San Juan Jabloteh experienced a humiliating return to CONCACAF competition last night when they were mauled 6-2 by Costa Rican outfit, Santos de Guápiles FC, at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in San José.
Unless Jabloteh can subject Santos to a four-goal spanking when the two clubs meet again at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain on Tuesday 8 August, the “San Juan Kings” adventure in the 2017 CONCACAF League will be short and not particularly sweet.
Only the winner over the two legs advances past the Round of 16 to the quarterfinal stage.
Defending Pro League champions Central FC are up next as they host Panamanian club Árabe Unido from 8pm on Thursday 3 August at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in their Round of 16 fixture.
Árabe managed a 2-0 win over W Connection on their last trip to Port-of-Spain on 19 September 2013 although, arguably, the “Savonetta Boys” were in much better shape then than the “Couva Sharks” are now.
Four years ago, Connection started with six foreign-based players—three from South America—who complemented the local talent of Joevin Jones, Daneil Cyrus and Hasim Arcia.
In contrast, Central are a shadow of the team that won their third successive league title last year as goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams, defender Kevon Villaroel, midfielders Leston Paul and Darren Mitchell and forwards Rundell Winchester and Marcus Joseph are just a few of the more recognisable names to have quit the squad in the pre-season.
Playmaker Sean De Silva, bustling midfielder Nathaniel “Spanish” Garcia, wiry attacker Jason Marcano and promising young utility player Keston George are still there while Central coach Dale Saunders has added veteran fullback Carlos Edwards and teenaged defender Taryk Sampson to his roster.
But they will have their work cut out for them to avoid the fierce spanking that Jabloteh received in Costa Rica.
The game was just four minutes old when Kenny Cunningham opened the scoring from the penalty sport after a clumsy challenge from Jabloteh defender Akeem Benjamin on opposing forward Starling Matarrita.
And Santos, who made their CONCACAF debut last night, raced to a three-goal advantage by the break as Matarrita and Youstin Salas both fired past hapless Jabloteh custodian and Grenada international Shemel Louison.
Versatile Jamaican attacker Keithy Simpson pulled a goal back for Jabloteh in the 50th minute, heading in from close range off a right-side cross from his compatriot Adrian Reid.
But Santos were not done yet as, eight minutes later, captain Edder Monguio headed in Wilmer Azofeifa’s corner kick to restore the hosts’ three-goal advantage. And substitute Osvaldo Rodriguez cracked home a fifth from outside the penalty area in the 72nd minute before defender Juan Diego Madrigal got his team’s final goal from the penalty spot in the 78th minute—after a foul by Louison.
Soca Warriors winger Nathan Lewis closed the scoring in the 89th minute with a tidy finish from close range off a low right-side cross from Panamanian Jairo Lombardo. But it was hardly enough to camouflage a miserable showing from the Trinidad and Tobago club.
Central will hope for better fortune tomorrow night.
San Juan Jabloteh: 30.Shemel Louison (GK); 18.Jevon Morris, 6.Akeem Benjamin, 24.Adrian Reid, 15.Jesus Perez; 3.Josiah Trimmingham (16.Jairo Lombardo 66), 11.Damian Williams (captain); 27.Nathan Lewis, 9.Keithy Simpson, 12.Kion Joseph (5.Shakiyl Phillip 85); 17.Vurlon Mills (20.Aaqil Campbell 79).
Unused substitutes: 35.Andrew Durant (GK), 13.Julio Noel, 22.Kadeem Hutchinson, 23.Kennedy Hinkson.
Coach: Keith Jeffrey
CONCACAF League result
(Tuesday 1 August)
Santos de Guápiles FC 6 (Kenny Cunningham 4 pen, Starling Matarrita 31, Youstin Salas 39, Edder Monguio 58, Osvaldo Rodriguez 72, Juan Diego Madrigal 78 pen), San Juan Jabloteh 2 (Keithy Simpson 50, Nathan Lewis 89) at the Estadio Saprissa in San José.
(Thursday 3 August)
Central FC v Árabe Unido, 8pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain;
(Tuesday August 8)
San Juan Jabloteh v Santos de Guápiles FC, 8pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain;
(Thursday 10 August)
Árabe Unido v Central FC, 8pm, Rommel Fernandez Stadium, Panama City.