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Connection stuns Saprissa to shake up Champions League group

Former Trinidad and Tobago National Under-23 Team captain Alvin Jones cracked home a brilliant free kick last night as Pro League outfit, DIRECTV W Connection, stunned Costa Rican club, Deportivo Saprissa, 2-1 in a memorable CONCACAF Champions League affair at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.

Photo: W Connection midfielder Jomal Williams (far left) jumps on top of teammate Kurt Frederick as they celebrate Frederick's opening goal against Deportivo Saprissa in CONCACAF Champions League action yesterday. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: W Connection midfielder Jomal Williams (far left) jumps on top of teammate Kurt Frederick as they celebrate Frederick’s opening goal against Deportivo Saprissa in CONCACAF Champions League action yesterday.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

It was Connection’s first win at CONCACAF level in almost six years and altered the dynamics of Group A, although it might be too late for the “Savonetta Boys” to save their Champions League campaign.

Connection has one remaining game and, to grab the solitary qualifying berth at stake, coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier must mastermind a win by at least eight clear goals against Mexican champs, Santos Laguna, and then pray for Santos to defeat Saprissa by exactly four goals in the final group match.

Former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar probably has a better chance than that with her petition to annul the 2015 general election results.

Yet, it was a great boost for the reputation of the Pro League and, hopefully, would encourage supporters to pay more courtesy to their home-based players.

Jones’ 81st minute rocket, which flew, bent and dipped, would have brought fans to their feet in any competition on the planet. And it capped off a fine Connection performance against a full-strength Central American team that has won the CONCACAF competition on three occasions.

Photo: W Connection attacker Jhonatan Gerhardt (right) takes on Deportivo Saprissa captain and defender Adolfo Machado during CONCACAF Champions League action last night. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: W Connection attacker Jhonatan Gerhardt (right) takes on Deportivo Saprissa captain and defender Adolfo Machado during CONCACAF Champions League action last night.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

In Costa Rica, football scribes refer to Saprissa as “The Purple Monster.” Jones’ bullet might not be fatal to Saprissa’s CONCACAF campaign but the visitors left badly wounded.

“We expected to win here but we didn’t obviously,” said Saprissa coach Justin Campos. “It is a shame because I think it was a good game for Saprissa but we didn’t get the score we needed.

“We just have to wait to see what happens in the next game… I am very disappointed.”

Last month, Saprissa routed Connection 4-0 in Costa Rica and the stats were eye-opening. The Central American club managed 39 shots and 211 correct passes with 60 percent ball possession while the “Savonetta Boys” had 40 percent ball possession with just seven shots and 97 correct passes.

Neither team did any radical alterations since and there were just three changes in the Connection starting line-up yesterday. There were no detailed statistics available at Port of Spain yesterday but the CONCACAF website credited the Pro League team with 53 percent ball possession.

The ball ratio seemed generous but, regardless, Connection did have more time on the ball than usually occurs when a Trinidad and Tobago outfit—whether a club or international team—tackles a Costa Rican side.

Photo: W Connection coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: W Connection coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

“Our coach, Stuart Charles-Fevrier, is a genius,” said a beaming Connection assistant coach Earl Jean, at the post-game press conference. “I think he watched a tape of Saprissa playing about 50 times before the match… At the team talk, he told the players to relax and enjoy themselves and play with confidence.

“He said ‘you are representing Trinidad and Tobago today, so go and show people what you can do’.”

None of Connection’s current players represented the “Soca Warriors” at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup but, if they maintain this standard, there will be a few in red, black and white strip very soon.

All five players with Trinidad and Tobago passports, who started last night, are less than 22 years old while Jones and the lively Jomal Williams are both 21.

But there was more than a hint of the quality available in the region too.

St Kitts and Nevis international goalkeeper Julani Archibald was, arguably, Connection’s best performer while his compatriot Gerard Williams was his usual efficient self as he did the less glamorous chores in central midfield and St Lucian wing back Kurt Frederick scored the opening goal.

Photo: Nineteen year old W Connection and Trinidad and Tobago defender Maurice Ford (left) keeps a close eye on Deportivo Saprissa star Daniel Colindres (centre) during CONCACAF Champions League action last night. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Nineteen year old W Connection and Trinidad and Tobago defender Maurice Ford (left) keeps a close eye on Deportivo Saprissa star Daniel Colindres (centre) during CONCACAF Champions League action last night.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Briel Thomas, a 20-year-old Dominican midfielder, was the real scoop, though. Tall, powerful and composed, Thomas did not look out of place against a Saprissa team that sent nearly half its squad to the recently concluded Gold Cup tournament.

Perhaps Pro League teams should start shopping around in the Caribbean again.

It was Jones, younger brother of Trinidad and Tobago Gold Cup stand-out Joevin Jones and son of “Strike Squad” defender Kelvin Jones, who made the first impression on the match with a powerful 30-yard free kick that Saprissa custodian and Costa Rica international Danny Carvajal unconvincingly fended away in the ninth minute.

And Carvajal had no answer for the next threatening Connection set piece, in the 34th minute, as Frederick charged the box to meet Williams’ corner kick with a downward header. Connection attacker Dimitrie Apai, a Suriname international, flicked a boot at the ball and missed.

And, distracted, Carvajal palmed Frederick’s header into his own goal.

No matter. Saprissa equalised within four minutes. Striker Ariel Rodriguez dropped deep to collect the ball and released teammate Daniel Colindres with a precise threaded pass beyond Connection right back Shannon Gomez.

Colindres, a Costa Rican international, gave Archibald no chance with a powerful finish into the far corner.

Photo: Deportivo Saprissa winger Daniel Colindres (right) tries to find a way past W Connection captain and defender Alvin Jones in CONCACAF Champions League action yesterday. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Deportivo Saprissa winger Daniel Colindres (right) tries to find a way past W Connection captain and defender Alvin Jones in CONCACAF Champions League action yesterday.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

“The coach had a go at Alvin for the goal that we conceded,” said Jean, “because he was supposed to press the attacking player and he didn’t.

“So we had a go in the dressing room (at halftime).”

Archibald made three valuable saves late in the first half to keep Connection level. And the 24-year-old goalkeeper was busy in the second half too, as Colindres threatened constantly, aided and abetted by the perceptive midfield pair of Nestor Monge  and David Guzman.

A Saprissa goal seemed a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if.’

Fevrier responded by swapping Apai and Brazilian Jonathan Gerhardt for pacey Neil Benjamin Jr and returning veteran Andre Toussaint.

The 34-year-old Toussaint, who rejoined Connection after spells with Joe Public FC, T&TEC FC and Point Fortin Civic, was on Fevrier’s squad back in 2009 when the Savonetta Boys won their last CONCACAF group stage match against Honduran club, Real Espana, at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella.

And the dreadlocked maestro had the chance to create a storybook entrance.

Photo: W Connection attacker Andre Toussaint blazes wide in CONCACAF Champions League action against Deportivo Saprissa. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: W Connection attacker Andre Toussaint blazes wide in CONCACAF Champions League action against Deportivo Saprissa.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Just four minutes after his introduction, in the 73rd minute, Benjamin tore down the left flank and produced a brilliant, low far post cross for Toussaint. The veteran, with the goal at his mercy, steered wide.

In stoppage time, another golden opportunity presented itself, as Toussaint sent Gomez clear down the right flank and then ran on to his return pass, just inside the Saprissa penalty area.

But, once again, Toussaint failed to hit the target.

By then, Jones had already taken charge of the script, though.

In the 80th minute, Williams (J) took possession on the counter-attack and danced past Argentine defender Andres Imperiale with an imperious step-over. The Saprissa defender tripped him and Connection had another free kick opportunity for Jones.

“Let’s go W, let’s go!” chanted Connection supporters, whose expectations from set pieces grew with every swing of Jones’ right boot.

Twice, Carvajal had flailed after the young man’s free kicks with all the certainty of a five-year-old child chasing bubbles. But, on the third occasion, he barely had time to blink, let alone stretch his arm.

Photo: Deportivo Saprissa defender Francisco Calvo reacts to W Connection captain Alvin Jones' late strike during CONCACAF Champions League action last night. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Deportivo Saprissa defender Francisco Calvo reacts to W Connection captain Alvin Jones’ late strike during CONCACAF Champions League action last night.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Jones’ effort whistled around the head of the last defender in the Saprissa wall and dipped considerably to kiss the ground once before nestling into the far corner.

Jean praised the talent and attitude of Connection’s young captain and urged Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Stephen Hart to take another look at him.

Jones gave a tentative showing last year, at right back, when he made his first and only senior international appearance to date for the Warriors against St Lucia in the Caribbean Cup qualifiers.

This season, though, Fevrier has used Jones in his preferred role in central defence and he has performed creditably. And, of course, there is always the added bonus of his blistering free kicks.

“You don’t get a lot of players with that quality in shooting,” said Jean. “I think that is a massive boost for Trinidad and Tobago. Because when you have a specialist like that you can always get a goal from him.”

Even a late red card for Williams (G), for a second bookable offence, failed to spoil Connection’s mood last night.

Photo: W Connection attacker Jomal Williams (right) dances around Deportivo Saprissa defender Andres Imperiale during CONCACAF Champions League action last night. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: W Connection attacker Jomal Williams (right) dances around Deportivo Saprissa defender Andres Imperiale during CONCACAF Champions League action last night.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Central FC, which has struggled with off-field incidents over the past three months, will hope to build on Connection’s strong showing when the “Couva Sharks” face Guatemalan outfit, Comunicaciones, from 8 pm tonight at the same venue.

(Teams)

W Connection (3-4-3): 18.Julani Archibald (GK); 16.Alvin Jones (captain), 4.Maurice Ford, 5.Triston Hodge, 21.Shannon Gomez, 26.Briel Thomas (48.Stiven Lopez 78), 3.Gerard Williams, 2.Kurt Frederick, 12.Dimitrie Apai (11.Neil Benjamin Jr 70), 27.Jhonatan Gerhardt (14.Andre Toussaint 69), 10.Jomal Williams.

Unused substitutes: 1.Terrence Lewis (GK), 13.Kion Joseph, 34.Jabari Mitchell, 35.Keston Julien.

Coach: Stuart Charles-Fevrier

 

Deportivo Saprissa (4-2-3-1): 1.Danny Carvajal (GK); 13.Adolfo Machado (captain), 4.Andres Imperiale, 5.Francisco Calvo, 19.Irving Calderon (27.Dylan Flores 80), 15.Deyver Vega, 20.Nestor Monge (7.Myner Escoe 84), 8.David Guzman, 11.Marvin Angulo (30.Uluses Segura 70), 26.Daniel Colindres, 14.Ariel Rodriguez.

Unused substitutes: 22.Donny Grant (GK), 3.Gabriel Badilla, 16.Sergio Cordoba, 29.Luis Flores.

Coach: Jeaustin Campos

 

Referee: Hector Rodriguez (Honduras)

Man of the Match: Julani Archibald (W Connection)

Photo: W Connection chairman David John Williams (left) hugs goalkeeper Julani Archibald after the 2015 Pro Bowl Cup final. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: W Connection chairman David John Williams (left) hugs goalkeeper Julani Archibald after the 2015 Pro Bowl Cup final.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

CONCACAF Champions League result

Group A

(Wednesday September 16)

W Connection 2 (Kurt Frederick 34, Alvin Jones 81), Deportivo Saprissa 1 (Daniel Colindres 38) at Hasely Crawford Stadium;

 

Today’s Champions League fixture

Group D

(Thursday September 17)

Central FC v Comunicaciones, 8 pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium;

Photo: W Connection captain Alvin Jones (far left) blasts a free kick towards goal during the 2015 Digicel Charity Shield. Looking on (from right) are Central FC players Marcus Joseph, Marvin Oliver, Elton John, Ataulla Guerra and Jan-Michael Williams. (Courtesy DPI Photography/Wired868)
Photo: W Connection captain Alvin Jones (far left) blasts a free kick towards goal during the 2015 Digicel Charity Shield.
Looking on (from right) are Central FC players Marcus Joseph, Marvin Oliver, Elton John, Ataulla Guerra and Jan-Michael Williams.
(Courtesy DPI Photography/Wired868)

Group A

(Tuesday September 22)

W Connection v Santos Laguna, 8 pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium;

Group D

(Wednesday September 23)

Central FC v LA Galaxy, 8 pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium.

 

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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31 comments

  1. It is interesting to note that Connection back four ages (in 2015) Shannon Gomez 19 Maurice Ford 19 Alvin Jones 21 and Triston Hodge 21 ( average age 20!!) All from Trinidad and Tobago Must give credit to them. When you look at the rest of the team that started the game you have Jomal Williams 21 (T&T) Briel Thomas 20 (Dominica) Gerard Williams 27( St Kitts) Kurt Fedricks 24 (St Lucia) Dimitre Apai 21 (Suriname) Jhonatan Gerdhart 20 (Brasil) and not to forget the outstanding goalkeeper Jalaini Archibald 24 (St Kitts) Off the bench came Neil Benjamin 21 (T&T) and the veteran Andre Toussaint 34 T&T) We must give these young players credit for a fine performance It was a great “Caribbean Connection Collection” of players who really rekindled the “Connection Spirit” Memories of famous victory against Chivas at the Manny Ramjohn years ago

  2. The teams have to have a product to attract people ….. winning against a team to save face not gonna get it

    • Catch 22. We always seem to want the best before we support, usually qualified by international acclaim, but to get there, they need the encouragement by large crowds which would lift the level of competition, and add excitement/atmosphere to the league.

    • 1-0, 2-1 even not 4-0 or 4-1 even the most patriotic of supporters not gonna waste their evening to see that ….where’s the entertainment in that? They have to be at least competitive to warrant support. Nobody owes anyone support it has to be earned …… like respect.

    • There is a difference between going to support and going for entertainment though. There will still be thousands of supporters who will follow West Ham or Sunderland all the way down to League Two if they kept being relegated.

    • Definite difference but they’re both somewhat intermingled. A supporter might be a hometown fan …. team members crew etc but from a neutral fan’s perspective you need something to at least peak your interest. I’m in Atl and the falcons (football) and the braves(baseball) have unbelievable support for two absolute shit teams …the hawks (basketball) not so much. ….few years ago went to a few regular season hawks games …. tickets were dog cheap ….but I saw something … even though they lost the game …they started getting to a next level next thing you know sold out tickets going for $200 …. fans aren’t just homemade…neutrals must be challenged ….watching highlights of galaxy and saprissa bully and boss us on the field like we didn’t earn the right to play here doesnt make me a fan.

    • I disagree Malik Johnson. The games are competitive. We can’t wait for them to beat teams like La Galaxy or Saprissa before we show support. They don’t have the finances to throw behind player development, administration, fitness/nutrition etc. Again, why do we need foreign confirmation before we recognize what we have? Connection and the other teams in the Pro League don’t need to be as good as teams in bigger leagues. They need to put out a good local product, meaning competitive league games. However, if fans support the league by attending matches, they will eventually be able to play at the same level (or at least be competitive) as bigger CONCACAF clubs. Nothing happens in a vacuum. There are other issues of course, corporate involvement, Gov’t involvement (which whether we like it or not, must take place in a small market such as ours), better marketing by the league, better effort to base teams in specific communities/regions etc. but that’s another part of the argument.

    • Richard I try to choose my words carefully …. I never said beat these teams … said 1-0 , 2-1 competitive games at least …. when it counts. 4-0 loss when they needed the points to advance as opposed to a 1-0 win against the same team whose already advanced is equivalent to a friendly.

    • I read what you said Malik. My point is that being competitive doesn’t come by playing to empty stadiums. There’s no atmosphere or intensity.

      Take English lower leagues for example. Many of those games are well supported even though the quality isn’t on par with the Prem.

      Our players are talented but it’s hard to go from a handful of fans to a packed stadium.

      What should matter in a domestic league is not how well they do against foreign opposition but how keenly contested the league itself is. In that respect trinis, and not just in football, fail to recognise our own because we’re always of the opinion that foreign is better. We patently ignore local talent in any sphere until they do something worthwhile internationally…Then it’s all pride and joy bs. Bandwagonists we are.

    • Malik Johnson, there is context though. When Connection lost 4-0, they were playing their first competitive game of the season and away in Mexico to boot. The Mexican club was practically in mid-season.
      It is a big difference. If you aren’t sure then look at the results when the big La Liga and Premiership clubs play MLS or Asian teams in pre-season.
      If those games happened in October, it might be near double figures for teams like Madrid.
      The Pro League changed its fixtures a few years ago to align itself with the European season and it has been catastrophic to our chances in CONCACAF competitions.
      It is not that our teams are as hapless as those early games might suggest.

    • Solid points there Lasana although, watching the goals they were all individual errors …… (neither here nor there I imagine but infuriating) …my theory always equates to I can’t go out like that … those kind of issues don’t endear me to teams. Mr. Lamsee ….so what should matter is not how well they do against foreign opposition but how well they do in the local league? That is the argument you bringing? Are you out of your mind? There is NO money in local football …. no real sponsors because again no product for their investment. If our top two teams in our league get hammered by foreign opposition (constantly) how does this help our local players? How did Yorke or Latapy or even in recent times Cummings, Joevin Jones, Cornell Glenn a multitude of names get their breaks …not by oerforming well against the opposition offering you the opportunity? You have to do well against foreign opposition to show you at least have the potential. The frustration we trinis abroad have is that we see these teams especially the mls teams …we know their skill level and we bluntly feel that these teams are not as good as our results depict. We’ve played against these guys and we know that when our teams come up against them they’re intimidated and they shouldn’t be. Guerra for TT kissing Messi hands in a competitive game….. seriously? Get his signature after you kick the snot out of him!! The reason these teams don’t get the preferred support is because people want to support what they can believe in. By the way …… is these same bandwaggonists who jump in their cars and drive 5 hours to support their national team when they’re expected to lose. So appreciate that there are two sides to a story.

  3. Idk why trinis not supporting our teams

  4. If you are developing the football industry then a certain number of quality foreign players is essential. It is either you are trying to help or not. But the help has generally been enough to keep it afloat but not enough for it to kick on.
    I don’t want to go back down this route. Central FC is leading now. The Pro League teams have a 100 percent home record then at the moment.
    I say it shows potential for our football industry. Others would disagree. C’est la vie. It is my field so I feel it more keenly than most.

  5. Your Cuban doctors analogy shows that you miss my underlying issue with the current pro league arrangement.
    I have a problem with state funds being used to pay employees of private companies.
    If you want to use your Cuban doctor analogy, it would be more along the lines of… should the state pay the salaries of Cuban doctors working in private hospitals or should said Cuban doctors be paid by the private entities for which they work?

  6. So we shouldn’t have Cuban doctors in the hospital then? I don’t understand. The foreign players, once they are of a certain calibre, provide a benefit to not only the team but the development of their teammates too.
    Because seven of the 14 players used were not Trini means something negative for the league too?
    Three years ago, a Trinidad and Tobago team made up of almost entirely Pro League players–there were only two foreign-based players on the field–got Trinidad and Tobago to the Gold Cup for the first time in seven years.
    Stephen Hart was hired once we qualified. And we went on to make successive quarterfinals. Several of those players naturally were signed by foreign clubs.
    I suppose the people who follow football closely know the value of the league to the local game. Trinidad and Tobago football would have fallen behind badly in the region without it and we would not have the tv on cheering during the Gold Cup.

  7. Congrats to W. Connection!! As I sit in the HCS watching Central FC STRUGGLE to get out their own half tonight I clearly chose the wrong match to attend…

  8. I agree with potential, Lasana. Especially based on their ages. But yes, a mere five…. that means more than half the guys on the field at any given time are foreign nationals, employed by a private company, but paid by the Trinidad and Tobago state.

  9. What I would hope that it shows is potential. Nothing more. A mere five T&T players? Sigh.

  10. Congratulations to W Connection on beating Saprissa. And I genuinely mean that. 😀
    Beyond that however, Lasana Liburd, you’re going to have to help me greatly in figuring out to whom I should be giving credit and why. Are you suggesting that one win by one pro league team somehow justifies millions of Trinidad and Tobago taxpayers’ dollars going into the pockets of private companies? A pro league team that features a mere five Trinidad and Tobago players? And a win that leaves the team at the bottom of the table still?
    Are you a Chelsea fan? 😛
    One win and you’re jumping over the moon? As if your fortunes have drastically changed?
    Like I said, congratulations to the team and I really do hope that they continue to build on this.
    But all this win tells me is that Charles-Fevrier is a good coach who can adapt (so all credit to him) and that it may be beneficial to start the pro league earlier in the year. So we’ll see if the pro league people can figure that out and adjust the calendar for next year.

  11. Coach Stuart Charles Fevrier just told me that Saprissa has fired their coach ha

  12. It is a stupid ruling that will hurt British football more than it helps it. And it forces them to make average or slightly better than average players into multi-millionaires as teenagers like Shaw and Sterling.
    They continue to go around in circles. And then go to the World Cup and have to watch teams like Costa Rica top them.

  13. Yea Santokie Nagu well what I mean the New FA policy for football follows the conservative government trend of tightening rules for people in non EU countries for entering uk.

    For a Caribbean person to work, study in England is way more complicated now than when myself & Lasana Liburd was there at various points of our lives when labour was in power

  14. Chabeth Haynes, Savitri Maharaj, Kendall Tull, Kester Lendor, Carlos Lee and Brian Springer, just a note… Costa Rica was the surprise package of the 2014 World Cup. They beat Italy and Uruguay, eliminated England and Netherlands needed penalties to eliminate them in the quarters…
    Nine players from that Costa Rican team played in their domestic league. And W Connection beat their champion team at full strength with a very young team of mostly under-23 players.
    Credit where it is due guys and gals… 😉

  15. Colin Benjamin Sports-wise, the new ruling which now means Non-EU players have to come from a nation which averages a top 50 ranking has nothing to do with the Conservative Govt, it’s a panic ruling made by the English FA to try and address the lack of home-grown players here making the top level. They felt that there were too many ”average” foreign players clogging up the leagues here, so that means essentially, we will never see a Caribbean Player feature in England again under this ruling, as it’s very hard for a CFU team to average a ranking of 50 or above for 2 straight years

    Agree though, it is ridiculous that somebody like Rudolph Austin was kicked out the country despite having a career/family here.

  16. Lasana Liburd whether its sportsmen or other employment aspects in society, i’ve noticed the current conservative UK government isn’t very open to non-european people unless you are of a very rigid standard that they have set out Simon Evans Santokie Nagu Terence William Fenwick

    Because of that ruling, Jamaica’s captain Rudolph Austin couldn’t continue his career at Leeds United and is now in Denmark

  17. yea was a good game they could have scored more hoping CENTRAL FC have a good showing this evening too

  18. Briel is a really talented player. I look at him and see the stupidity in England’s rule about players needing to come from countries with a particular world ranking.
    A law that would have denied them players like George Weah.

  19. Ye Briel Thomas covered real ground in that mid-field

  20. Well done young men. Stay positive and always believe.