Defence Force FC got their Ascension Invitational Tournament campaign off to a solid start yesterday with a 2-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) outfit Cunupia FC at the Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar.
Goals either side of halftime by veteran marksman Devorn Jorsling and defender Jerome McIntyre sealed the win for the Army/Coast Guard combination, who should be considered one of the favourites in Division One of the Ascension tournament.
The 35-year-old Jorsling, the TT Pro League’s all-time leading goal scorer, had said that he would be stepping away from the local game. However, like FC Santa Rosa captain and playmaker Ryan Stewart, Jorsling had a change of heart and dusted off his boots once more.
Together with Defence Force stalwarts like skipper Jerwyn Balthazar and defender Curtis “Boyo” Gonzales, the former national player is leading a team that features a host of talented young players. Attackers Hashim Arcia, Jamile Boatswain and Reon Moore have been called for national senior team duty recently, while other promising young talents such as Shaquille Bertrand, Jabari Brice, Jelani Felix, Dylon King, Trevin Latapy and Brent Sam also make up the squad setup.
“What we did is that we tried to mix the team with experience and youth,” Defence Force coach Lloyd Andrews told Wired868. “You want your senior players to be able to guide the young ones. We want to be able to give them an opportunity to show their talent to the national coaches.”
Yesterday, Brice and Sam, former national youth players, weren’t included in the playing squad. From the covered stands, Brice looked on as fellow goalkeeper Aaron Enil, a 2014 National Intercol winner with East Mucurapo Secondary, put on a strong display in the second half. One of several key saves saw him hurling to his right to stop an 81st-minute penalty by Cunupia standout player Kevon “Showtime” Woodley.
“This was our first competitive game in a very long time and we came out with a victory,” said Andrews, who replaces former gaffer Marvin Gordon at the helm for Defence Force. “The team didn’t play as well as we would have liked them to play. But when you’re not playing well, and you win, when you start playing well, it will be easier. There are few things to tweak here and there, but we’ll do our work.”
Other than Jorsling and McIntyre’s efforts in the 32nd and 73rd minutes, Cunupia created more glaring opportunities on the day. However, some shabby finishing, coupled with poor judgment in presentable offensive situations, led to their downfall.
“I think [Cunupia] are a very good team. They fought the game and they had us under some pressure from time to time, but we were able to withstand the pressure and overcome,” Andrews told Wired868.
Cunupia attackers Hakeem Legall and Mikheil Peters both struggled on the day, and goalkeeping coach Trevor Nottingham remarked that the 2018 TTSL Cup winners should have been up by four goals by the time Jorsling easily tucked away a left side centre from Felix just past the half-hour mark. A four-goal lead was likely optimistic, but Cunupia should have scored in the first half.
In the 22nd minute, Peters shot straight at Enil from an acute angle, after being played in over the top. Meanwhile, Legall totally lost his bearings as he charged towards goal in a three-on-three situation in the 29th minute, meekly squandering possession to the Defence Force rear guard.
Legall had a chance for redemption 10 minutes later, but after intercepting a poor back pass by defender Jules Lee, he hurriedly blasted his right-footed shot wide of the mark.
“Allyuh have to get one inno, allyuh have to score one!” one female Cunupia supporter shouted continually, becoming more vociferous as the game wore on.
Cunupia’s sloppy play in front of goal spilled over into the second half with attacker Michael Yaw Darko, a first-half substitute, squandering two chances within the first ten minutes. Mere seconds after the restart, Darko dragged a cheeky shot wide of Enil’s near post, after nicking the ball off a defender. Then, in the 52nd minute, he missed from close range—under heavy duress from Boyo—after Legall headed a through ball into his path.
Cunupia had the style points for sure, but by the end of the 90 minutes, Andrews’ troops’ less elegant approach turned out to be more effective. The Army/Coast Guard combination used Jorsling’s strength to good effect by working intricate passes in the final third. And when that did not suffice, they opted for diagonal balls into the channels for Moore and Felix.
Moore’s speed posed a constant threat to Cunupia down the left flank. Twice he carved through the defense and squared from the byline, but the finishing from his teammates failed to match the build-up.
With the likes of Boatswain, King, Sam and Dwight Quintero on the roster, it remains to be seen if Jorsling will start as the ‘number nine’ for the duration of the tournament. Jorsling showed that he has not lost the precision in his left foot though, crashing a free kick off Cleon John’s bar in the 59th minute.
“I heard that Devorn had hung up his boots, but he was willing to come back out and try to make the team and he is working very hard,” Andrews said. “We are hoping to do some extra work with him to get him back to a level of fitness which is better than where he is at right now […] if he’s in good stead at the end of the tournament, why not continue into the Pro League season?”
John, also a stalwart in the local game, offered a wry smile as he tapped his cleats on the trusted goal frame after Jorsling’s set piece.
There was no smiling for the hosts in the 73rd minute, though, as McIntyre prodded into an empty net after Balthazar glanced a right-side Felix corner onto the bar.
Two down with roughly 20 minutes to go, one would have forgiven Cunupia for going into their shell. But that’s not Cunupia and coach Michael De Four’s way. The chances still came, but they were wasted just as quickly.
In the 75th minute, Peters wasted a three-on-one situation with a poor final pass, while two minutes later, he inexplicably shot straight at Enil, after the custodian palmed away a Woodley shot. Enil, who doesn’t need an invitation to rush off his line or show his capabilities with the ball at his feet, saved his best act for last.
Cunupia were offered a lifeline in the 81st minute as referee Kwinsi Williams pointed to the spot when defender Justin Garcia clumsily bumped into Woodley.
“Wrap him up ‘Demon’, wrap him up ‘Demon’!” shouted Enil’s colleagues in the stands.
Enil lived up to the hype and effectively killed the contest as he sprawled away to his right, stopping Woodley’s low, well-struck penalty.
“Not this keeper boy!” the Defence Force posse cheered, as Enil received applause from spectators and teammates.
Not the most clinical Army exercise, but three points nevertheless.
And what did Andrews make of the abundant choices at his disposal?
“Let us say we have some talent and we’ll try to nurture it the best way we can.”
He was more outspoken on the value of the Ascension tournament though.
“For me, this tournament is a blessing because no football was being played. We have a football tournament the teams preparing for the Pro League could participate in and that’s great,” Andrews said. “This tournament could create an opportunity for players. It’s a gateway for the national team also because we have the CONCACAF Nation’s League coming up and we also have the World Cup qualifiers coming up.
“So, this football [tournament] will hopefully improve the chances of the [national team] based on the fact that the coach lamented the lack of football.”
They have not ascended just yet, but with some familiar and not-so-familiar faces, the Army have come to play Ascension.
Cunupia FC (4-4-1-1): 1.Cleon John (GK); 2.Kaleb Douglas (5.Dillon Charles 64), 3.Kadeem Graham, 18.Maestro Mensah, 15.Tevin Mungo; 11.Hakeem Legall (9.Gerald Meloney 61), 7.Stephen Julien, 22.Kristian Meloney (23.Darieon Bernard 90+4), 17.Domonique Roberts (10.Michael Yaw Darko 37); 13.Kevon Woodley (captain); 21.Mikheil Peters (6.Daniel La Croix 84).
Unused Substitutes: 13.Kevin Graham (GK), 24.Christopher Byng (GK), 4.Abraham Phillips, 8.Miguel Centeno, 16.Gershom Byng.
Coach: Michael De Four
Defence Force FC (4-1-4-1): 80.Aaron Enil (GK); 5.Jerome McIntyre, 17.Curtis Gonzales, 26.Justin Garcia, 13.Jules Lee; 27.Aaron Lester (45.Dylon King 65); 7.Jelani Felix, 10.Hashim Arcia, 99.Jerwyn Balthazar (captain) (30.Akil Morris 90), 18.Reon Moore (15.Shaquille Bertrand 84); 9.Devorn Jorsling (90.Jamile Boatswain 69).
Unused Substitutes: 2.Kevon Blackman, 14.Trevin Latapy, 24.Shaquille Holder, 32.Jameel Cooper, 37.Cassim Kellar.
Coach: Lloyd Andrews
Referee: Kwinsi Williams
Wired868 Man of the Match: Aaron Enil (Defence Force)
Ascension Invitational Tournament
Division One results
(Sun 14 Jul)
Cunupia FC 0, Defence Force FC 2 (Devorn Jorsling 31, Jerome McIntyre 73) at Larry Gomes Stadium.
(Sat 13 Jul)
Morvant Caledonia Utd 4 (Renaldo Francois 10, 40, Shem Clauzel 34, Johnny Brito 65), Prison Services 2 (Akeem Biddy-Bailey 57, Ricardo Alleyne 88) at YTC;
Matura Re-United 0, Club Sando 6 (Trevin Caesar 37, 49, 74, Keron Cornwall 50, Akinola Gregory 65, Neon Lammy 71) at Matura Recreation Ground;
(Fri 12 Jul)
Guaya Utd 2 (Keston Frontin 10, Shaquelle Ferrier 65), Police FC 1 (Christian Thomas 21) at Guaya;
FC Santa Rosa 0, QPCC 0 at Arima;
(Fri 19 Jul)
FC Santa Rosa v Cunupia FC, 8pm, Arima Velodrome;
(Sat 20 Jul)
Defence Force FC v Prison Service FC, 3.30pm, Larry Gomes Stadium;
Matura ReUnited v Guaya Utd, 4pm, Matura Recreation Ground;
(Sun 21 Jul)
Mv’t Caledonia Utd v Club Sando, 4pm, Mannie Ramjohn Stadium Training Field;
San Juan Jabloteh v Police FC, 4pm, San Juan North Secondary.
Editor’s Note: Click HERE for the Ascension Invitational Tournament home page.
And look out for Wired868’s half hour highlights show on Flow Sports at 8pm on Wednesday, as we review Guaya United’s 2-1 win over Police FC, talk to coaches Travis Mulraine and Richard Hood and hear from our in-house analyst, Terry Fenwick.
Ascension Invitational Tournament