Caledonia AIA has one game left in its 2013 CONCACAF Champions League campaign and one feels the “Eastern Stallions” might prefer doing something more fun if given the choice; like maybe going to the dentist.
It could not be more painful than facing the sort of spanking that Caledonia received in Port of Spain last night as the Morvant/Laventille-based team was routed 5-1 by visiting Mexico club, Toluca.
Long before the final whistle, Caledonia players were walking around with drooping shoulders waiting for the final whistle. The Toluca squad had stopped celebrating after its second goal and the tourists could not look more relaxed if they had their feet up at Maracas Bay.
It was, to be blunt, a poor advertisement for the Trinidad and Tobago Pro League and the Caribbean’s game.
Even before Toluca’s opener, Caledonia’s professionalism had already been called into question.
Grenada international striker Kithson “Bully” Bain made his Caledonia debut last night in a number 10 shirt. However, the team list suggested that Bain should have been wearing the number 18.
Such errors are not infrequent at Pro League level; but this was not the Pro League. CONCACAF officials spotted the error and Bain was ordered to leave the pitch and sat for about four minutes on the running track until a club representative had found him the right kit.
Arguably, it was a fitting analogy for Caledonia’s readiness for its CONCACAF test last night.
Defensively, Caledonia was not compact enough and failed to press in numbers while, at the opposite end, the Stallions seemed to owe much of their attacking thrust to individualistic surges and were unable to maintain sustained pressure on the visitors.
Toluca, patient and methodical, picked off its naïve opponent without ever leaving first gear. Side to side, the visitors passed the ball breezily while their attackers searched for gaps. Then, they struck with menace.
Toluca’s opening item was a case in point. There were three offensive players within 10 yards of each other to attack a deep, right side cross. Caledonia goalkeeper Shemel Louison, another Grenada international, pushed Daniel Gonzales’ header against the upright but Edy Brambilla was first to the rebound and his pass was prodded over the goal line by forward Raul Nava.
Toluca doubled its advantage in the 27th minute as Caledonia defender Nuru Muhammad inadvertently deflected a Carlos Esquivel cross past his own goalkeeper and Brambila was almost too embarrassed to celebrate the third goal in the 40th minute after Louison spilled the ball.
Bain came closest to scoring for the host team when he stabbed just wide in the 32nd minute after a flick from Jamal Gay. And, seconds into the second half, the “Spice Islander” did add some flavour to the contest as he knocked in from close range after a build-up that involved Nathan Lewis and Gay.
There was a roar of hope from the 200-odd supporters and Bain later had a fair penalty shout in the second half too. But, in truth, the game was long buried.
Nava got a second in the 66th minute after another Louison fumble before veteran midfielder Sinha—or Zinha, as he was known in his native Brazil—completed the score summary with Toluca’s fifth in the 71st minute.
The result means that Caledonia has won two, drawn one and lost seven of its last 10 competitive matches, which dates back to the club’s Lucozade Sport Goal Shield semi-final loss to DIRECTV W Connection in April. During that period, the Stallions have scored 10 goals while conceding 26.
On Saturday night, Caledonia takes on Central FC at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. Who knows what effect another loss can have on coach Jamaal Shabazz’s men.
Caledonia will then complete its Champions League assignments next Wednesday away to Guatemalan team CSD Comunicaciones, which whipped the Stallions 3-0 in Port of Spain last month.
At this rate, the Caledonia players might feel more comfortable trying to avoid borderline conflicts in Morvant/Laventille than doing battle on the football field.
Caledonia AIA (4-4-2): 1.Shemel Louison (GK); 2.Aubrey David, 5.Akeem Thomas, 3.Nuru Muhammad, 20.Noel Williams (17.Akim Armstrong 61); 27.Nathan Lewis (25.Keron Bethelmy 71), 21.Densill Theobald, 7.Stephan David (captain), 6.Marcus Ambrose; 18.Kithson Bain, 23.Jamal Gay (9.Keyon Edwards 66).
Unused substitutes: 33.Glenroy Samuel (GK), 11.Abdallah Phillips, 12.Kareem Joseph, 22.Miguel Romeo.
Coach: Jamaal Shabazz
Toluca (3-4-1-2): 1.Alfredo Talavera (GK); 13.Hector Acosta, 20.Miguel Almazan, 3.Fausto Pinto; 11.Carlos Esquivel (16.Oscar Rojas 70), 15.Antonio Rojas (5.Wilson Tiago 74), 18.Xavier Baez, 26.Erbin Trejo; 19.Edy Brambila (10.Sinha); 29.Raul Nava, 25.Daniel Gonzales.
Unused substitutes: 22.Cesar Lozano (GK), 4.Paulo Da Silva, 9.Juan Carlos Cacho, 23.Edgar Benitez.
Coach: Jose Cardozo
CONCACAF Champions League
(Wed Sep 18)
Caledonia 1 (Kithson Bain 46), Toluca 5 (Raul Nava 17, 66, Nuru Muhammad 27 OG, Edy Brambila 40, Sinha 71) at Hasely Crawford Stadium
(Thu Sep 19)
DIRECTV W Connection vs Arabe Unido, 8 pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium