“We need to win on Tuesday and we will be going to win,” Defence Force assistant coach Marvin Gordon told Wired868. “You know what we have been through this season. We had to stop for a month to do work for the country and then losing Kevon Carter… The Pro League trophy will show the strength and belief this team has to come from where we come from.
“This trophy means everything to us.”
Last season when Defence Force secured its third league title in the 15-year history of the Pro League, winger Kevon Carter lifted the trophy. This year, the army/coast guard combination wants to win in memory of him.
Carter, a former Trinidad and Tobago international, died on 28 February 2014 after he suffered a heart attack during practice. Even before his tragic passing, the “Teteron Boys” were already given little chance of retaining their title.
In seventh place in the nine-team table last December, the Defence Force players were not even allowed to train for most of January National Security Minister Gary Griffith ordered every available member of the country’s security forces into action in an attempt to bring down the escalating murder rate. This unscheduled break meant the Regiment had to spend much of the last three months playing five games every two weeks.
Yet, today, with just two games left, the soldier boys have one hand on the crown. Last night, they led DIRECTV W Connection twice before being pegged back on each occasion as the defending champions eventually settled for a 2-2 tie.
“It was fitting for a top-of-the-table-clash,” said Gordon. “I thought the winner yesterday was the fans because they saw a great game. Both teams worked really hard although we lacked concentration at times.
“Our guys were brilliant but we gave up two soft goals from the right side…”
It is telling that Gordon singled out the right flank. The technical staff has shown wavering commitment to its right back this season.
Last night, captain Cory Rivers started and it was his stoppage time winner against Police FC, three weeks ago, that kept the regiment in the hunt. But, at 31, he is finding it harder to stave off a younger challenger.
Twenty-seven-year-old Marvin Jones—the son of former “Strike Squad” defender Kelvin Jones—is Rivers’ direct competitor and Defence Force head coach Ross Russell only has to look at the W Connection squad to see the potency of the Jones bloodline.
Joevin Jones, Marvin’s 22-year-old brother, is Connection’s top scorer and the top flight’s most prolific goal-scoring midfielder with 12 league goals. Yesterday, Joevin showed his usual nimble footwork and passing range although it is now almost two months since his last goal from open play.
“My form is not fully there but it could pass,” said Jones. “I think teams are sending men to mark me and it is a little hard to find space now. So I am trying to create room for my teammates.”
Fortunately, Connection coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier has two Jones boys in his squad. And, last night, it was 19-year-old Alvin Jones who stepped forward with a typically thunderous finish to keep Connection on course to break the current Pro League title deadlock and go to five, one ahead of Jabloteh.
Mere months ago, players and supporters had not troubled themselves to learn Alvin’s name. “Little Joevin,” they called him.
But after a stunning free kick against Central FC in the Lucozade Sport Goal Shield final and another successful set piece in a 1-1 league tie against Point Fortin Civic Centre, last night the right back would surely have made a name for himself with his vital equalizer.
“I’m really enjoying (playing) right now,” Jones (A) told Wired868. “I never won the league as a (senior) player and this is my first full season in the league so it is special for me. Also it is the club’s 15th anniversary.”
No one’s history but their own was on the Defence Force minds at the start yesterday. Connection made the early running as Jones (A) and Jerrel Britto both went close while Jones (J) had an item disallowed for offside.
But the Teteron Boys got their name on the scorecard first as tidy midfielder Jerwyn Balthazar rifled a brilliant left-footed half-volley into the corner, after Connection left-back Kurt Frederick’s headed clearance landed in his path.
Defence Force marked the moment in typically cheeky fashion, coming together for a “selfie” as a solitary bugle sounded up in the stands.
But Connection response was quick in coming.
Cuttting in off the left flank to meet a lofted, diagonal pass,Britto strucked his lobbed effort against the bar. Surinamese forward Stefano Rijssel was on spot to convert with a diving header. The cheers from the Connection supporters was a reminder that Defence Force is not the only team with an emotional attachment to the league crown and, let’s not forget, the million dollar first prize.
“Belieeeeeeeve!” Connection owner David John Williams screamed from the covered stands. “Keep believing!”
The game looked to have taken another turn in the 54th minute as Defence Force midfielder Curtis “Boyo” Gonzales went to ground after a slight tug from Connection’s Colombian utility player Christian Ocoro Viveros. There was not much in it but referee Neal Brizan followed the rule book and Viveros was ejected for his second caution.
Russell responded by sending on Defence Force’s all-time top scorer, Devorn Jorsling, who had missed his team’s last three games with a hamstring injury.
“Jorsling is about 75 percent fit,” said Gordon.
Within ten minutes, the three-quarter fit Jorsling restored Defence Force’s advantage with a trademark finish. With back to goal, he collected the ball in the penalty box and, waiting until he felt his defender, Alvin, shift his bodyweight to the wrong foot, he pivoted and placed his shot precisely into the corner.
It was Jorsling’s 115 career Pro League goal. Only Jabloteh poacher Kerry Baptiste, with 122 strikes, has scored more.
Not counting the Digicel Charity Shield, which is effectively a one match pre-season fixture, Defence Force had lost just once in normal time from six games against Connection in the past two years, three of the remaining clashes ended in victory for the Teteron Boys.
The Defence Force players might have still been congratulating each other when, two minutes later, Alvin stormed into the opposing box to meet a low, left side cross with a thumping finish into the roof of the net.
He celebrated by racing to the Connection owner’s son, David John Williams, jnr—who was on ball- boy duty—and scooping him up for a group hug.
“When we lost the (Lucozade Shield) finals, he was real emotional and taking it on,” said Alvin, “so that one was for him.”
Alvin spent the first half of the 2013/14 season as a back-up to Brazilian right back Joao Ananais before finally getting his time to shine. There has been much criticism about Connection’s recruitment of overseas players; but Ananais, a top division player in Brazil, is no mug and the former East Mucurapo Secondary schoolboy said it was a valuable internship.
“I learned a lot from him,” said Alvin, “his awareness and positional play; he doesn’t lose the ball often and (I like) the way he attacks.”
During his stint in Trinidad, Ananais scored just one penalty, so Alvin can arguably teach him a thing or two about that aspect of the game.
One more huge performance, just one additional point, and Alvin and the W Connection team will be champions.
But there are players on the other team who also deserve to end the season as champions. In the seven meetings of the clubs over the last two years, Jorsling, a former Connection youth team player, has scored five times.
According to Gordon, the real game changer is wearing Defence Force colours.
“You saw Jorsling came on last night and was effective,” he said. “He will train again this weekend and Monday. And maybe he will start on Tuesday.”
There are no maybes about the contest; on Tuesday night, it will be a fight to the finish.
Defence Force (4-2-3-1): 1.Kevin Graham (GK); 14.Cory Rivers (captain), 3.Keston Williams, 6.Rodell Elcock, 21.Aklie Edwards (23.Kerry Joseph 53); 4.Dave Long (18.Sean Narcis 90), 8.Curtis Gonzales (9.Devorn Jorsling 60); 30.Akeem Roach, 15.Jerwyn Balthazar, 17.Ross Russell Jr; 10.Josimar Belgrave.
Unused substitutes: 25.Sheldon Clarke (GK), 6.Devin Jordan, 7.Balondemu Julius, 13.Marvin Jones.
Coach: Ross Russell
W Connection (4-2-1-3): 18.Julani Archibald (GK); 39.Alvin Jones, 4.Daneil Cyrus, 15.Mekeil Williams, 2.Kurt Frederick; 3.Gerard Williams (captain), 25.Christian Viveros; 10.Joevin Jones; 12.Jerrel Britto (7.Silvio Spann 56), 14.Hashim Arcia (65.Neil Benjamin Jr 77), 20.Stefano Rijssel (17.Jamal Clarence 85).
Unused substitutes: 22.Aquelius Sylvester (GK), 13.Devaughn Elliot, 19.Joel Russell, 40.Jomal Williams.
Coach: Stuart Charles-Fevrier
Referee: Neal Brizan
Digicel Pro League
(Fri May 2)
Defence Force 2 (Jerwyn Balthazar 20, Devorn Jorsling 79), W Connection 2 (Stefano Rijssel 29, Alvin Jones 81) at Couva
(Tue May 6)
Central FC vs San Juan Jabloteh, 6 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;
W Connection vs Defence Force, 8 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;
North East Stars vs St Ann’s Rangers, 7 pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium;
Caledonia AIA vs Point Fortin Civic, 9 pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium.[standings league_id=2 template=extend logo=true]