Defence Force (22 points) maintained their slender one-point lead in Division One of the Ascension Invitational Tournament yesterday, as they eased to a 3-1 victory over FC Santa Rosa at the Hasely Crawford Stadium training field.
Meanwhile, in Guayaguayare, Morvant Caledonia AIA (21 points) stayed hot on the heels of the table-toppers as they eked out a 2-1 victory over hosts Guaya United, thanks to goals by Guyanese attacker Sheldon Holder and midfield schemer Kerry Daniel.
On Wednesday, ‘Cale’ and the troopers from Defence Force will put their unbeaten records on the line when they square off in a match that is being considered a ‘championship decider’ by Army coach Lloyd Andrews. The match venue and kick-off time are still to be confirmed by the Ascension administrators, but Cale, coached by the wily Jerry Moe, should give Andrews’ troopers a good run for their money.
Yesterday in Mucurapo, Rosa, the Trinidad and Tobago Super League’s (TTSL) 2016 and 2018 victors, resisted the potent Army/Coast Guard combination for 43 minutes with a stubborn and cohesive defensive effort. However, veteran attacker Devorn Jorsling broke that resistance when, on the stroke of halftime, he converted from the penalty spot after a poor kick out by Rosa and Soca Warriors goalkeeper Marvin Phillip was compounded by a silly foul by left back Osei Sandy.
It appeared to be straw that broke the camel’s back.
Rosa limited their hosts’ attacking threats for much of the first half by sitting deep and working overtime to cut out link-up passes involving the likes of Jorsling and midfielders Hashim Arcia and Jameel Cooper. But they seemed to fall asleep at the start of the second.
“First of all, we tried to play a tactical game. This is the best team in the tournament and one of the best, if not the best team in the country,” Santa Rosa technical director Keith Look Loy told Wired868. “And therefore we couldn’t come and play our normal game. We tried to play a tactical game and we held them down for 43 minutes and frustrated them.”
Three minutes into the second half, Rosa’s diligent work was effectively undone as Defence Force’s impressive right back Jerome McIntyre ghosted in at the back post to kiss an in-swinging corner from flanker Jelani Felix off the post and into the back of the net.
With a businesslike Defence Force looking to further stamp their authority on the contest, Look Loy strove to curb his team’s enthusiasm from the technical area.
“At that time, the boys wanted to start coaching,” Look Loy said. “They wanted to start chasing the ball all over the pitch, which would have resulted in—I think—a beating. So I had to restrain them and continue applying the tactics. And again, we had our moments.”
While Look Loy and his players mulled over which approach they should take, the hosts increased their own intensity of play, operating like a well-oiled machine in the second half. Arcia and fellow midfielder Aaron Lester moved the ball with much more precision, while Curtis ‘Boyo’ Gonzales did not hesitate to spray long diagonals into the channels.
“The first half was not good at all, according to our standards. And everyone that plays us now is looking to park a bus,” Andrews said. “[Opposing teams] leave us with the ball in our own half of the field and they fall back. But sometimes what they do is that they create a bit more pressure on themselves because the counter-attack doesn’t always work for the 90 minutes.
“Thus far it hasn’t been working for the 90 minutes against us because what we do in the second half is turn up the intensity and create a mobility in the middle of the park and down the sides.”
Nineteen-year-old Santa Rosa right back, Nykoaba James, could certainly attest to that. Defence Force attacked with much vigour down the left in the second half, often exploiting a one-on-one battle between James and Army winger Darius Olliviera. Let’s just say that the former St Augustine Secondary defender had seen better days.
“If something is working for you, why change it?” Andrews said of his team’s use of Olliviera in the second half. “If ah man is going down the left, and nine out of 10 times he’s getting past the wing back, then there’s no need to change it because that’s what you want.”
Olliviera brought a fine save out of Phillip after eluding James and another defender in the 50th minute. He was also involved in a sweet move down the left, which remarkably concluded with the lanky substitute, Brent Sam, squandering a glorious chance from close range.
Olliviera eventually got his reward with a well-taken solo item in the 75th minute, as he tricked his way past James for the umpteenth time before sending a low, right-footed drive past the hapless dive of Phillip. It was as though the Defence Force wide man was having an evening stroll on Macqueripe Bay, causing a couple of Rosa players to start pointing fingers at each other.
“Mark yuh [expletive] man nah boy!” Rosa substitute Kevon Cornwall bellowed to winger Julio Noel for seemingly leaving James on an island to defend Olliviera. “Whole game yuh doing that boy.”
“Don’t [expletive] call me!” Noel retorted. “You could cuss all you want, but just don’t call my name.”
A frustrated Noel was taken off soon after his fiery exchange with Cornwall. But Look Loy said that it was all part of the growing pains for his relatively new group.
“I think it was a useful exercise for a new team like ours, now getting players to bed,” Look Loy said. “We’re pleased with the performance even if the result didn’t go our way […] this is the toughest match we have played in the tournament and the toughest match that Santa Rosa has played in two years. This was a step up for our boys and I must say thanks to the Defence Force for that.”
Look Loy added: “This is a great opportunity for Santa Rosa to play against Pro League sides. This is a higher level and we welcome that. We don’t mind if we lose because this is the bonus season and there’s no relegation. We may not win prize money, but the players will grow, the team will grow and, therefore, the club will grow.”
Despite being on the back foot for much of the second half, Rosa did manage to get a consolation item in the 85th minute when, after playmaker John-Paul Rochford served up a delicious set piece from the left, Sandy slid in an effort past Army custodian Aaron Enill. Again, Rochford’s performance was encouraging. His passing and crossing were precise, and he seemed like the lone Rosa player capable of threatening the Army rear guard.
“I said after the last game against Guaya that this is a boy we’re very proud of, and he’ll go on to do great things for himself and Trinidad and Tobago if given the opportunity at international level,” Look Loy said.
Rochford’s guile and positive intent were not enough to penetrate the Ascension leaders on the night, though.
On Wednesday, Defence Force will look to show off their formidability once more when they tackle Caledonia, who have registered seven straight wins in the tournament thus far.
“Wednesday is the big decider,” Andrews said. “I haven’t seen any of their matches to date, but basically what we have to do is play our game. We won’t sit down and study what Cale doing and what Cale not doing. We have to focus on our own game.”
With club captain, Jerwyn Balthazar, facing a race against time to get fit ahead of the Caledonia clash, Andrews could also be concerned about the availability of the lethal Jorsling, whose contribution in last night’s encounter was his sweetly-taken first-half penalty.
“It’s too early to say [if Jorsling would be fit for the Caeldonia match], but there are ample replacements,” Andrews said. “It’s difficult when somebody’s scoring goals to put them on the bench, regardless of age.”
With young, promising attackers such as Arcia, Felix, Olliviera and Sam at Andrews’ disposal, coach Moe could be certain that the Army battalion are going to attack with full force come Wednesday evening.
Defence Force (4-1-4-1): 80.Aaron Enill (GK); 5.Jerome McIntyre, 14.Trevin Latapy, 17.Curtis Gonzales, 26.Justin Garcia; 27.Aaron Lester; 22.Darius Olliviera (18.Reon Moore 76), 10.Hashim Arcia (15.Shaquille Bertrand 82), 32.Jameel Cooper (16.Kellon Serrette 85), 7.Jelani Felix (8.Brent Sam 63); 9.Devorn Jorsling (captain) (11.Dwight Quintero 46).
Unused Substitutes: 25.Sheldon Clarke (GK), 6.Rodell Elcock, 13.Jules Lee, 24.Shaquille Holder, 37.Cassim Kellar.
Coach: Lloyd Andrews
FC Santa Rosa (4-3-3): Marvin Phillip (GK); 2.Nykoaba James, 19.Jesse Reyes (captain) (25.Shakiyl Phillip 83), 18.Damani Richards, 15.Osei Sandy; 21.Durwin Ross, 12.Shaka Pilgrim, 11.Rivaldo Coryat (6.Kadeem Riley 67); 24.Julio Noel (14.Giovanni Abraham 78), 17.Russel Alfred (9.Kevon Cornwall 56), 23.John-Paul Rochford.
Unused Substitutes: 22.Joel Johnson (GK), 5.Alfie James.
Coach: Keith Look Loy
Referee: Crystal Sobers
Wired868 Man of the Match: Darius Olliviera (Defence Force)
Division One results
(Sunday 1 September)
Defence Force 3 (Devorn Jorsling 45 pen, Jerome McIntyre 48, Darius Olliviera 75), FC Santa Rosa 1 (Osei Sandy 85) at Hasely Crawford training field;
Cunupia FC 4 (Kevon Woodley 6, 56, 90+2, Mekheil Peters 47), Prisons FC 0 at Larry Gomes Stadium;
Police FC 1 (Adriel Kerr 52), QPCC 1 (Ronaldo Jacob 66) at Hasely Crawford Stadium training field;
Matura Re United 1 (Gerald Meloney 26), San Juan Jabloteh 3 (Kadeem Hutchinson 5, Shaquille John 36, Elair Brewster 63) at Matura Recreation Ground;
Guaya United 1 (Renaldo McIntosh 25), Morvant Caledonia AIA 2 (Sheldon Holder 11, Kerry Daniel 50 pen) at Guayaguayare.
Division Two results
(Sunday 1 September)
Deportivo PF 7 (Adan Noel 23, 42, Jeremiah Kesar 37, 70, 75, 87, Akeem Redhead 69), Bethel United 2 (Andel Noray 6, 62) at Mahaica Oval, Point Fortin;
Erin FC 0, UTT FC 1 (Che Benny 40) at Erin Recreation Ground;
Harlem Strikers 4 (Victor De Silva 51, 90+2, Corie Dhanoolal 72, Andell Allsop 83), Police FC 0 at Frederick Settlement Ground;
Marabella FCC 1 (Stephan Campbell 68), Petit Valley/D’go Martin Utd 0 at Marabella Recreation Ground;
Moruga FC 2 (Kevin John 62, Kervelle Turner 86), Club Sando Uprising Yths 2 (Shavon Daniel Diaz 23, Kendell Davis 52) at Grand Chemin Recreation Ground.
RSSR FC vs San F’do Giants, 4pm, Dibe Recreational Ground, Long Circular;
(Wednesday 4 September)
Terminix La Horquetta Rangers v Prisons FC, 6pm, Phase Two La Horquetta Recreation Ground;
(Friday 6 September)
FC Santa Rosa v San Juan Jabloteh, 8pm, Arima Velodrome;
(Saturday 7 September)
Guaya United v QPCC FC, 6pm, Guayaguayare;
Terminix La Horquetta Rangers v Morvant Caledonia AIA, 6pm, Phase Two La Horquetta Recreation Ground;
(Sunday 8 September)
Club Sando v Defence Force, 4pm, Mannie Ramjohn Stadium;
Prisons FC v Police FC, 4pm, YTC, Arouca;
Cunupia FC v Matura ReUnited, 3.30pm, Larry Gomes Stadium.
Ascension Invitational Standings