Caledonia open Pro League account.
Keon "Skill-achi" Daniel, arguably the country's most sought after free agent in the pre-season, wore Caledonia AIA of Morvant Laventille colours on Tuesday evening as the "Eastern Stallions" recorded their first win of the 2009 Digicel Pro League season with a 2-1 triumph over Ma Pau at the Larry Gomes Stadium, Malabar.
Caledonia's other new recruits, Kerry Daniel and Keyon Edwards, provided the goals while 2006 World Cup midfielder Densill Theobald was in the thick of things throughout. But the presence, if not necessarily the performance, from "Skill-achi" was a promising omen for the Stallions.
Caledonia are used to operating with financial constraints and are prone to developing young players who are inevitably poached by clubs with deeper pockets-thus maintaining their status as a promising outfit that never quite grows up. But things appear to be changing for the better in Morvant Laventille.
Last season, Caledonia won their first national titles as they copped the FA Trophy and Pro Bowl, while the pre-season signings of national player/ coach Russell Latapy and Daniel-the leading scorer in the present World Cup qualifying campaign with goals-should further lift expectations for the community club.
"In my short time in the Pro League, Caledonia are one of teams I always admired," said the 22-year-old Daniel, as he explained his choice of employer after his acrimonious split from United Petrotrin. "I liked the style of football they play. They like to put the ball down and pass it around and that suits me.
"I think we are going to be one of the best teams in the league this year."
Even without Latapy, who temporarily put his club career on hold to focus on next month's internationals against Costa Rica and Mexico, Caledonia have enough maestros within their ranks to consider petitioning the Pro League for use of an extra ball on match day. Theobald, Daniel and veteran Vincentian Kendall Velox are three of local football's most clever playmakers while the tricky Abdullah Phillips and measured distribution of Walter Moore also merit mention.
But, despite the promise offered by Caledonia's team sheet, they were pushed close by Ma Pau and never quite appeared safe.
The "Casino Boys" scored first in the 44th minute when Anthony Wolfe, another 2006 World Cup squad member, unselfishly teed up strike partner Shandel Samuel and, after falling behind in the second half, might have had a chance to equalise from the penalty spot. But referee Lee Davis allowed a hefty shoulder challenge by Caledonia right back Kareem Joseph on Samuel to go unpunished.
The fixture was effectively decided in a two minute burst, early in the second half, when a brilliant Moore cross was inadvertently turned in off the shins of Kerry Daniel, while Edwards raced clear of the Ma Pau defence to clinically convert his second goal in as many outings since swapping St Ann's Rangers for Caledonia.
Both teams were guilty of wayward passing, which is not unsurprising at this stage of the season, but the compact Ma Pau outfit seemed better equipped to regain possession. In contrast, Caledonia often left an unsightly gap between defence and midfield-which the lively Wolfe reveled in-while they conceded acres of space on either flank.
The introduction of striker Judah Hernandez in the closing 20 minutes did not necessarily aid Caledonia's cause either. The quick, bustling Hernandez looks capable of providing a lift if the Stallions are chasing a game but his hold up play was not sure enough when they needed to protect the ball rather than hunt an additional goal. Caledonia have the personnel. Now, they must show the tactical acumen, personality and appetite to match.
Caledonia: 33.Zane Coker; 12.Kareem Joseph, 4.Radanfah Abu Bakr, 13.Charles Pollard (capt), 15.Walter Moore; 7.Stephan David; 31.Kerry Daniel (17.Akim Armstrong 81), 21.Densill Theobald, 19.Keon Daniel; 29.Kendall Velox (18.Judah Hernandez 73), 9.Keyon Edwards (11.Abdullah Phillips 69).
Ma Pau: 1.Shane Matthis; 31.Aquil Selby, 27.Akeem Benjamin, 35.Reshad Wint, 3.Marc Leslie (7.Rennie Britto 78); 8.Keeron Benito, 4.Curtis Gonzales, 11.Lyndon Andrews (capt), 33.Trevin Caesar (9.Shandel Samuel 39); 18.Sherron Joseph (28.Tyrone Charles 64); 10.Anthony Wolfe.