"It will be really tough, but once we stay focused and compact, we have the ability to overturn the (deficit).”
That's the view of San Juan Jabloteh winger Nathan Lewis ahead of his team's return leg clash with Costa Rica's Santos De Guapiles on Tuesday from 8pm at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in the Scotiabank CONCACAF League Round of 16 series.
Jabloteh suffered a 6-2 first leg loss in Costa Rica on August 1 at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Aymá and two days later on August 3, fellow Pro League compatriot, Central FC, were edged 2-1 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium by visitors CD Árabe Unido of Panama in their first leg fixture.
Central will face Árabe Unido on Thursday in their return leg in Panama.
Only the aggregate winners can progress to the quarterfinal stage later this month with the home-and-away knockout format being the decider throughout, including the SCL final in October.
Kenny Cunningham, Starling Matarrita, Youstin Salas, Edder Monguio, Osvaldo Rodriguez and Juan Diego Madrigal each scored for Santos with the first and last goals coming from the penalty spot for the Costa Ricans, while Keithy Simpson and Nathan Lewis scored away goals for Jabloteh in the second half.
“The plan is to be more organised in the return leg and to put away our chances,” added Lewis, who along with Central FC goalkeeper Stephon Seepersad are named among the Scotiabank CONCACAF League Round of 16 first leg Best XI.
“I believe in my capability and [that of] my teammates that we can create the chances. It’s just for us to convert these chances and put ourselves past this stage [of the tournament],” ended the Trinidad and Tobago international.
Jabloteh, Jamaica's Portmore United, and three-time reigning Pro League champions Central FC qualified for this season's inaugural SCL by finishing in second, third and fourth respectively in the 2017 CFU Club Championship.
Dominican Republic's Cibao FC edged Jabloteh in the Caribbean final last May to secure the region's only automatic spot at next year's Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League.
Jabloteh head coach Keith Jeffrey relishes the opportunity for himself and his club to be part of the inaugural Scotiabank CONCACAF League, but says the current financial low faced across Trinidad and Tobago has made it even harder to compete on the international stage.
“Financial help is at its lowest,” he said. “And the financial woes affects all clubs in the Pro League with the exception of Police (FC) and Defence Force (FC) [for obvious reasons].
“One of the questions posed to me in Costa Rica [a week ago] was: ‘What is the difference between Caribbean teams and those of Central America?’ And it really sunk in. The financial package in the Central American leagues and wider are better than what is offered in the Caribbean, and we see that recently with moves to Honduras, Costa Rica and El Salvador by Trinidad (and Tobago) players (Jan-Michael Williams, Daneil Cyrus, Jamille Boatswain and Leston Paul). A big disparity—chalk and cheese.
“They (Central American teams) are funded in a way to get the best out of players while the financial issues here in Trinidad takes so much out of you as the coach and the players in trying to get chemistry on the field of play.
“A clear example: last month were experienced a financial wobble, not being able to cover salaries, and lost three games straight (against W Connection and Club Sando in the Pro League then the latest against Santos in Costa Rica). It’s no secret that financial issues will affect the performance of any club around the world, and Pro League clubs are no different.”
Jeffrey, however, is hoping that his players are more comfortable at home and rise to the task when the tackle the Costa Ricans in Port-of-Spain.
“Our players understand they messed up in Costa Rica by not sticking to the game, allowing the game to open in favour of Santos. They (Santos) are a Central American team which means they move the ball a lot and their movement off the ball is excellent. We took too long to acclimatise to how they were moving the ball around.
“But now our players want to prove a point. We have a better idea of Santos’ strengths and weaknesses. I don’t think four goals are impossible for us. We are at home and it should be a comfortable place,” ended the Jabloteh coach.
Real Esteli FC (NCA) v CD Aguila (SLV), Nicaragua, 8 pm
San Juan Jabloteh (TRI) v Santos de Guapiles FC (CRC), at HCS, 8 pm
Alianza FC (SLV) v Platense FC (HON), El Salvador, 10 pm