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“Ball Pest” returns but Vancouver edge Central in Champions League opener

Central FC failed to make to use of home advantage in their 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League opener last night as they were edged 1-nil by Major League Soccer (MLS) outfit Vancouver Whitecaps at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.

The “Couva Sharks”, who are still in preseason, showed some positive signs—particularly in the first half—but they lacked that potent bite last night and succumbed to a 34th minute item by the lively Cristian Techera.

The diminutive Techera was busy down the left flank last night, and he got his just reward after teammate Erik Hurtado fed him on a platter after beating the pair of Kaydion Gabriel and Andre Ettienne inside the penalty area.

Photo: Central FC forward Jason Marcano (left) outpaces Vancouver Whitecaps defenders Brett Levis (centre) and captain Pa-Modou Kah during CONCACAF Champions League action on 2 August 2016. The Whitecaps won 1-0. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC forward Jason Marcano (left) outpaces Vancouver Whitecaps defenders Brett Levis (centre) and captain Pa-Modou Kah during CONCACAF Champions League action on 2 August 2016.
The Whitecaps won 1-0.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

A few days ago, local football fans would have been licking their lips at the possibility of seeing Keron “Ball Pest” Cummings and Soca Warriors skipper Kenwyne Jones turn up for Central. But a delay in Jones’ International Transfer Clearance (ITC) prevented him from donning the Sharks’ outfit in Couva.

However, Cummings, who had not seen competitive action since being shot in his leg last year, gave the 2,000-plus crowd a solid performance in his stint as a second half sub. But, even with Cummings, Sean De Silva and skipper Leston Paul pulling the strings in midfield, Central still were not able to unlock the Whitecaps defence.

“I think tonight we weren’t bad at all,” said Central coach Dale Saunders, at the post-game conference. “I think the guys gave their all. I think we tried to execute the stuff we did in training and I’m pleased with the performance.

“I’m pleased with the efforts of the guys. We tried to put down the ball and play and we made one mistake and conceded.”

Things started brightly enough for Central, as winger Darren Mitchell and playmaker De Silva linked up nicely in the opening minutes. And Saunders and his coaching staff may have been thinking that things were looking up when De Silva forced Whitecaps goalie Spencer Richey into a sharp save in the 10th minute.

Photo: Central FC left back Kevon Villaroel (right) eludes Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Nicholas Mezquida during CONCACAF Champions League action in Couva on 2 August 2016. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC left back Kevon Villaroel (right) eludes Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Nicholas Mezquida during CONCACAF Champions League action in Couva on 2 August 2016.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

But the visitors, who fielded an entirely different starting eleven from their MLS clash with FC Dallas on Sunday—and travelled without regulars like Blas Perez, Christian Bolaños and top goal scorer and captain Pedro Morales—were soon into the thick of the action.

The “Caps” troubled the hosts from set pieces and diagonal crosses in the first half, and stand-in skipper Pa-Modou Kah sent a powerful header over bar after meeting a Techera corner in the 13th minute. The silky Uruguayan was then denied at point-blank range by goalkeeper Javon Sample two minutes later after Ettienne was caught out by a lofted ball from the right flank.

The lack of match sharpness seemed to hinder the hosts as they struggled to curtail the acceleration of Techera and wing-back Jordan Smith down the flanks. And Sample had his left-back Kevon Villaroel and his lucky stars to thank as Fraser Aird looked certain to give the Caps the lead in the 33rd minute but for Villaroel’s last gap headed clearance.

There was nothing Villaroel or Sample could do mere seconds later as Techera took a short breather from the wing to squirt a shot into the net from the middle of the penalty area, after some determined running by Hurtado down the left flank.

Skipper Leston Paul then conjured up Central’s best chance of the half in first half stoppage time as he unleashed a 26-yard drive which the lanky Richey just managed to fend away, while the speedy Mitchell saw his follow-up effort brilliantly stopped by a retreating David Edgar.

Photo: Vancouver Whitecaps defender David Edgar (left) cuts out an effort by Central FC midfielder Darren Mitchell (centre) while goalkeeper Spencer Richey looks on during CONCACAF Champions League action in Couva on 2 August 2016. Vancouver won 1-0. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Vancouver Whitecaps defender David Edgar (left) cuts out an effort by Central FC midfielder Darren Mitchell (centre) while goalkeeper Spencer Richey looks on during CONCACAF Champions League action in Couva on 2 August 2016.
Vancouver won 1-0.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

“We tried to put a lot of things into practice tonight and unfortunately we weren’t able to execute in front of goal,” said Central and Trinidad and Tobago international midfielder, De Silva. “And we made one mistake, and at this level it only takes one mistake and that cost us tonight.”

Saunders altered his game plan early in the second period, as Cummings replaced Nicholas Dillon in the 51st minute. The skilful midfielder got into the heart of the action straight away as he linked up the play nicely in Central’s midfield. But soon enough, Vancouver midfielder Ben McKendry was monitoring his every step.

“I think over the past few weeks Keron Cummings has been working really hard to get back to full fitness,” said Saunders. “He got about 40 minutes tonight and I thought he looked fairly well. I think you can expect a little more from him in the future.”

Although they started the second half smartly, Central’s energy and attacking ideas seemed to diminish after the 65-minute mark, as they failed to regularly trouble the Vancouver defence while the wily Jason Marcano did not look himself in his lone foray up top.

And Vancouver coach Carl Robinson found it fitting to peg Central back by inserting the brisk and willing 15 year-old attacker Alphonso Davies. The Liberian born Davies signed an MLS contract with the Caps last month and became the second youngest player—behind former youth prodigy Freddy Adu—to turn out in the MLS when he debuted against Orlando City on July 16.

Photo: Central FC midfielder Keron Cummings (centre) passes the ball during CONCACAF Champions League action in Couva on 2 August 2016. Cummings made his competitive outing against Vancouver, after being shot in his leg on 27 December 2015. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC midfielder Keron Cummings (centre) passes the ball during CONCACAF Champions League action in Couva on 2 August 2016.
Cummings made his competitive outing against Vancouver, after being shot in his leg on 27 December 2015.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

“Of course he’s got a long way to go, we know that,” said Vancouver coach Robinson. “He’s a terrific talent. As everyone who watches football knows, talents come and go. And they have to be handled properly.

“My job is to make sure that we handle him, play him at the right time and ensure that we keep the press circus away from him and allow him to enjoy his football because he’s 15 years of age.”

The young Davies showed that he was definitely enjoying himself in Couva last night as he showed some neat skill—he rolled the ball through Cummings’ legs at one point to ooohs from spectators—and almost helped himself to a goal in the dying stages. But Sample denied the 15 year-old a fairytale ending, as he pulled off a stunning save to thwart a point-blank Davies header in the 89th minute.

The damage had already been done, though.

“We played in Sunday against Dallas in 41 degrees heat, so most of the guys who played in that game didn’t play here today,” said Robinson. “(…) I am pleased [with the win]. Yeah. It’s not an easy place to come and play at.

“The pitch is sticky. They are a very good team, we know that. And there were some meaty, tasty challenges coming in.”

Photo: Central FC captain and midfielder Leston Paul (right) keeps tabs on Vancouver Whitecaps attacker Nicholas Mezquida (centre) while defender Keion Goodridge looks on during CONCACAF Champions League action in Couva on 2 August 2016. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC captain and midfielder Leston Paul (right) keeps tabs on Vancouver Whitecaps attacker Nicholas Mezquida (centre) while defender Keion Goodridge looks on during CONCACAF Champions League action in Couva on 2 August 2016.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

While Central may have won the physical side of the contest, according to Robinson, the Caps won the more meaningful football contest. Central’s bitter cross town rival, DIRECTV W Connection, will hope for better fortunes when they entertain Pumas UNAM of Mexico at the same Couva venue from 8pm today.

Tickets are priced at $80, while children under 12 will pay $40.

(Teams)

Central FC (4-2-3-1): 1.Javon Sample (GK); 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 4.Andre Ettienne, 3.Keion Goodridge, 24.Kevon Villaroel; 19.Nathaniel Garcia, 6.Leston Paul (captain); 14.Nicholas Dillon (10.Keron Cummings 51), 8.Sean De Silva (16.Kadeem Corbin 87), 11.Darren Mitchell (99.Marcus Joseph 73); 7.Jason Marcano.

Unused Substitutes: 30.Akel Clarke (GK), 12.Elton John, 18.Jomoul Francois, 26.Mickaeel Jem Gordon.

Coach: Dale Saunders

 

Vancouver Whitecaps (4-2-3-1): 39.Spencer Richie (GK); 6.Jordan Smith, 18.David Edgar, 44.Pa-Modou Kah (captain), 46.Brett Levis; 30.Ben McKendry, 31.Russell Teibert; 8.Fraser Aird, 11.Nicolas Mezquida (38.Kianz Froese 90), 13.Cristian Techera (67.Alphonso Davies 66); Erik Hurtado (47.Kyle Greig 74).

Unused Substitutes: 24.Marco Carducci (GK), 14.Cole Seiler, 32.Marco Bustos, 51.Same de Wit.

Coach: Carl Robinson

Referee: Sherwin Moore (Guyana)

Photo: W Connection winger and former Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 player Aikim Andrews (centre) tries to find way past a gang of Santos Laguna players during 2015/16 CONCACAF Champions League action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: W Connection winger and former Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 player Aikim Andrews (centre) tries to find way past a gang of Santos Laguna players during 2015/16 CONCACAF Champions League action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

CONCACAF Champions League 

(Tuesday 2 August)

Central FC 0, Vancouver Whitecaps 1 (Cristian Techera 34) at Ato Boldon Stadium.

 

About Roneil Walcott

Roneil Walcott
Roneil Walcott is an avid sports fan and freelance reporter with a BA in Mass Communication from COSTAATT. Roneil is a former Harvard and St Mary's College cricketer who once had lofty aspirations of bringing joy to sport fans with the West Indies team. Now, his mission is to keep them on the edge of their seats with sharp commentary from off the playing field.

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70 comments

  1. Saw parts of second half. Lack of match fitness was a factor. Etienne’s partner at back was lucky to stay in game I thought. He was pretty labored and late on a few tackles in second half. Didn’t see much danger in attacking third, but something to build on.

    • For when? The TT Pro League? Lack of match fitness or inspiration? Caused by late payment, cut salaries, etc. I have never seen Sean De Silva , Nelly etc unfit.

    • Problems persist Sheldon? I wouldn’t doubt it. Sad that the Caribbean champions should be such a mess off the field.

    • Sean looked decent but the connectivity and passing was a bit “rusty” too..

    • Brian, that is Keion Goodridge. And, yeah, he was grabbing and bumping players all the time. He looked panicked. Poor Marcano looked wasted upfront much of the time.

    • And he will say it, but eventually fight to play

    • Marcano was out of the game for sure

    • Remember winning saw these same players being told no bonus, or not getting what was promised, at the end of it all

    • Tenille Clarke, this is why I was surprised by Kenwyne’s choice. But good luck to him all the same. This is going to be a tough year for the Pro League.

    • So players won two successive Pro League titles and two Caribbean Cups and no bonus for either right Sheldon? The crowd was just over 2,000.

    • I still don’t see how playing in the Pro league helps Kenwyne

    • Well staff were given excuses, doubt the players got there just due

    • When you can afford K Jones, but not pay a bonus, says lots to the players

    • Sheldon, I would agree if we knew what Kenwyne was being paid. Possibly took cut to stay match fit??

    • Especially to a team that has won the league back to back

    • A cut that is surely much higher than the $3000 to 4000 the others are being paid,and from what i heard their salaries are being cut also. How much do you think Kenwyne costs on loan?

    • Maybe they got a sponsor to pay Kenwyne. I think that is possible too. I get that he wants a little time at home and closer to the national team.
      I understand his motivation. Although I think the football side is just too chaotic.

    • As a coach it was extremely frustrating watching that game last night…. let’s go beyond the issues of the club and players… what I saw was a bunch of players who don’t understand the basics in positional play within a system and the tactical awareness to play at any real level… they were disjointed and their shape was all over the place… last night central would have struggled to beat my club’s u17 team that just won a club national championship… I could break down the team but I will be writing for 8 days straight… Among the disappointments of last night’s game (and there were many) I will say that the biggest disappointment was Sean’s performance…He looked like he had 1 too many bake and shark and his lack of running and very obvious lack of speed does make one wonder WHY he started or even how is he getting paid to play professional football….he offered nothing on the pitch yesterday and yet played 87 min of which if he ran 20 he did plenty….. And the coaching block head move of the day…. you know Sean cant run past a snail with a cast on, yet you put him on the flanks.. a position that requires speed.. I could go on and on…. There were some decent patches of play and at times Central looked like they had a clue… but these were too sporadic and only occurred when they attacked with some pace… Not their best performance one can argue, but as a coach it is hard to see much improvement given the attitude to play on the field…. In my opinion to a man, none of them are ready for anything but pro league football….

    • How does the fact that they are in their pre-season mitigate your observations Ian R Briggs?

    • Sean can’t run. But he can cross. So I’m guessing they hope to get some good deliveries from him from the flanks. But he obviously wasn’t in great shape and faded away.

    • This confuses me all the time. I this we read and hear about bonuses being payed by European teams and think it should apply here. But ent those bonuses are paid on profits? ?

    • none really…. for the fact that there were seasoned ‘pros” on the field and they still looked clueless…. what i was looking at was player instinct… ie do you recognise obvious 1 v1 situations as a winger, or 2 v1 sits. in midfield so you can maintain possession…. when to pack it in BECAUSE we are short on fitness, when to explode… did we as a team recognise when Vancouver switched formation and was forcing Central wide which meant they were playing for a 1/0 or 2/0 via counter… why was NO ONE at times available to receive the ball in the middle of the park… why are the defenders continuously getting caught ball side and not goal side…. Preseason will mean shorness in fitness yes, but not in playing the game… they showed a serious lack of tactical awareness of the field (coaches and players) and that was very disconcerting ….

    • No Kester Lendor. The bonuses are paid on winnings. Club wins X amount and gives a percentage to its employees. You think that odd?

    • I eh running no company that only source of funds is from a govt grant and when it does get some cash from operations i pay it to workers.

    • Seasoned pros do get tired and do have lapses in concentration levels. Being short of match fitness, it probably happens more often and earlier i would think.

    • How is it that players expect/demand bonuses from an organization that does not generate any real income?
      At a minimum, pro league player costs are 100 – 110k a month for teams playing a 1 million.

    • I would think it’s in their contract Kester Lendor

    • Kester, it is in their contract. Apart from being standard business practice. You think Central FC should break their contracts?

    • It makes little sense if you’re saying that clubs run their day to day operations on winnings. And, if they do, it would explain why local football is in the state it is in.

    • And who said they give ALL the winnings to the players?

    • ^^^ brian and that was clearly obvious… but the problem is instinct…. it is not programmed into them to close the ball down if you are the closest man.. or what is the role of the 2nd or even 3rd defender…. or how to defend (stance, patience, runs,) role of 2nd and 3rd attacker… when to slow it down and play possession, or when to step it up…. those are not results of lack of conditioning… those are results of lack of know how… and there were enough guys on the pitch who are seasoned pros to help manage the game better… especially since they KNEW they were not fit (which quite frankly is amazing given that they knew when this game was going to be)…. you are pros… staying in shape is your job.. I will give you pre season mix ups tactically as a unit, but not individually…

    • It may well be a contract thing i just dont see the practicability of that. We are fooled by what we’ve heard and read about european clubs paying bonuses but guess what, i am almost sure every team that pays a bonus or for that matter any organization that adopts this practise is a profitable one.

    • Ok. Thought you discounted it totally. I agree positionally there were issues, but i consider that coachable, even at this level..

    • Many professional clubs in Europe and even the Premiership also operate at a loss Kester. The owners and directors are responsible for the operations cost not the employees.
      Winning the league brings a benefit for everyone. And the club decides to split that benefit to the players.
      Maybe the TTFA was wrong to offer a bonus to the World Cup players for qualifying too. I would like to hear Sancho’s opinion. Because the TTFA was not rolling in the dough either.

    • ^^ agreed but that is as a unit based on system…. individually though we lost match ups all over the place and the thing you cant coach is instinct… the boy’s instincts as players were not up to par… and to me that was the most disappointing thing…

    • Sometimes, it’s also about motivation like my friend Sheldon Scipio mentioned. Some players not there in mind, just there in body..

    • motivation has a big part to play in sport… and no one wants to work for free… but if you are a professional and you choose to step foot on the field and people paid to come see you play then you should at least look like you have a clue… if they were trying to send a message yesterday to management they did a decent job as no one rated better than a 5 yesterday…

    • Isn’t it hard to gauge a team’s shape effectively on tv though Ian R Briggs? I thought a lot of the deficiencies were down to technique and fitness myself. The backline was definitely extremely poor.
      Otherwise, Central gave a poor account against a very average opponent.

    • Lasana, the camera work was very good last night. Snapshots of shape and positional play were easy

    • A-a. And you didn’t hail me up Briggo! Lol. I thought our shape fell away badly in the second half. I thought we were okay-ish in the first half although our central defenders seemed to keep dropping deeper and deeper.
      Our central defenders were as poor as I’ve ever seen them.

    • Saw Sean have ball in corner and Gabriel or other player make run behind two defenders and no one else make themselves available on couple occassions. Each man on ball need more than one passing outlet option.

    • Lasana what you saw was accurate…. but what you didnt see was the lack of mobility in the mid field and no running off the ball by forwards… dead ball situations were a mess for central, and defensively they were not adept at picking up what type of set plays Vancouver were running…. lack tracking runners (and Vancouver didnt really run hard or push the pace… they just did enough to get the win)… Dont get me wrong there were times when as a team they looked like they had a clue, but not sure if it was because of Central or Vancouver’s sitting off the ball… need to see them play a few more times to determine that… however what is clear is that not enough work was placed on developing these players technically and as tey grew older tactically…. And once Leston faded, there was no field general… Cummings did what he was supposed to do as a man coming off a long layoff (still think he played too many minutes) but he looked rusty and tried to force the action … but with little offering from Sean, it made it difficult at times to even find space to operate….

    • Brian’s point was definitely valid that not enough players were showing for the ball. Sean’s set pieces were poor too. Usually his game is built on passing and set pieces, never athleticism. And he didn’t get those right for the most part last night.
      Maybe it’s that I know the players well enough to know what to expect and what not to expect Ian. So I might subconsciously compensate for their weaknesses.
      For instance, Marcano is a converted forward. He only started playing there halfway through last season and usually as part of an orthodox two-man forward line-up.
      So he was always going to struggle as the lone striker at this level. He is a winger. So he wasn’t really running the channels–and he is in his mid-30s by now–while playing with defenders at his back won’t be something that comes instinctively for him.
      So I can understand someone watching him and just saying he doesn’t cut it. And I was waiting for the coach to adjust his starting position so we could see more from him.

    • Also Darren Mitchell’s game is energy and enthusiasm but his delivery is the final third was always something he struggled with consistently.
      So when he is charging at defenders, I know he needs a teammate to give him a high percentage passing option.
      If I didn’t know him, I’d just ask why that kid is crossing so poorly and giving away the ball.

    • hence my comment about tactial awareness of the coaches… it was not all on the players… he (coach) saw they were not connecting in areas and he never made the adjustments to get the right combos… I saw enough that if I held on to them for a month, they look like a totally different unit (fit or not)… but it will have to be a dumbed down package as they are just not technical enough to play anything other than a basic 4 4 2 with a sweeper (old school back 4) at the pro level of any meaning (anything outside pro league)…..

    • Ian, I’ve only seen two teams play with a sweeper in the Pro League. Central usually plays a flat back four. But like I said, I’ve never seen those two defenders play so badly.
      I’m not saying they are usually top defenders. But they both had their all time worst games last night.
      Very good point about setting up better combination play. Can’t argue with that at all.

    • Most teams seem to play 433 or 451 these days. Remaining are 442 or offshoot..

    • Lasana Liburd the funny thing is I went there with no bias or judgement of pro league as I went to watch a football game,,, but as the game wore on it became difficult to watch as the things that these players should know (technical) were not being done and the coaches were not making tactical changes fast enough…. clearly there is room for improvement, but I am only seeing that from tactical work… technically inept … for this level (pro)

    • right now given their current squad, they should play an old school 442 … it would help sort out the marking and make the offside trap better to implement… and 442 is perfect for WILD defenders..lol….also it would give leston some help in the middle and you could hide Sean a little more in the middle and let him be a play maker…. pull the wide players inside of the wing backs so width comes from the most wide player….it would help them stay compact so the lines are not as spread out making them devoid of shape… at one point central was playing a 5 0 5… lol…..

    • Ian, there is one thing that Central coach Dale Saunders does repeatedly that I find odd. Maybe Sheldon Scipio can weigh in on this.
      He never sends his bench to warm up until about the 70th minute. Sometimes even longer.
      It means that when he wants to make a chance, he has to wait about five minutes for a guy to get warm. Or send him on cold if there is an injury.
      For the life of me, I can’t understand what’s happening there. Can you guys explain for me?

    • no confidence in the bench… as far as he is concerned he has 11 players…. that bench is because they should have some people on stand by just in case somebody get injured… how else do you explain Sean’s performance yesterday and he played 87 min….. worst yet he wasnt even the 1st change … looked like an after thought….

    • I won’t play Sean as one of two holding midfielders though Brigo. That has been tried and doesn’t work. His lateral movement to keep track of opposing midfielders was lacking.
      That’s why they use him wide to tuck in and overload. Or use him as part of a central midfield three.
      I think Nathaniel “Spanish” Garcia and Leston Paul are easily Central’s best duo to operate in front of the back four.

    • Marcano plays a good attacking midfielder supporting striker. I think that may be Sean’s best position too. Ideally, Marcano could have gone wide and Sean on top of midfield but who is going to be striker then?? Sounds like they were depending on Kenwyne..

    • Sean De Silva in tip top physical shape and lacking match fitness are as different as night and day. He has to accept that and work harder than most to be in the right form at all times.
      It could easily cost him his place in the World Cup team if he doesn’t look the part in two or three weeks.

    • Marcus Joseph in theory Brian Jordan. Not so? But then Marcus blows hot and cold all the time. So you never know what to expect. And he didn’t help his case at all when he came on.

    • who said anything about holding… right now only thing Sean holding is a Breast from KFC…… play him as a recessed 10 with your 2 up front split wide… it is a 433 in disguise but really a 442 with the 4 in the middle as a diamond… Leston at the bottom of the diamond (6) and Spanish as the (8)… probably macano as a pulled in 7 with the the 9 and 11 split widish to give sean room to move forward…. strength attacking on the right side but strength defensively in the middle and left…..

    • Riight.. Wonder if peeps are even training as they should with the rumored unrest..

    • Maybe that might work Briggo. Not the KFC breast combo I mean. Lol

    • given what was on display last night it would play to their strengths rather than weaknesses… once they get fitter and more comfortable on the ball in game situation you go with a 433 but sean still recessed…

    • Silva was never the best in the challenge. And as lasana said his strengths did not come to the fore last night. He looked badly off the pace in an already slow game. Joseph was so predictable its a shame. Trying to get everything on his left foot. I thought marcano should have bee switched with dillon going to cf. Which would add a bit more physical presence in that position. Pest put on some size. Needs to get back in better shape. His touch is still very good though

    • I’d agree with all of that Jamal

  2. Lasana, Did Vancouver bring and play their top players?