Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA is left with a desperate sprint to the finish to advance from its CONCACAF Club Championship group after a goalless draw against CD Marathón tonight at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
The Caledonia team, which lost its opening group match 3-1 away to Seattle Sounders, must now win its two remaining games at home to Seattle and away to Marathón and hope the latter team can get a result against the United States’ Major League Soccer (MLS) team.
It is unlikely that any Seattle officials who watched tonight’s game would be worried about the MLS team’s chances of qualifying from this group though. In truth, the result was a fair reflection of the 90 minutes in Couva.
It was Caledonia’s first point at CONCACAF level in the club’s maiden appearance in the Confederation’s top club competition. But, like DirecTV W Connection who drew its opener in Marabella three weeks ago, Caledonia AIA fans could not be faulted for believing that the Trinidad and Tobago Pro League club should have done better.
Connection led 2-0 at the interval against Xelajú but ended up with a 2-2 draw. Connection coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier blamed lack of fitness as the Pro League is still in pre-season.
But Caledonia did the reverse as the “Eastern Stallions” shook off a tame first half to create several scoring opportunities in the final 30 minutes against Marathón.
Perhaps, the shortcomings of the Trinidad and Tobago teams had more to do with a lack of confidence.
Marathón had a happy trip to Port of Spain in 2009 when the Central American team trounced San Juan Jabloteh 4-2. But tonight’s version of the “Green Monster”, as the Honduran club refers to itself, was nowhere as formidable as that lot.
After five games in Honduras’ domestic competition, Marathón sits at the foot of the table with just three points and the club is already on its second coach this season.
In the first half, Marathón was cautious and slowed the game at every opportunity. And Caledonia arguably showed its naivety by largely allowing the Hondurans to do just that.
Still, the Stallions might have gone ahead seconds before the break as veteran Marathón right back Mauricio Sabillon miscontrolled a right side cross from Caledonia’s Abdallah Phillips. But bustling striker Trevin Caesar smacked the opportunity first time and wide at the near post when he might have carried on into the opposing penalty area.
Caledonia responded brightly after a halftime talk from technical director Jamaal Shabazz. Towering striker Jamal Gay’s headed flick-ons were a particular concern for Marathón as he led the line well. But, again, Caledonia lacked conviction at the business end of the field and Walter Moore and Caesar both failed to convert half chances.
Shabazz turned to his bench and all three changes did have some influence.
Vincentian international Cornelius Stewart was a handful down the right flank and should have buried the game with a half volley at an empty net after a defensive mix-up by the Marathón backline.
Kerlon Ferguson had one effort pushed around the post by Jose Mendoza for a corner kick while Conrod Smith’s link-up play enlivened Caledonia and he too made the Marathón goalkeeper work.
But, in the end, Shabazz would be thankful for his central defensive pairing of Radanfah Abu Bakr and Nuru Muhammad who secured the draw with an impressive display of vigour and concentration that Caledonia lacked in advanced areas.
Like first-rate bodyguards, Muhammad and Abu Bakr threw their bodies in the way of Honduran shots and remained steadfast as the game opened up in the last 20 minutes. They never once looked overawed by the occasion.
Not many of their teammates could say the same, though.
33.Glenroy Samuel; 2.Aubrey David, 29.Radanfah Abu Bakr, 3.Nuru Muhammad, 15.Walter Moore; 12.Kareem Joseph (10.Conrod Smith 76), 9.Keyon Edwards, 7.Stephan David, 11.Abdallah Phillips (8.Cornelius Stewart 59); 6.Trevin Caesar (19.Kerlon Ferguson 59), 23.Jamal Gay.
Unused Subs: 34.Colin Edwards, 4.Colin Nelson, 13.Trayon Bobb, 24.Kemron Purcell.
28.Jose Mendoza; 23.Mauricio Sabillon, 22.Quiarol Arzu, 20.Mario Beata, 19.Mario Berrios (Capt); 17.Wilmer Fuentes (10.Michel Rivera 62), 6.David Meza; 12.Mariano Acevedo, 11.Randy Diamond (24.Oscar Duron 80); 9.Rony Flores Sanchez (18.Dwit Harrison 69); 33.Mitchel Brown.
Unused Subs: 1.Shane Orio, 2.Pastor Martinez, 5.Luis Castro, 21.Junior Sandoval.