Phillip and Adrian Reid;
Midfielders: Damian Williams, Kennedy Hinkson, Vurlon Mills, Aaquil Campbell, Jairo Lombardo, Nathan Lewis and Keithy Simpson;
Forwards: Kadeem Hutchinson and Julio Noel.
Central FC provisional squad to face Panama’s Deportivo Árabe Unido
Goalkeepers: Stephon Seepersad and Prince Walter;
Defenders: Keston George, Carlos Edwards, Taryk Sampson, Kaydion Gabriel and Sean Bateau;
Midfielders: Sean De Silva, Jabari Carasquero, Rhondel Gibson, Jesse Joseph, Nathaniel Garcia, Jules Lee, Mickaeel Jem Gordon and Ross Dowden;
Forwards: Jason Marcano, Johan Peltier, Tyrik John and Kerville Jeremiah.
Scotiabank CONCACAF League 2017 - Round of 16 Schedule
*ET (local time) & home team listed first
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
20:00 (19:00) Chorrillo FC (PAN) v CD Honduras Progreso (HON)
22:00 (20:00) Santos de Guapiles FC (CRC) v San Juan Jabloteh (TRI)
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
20:00 (18:00) CD Aguila (SLV) v Real Esteli FC (NCA)
20:00 (19:00) Portmore United FC (JAM) v CD Plaza Amador (PAN)
22:00 (20:00) Platense FC (HON) v Alianza FC (SLV)
Thursday, August 3, 2017
20:00 (18:00) CD Olimpia (HON) v LD Alajuelense (CRC)
20:00 (20:00) Central FC (TRI) v Deportivo Arabe Unido (PAN)
22:00 (20:00) CD Walter Ferretti (NCA) v Belmopan Bandits (BLZ)
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
20:00 (18:00) Real Esteli FC (NCA) v CD Aguila (SLV)
20:00 (20:00) San Juan Jabloteh (TRI) v Santos de Guapiles FC (CRC)
22:00 (20:00) Alianza FC (SLV) v Platense FC (HON)
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
20:00 (19:00) CD Plaza Amador (PAN) v Portmore United FC (JAM)
22:00 (20:00) CD Honduras Progreso (HON) v Chorrillo FC (PAN)
Thursday, August 10, 2017
20:00 (19:00) Deportivo Arabe Unido (PAN) v Central FC (TRI)
22:00 (20:00) Belmopan Bandits (BLZ) v CD Walter Ferretti (NCA)
22:00 (20:00) LD Alajuelense (CRC) v CD Olimpia (HON)