Ex-T&T U20 W/C defender Uriah Bentick joins CONCACAF Champions League-ambitious Central FC

Central FC head coach Zoran Vranes, right, unveils new signing, defender Uriah Bentick, at the club’s office in Couva.

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Central FC have snapped up the services of former Trinidad and Tobago Under-20 World Cup defender Uriah Bentick, pending Pro League registration, the club’s first acquisition for the January transfer window, which commenced today, and promises more to come.

The 25-year-old Laventille footballer and former St. Anthony’s College star joins former youth national teammates Leston Paul, Sean de Silva, Qian Grosvenor and Jean-Luc Rochford at the “Couva Sharks”, as well as coach Zoran Vranes.

All five players were part of Vranes’ side when the Serb qualified the T&T U20s to the 2009 FIFA World Cup in Egypt.

“It’s great to be able to bring players of Uriah’s caliber into the Pro League,” said Vranes, who also had coaching stints with the Trinidad and Tobago Men’s Senior Team. “It’s extra special for me as he (Bentick) was a key element of my Under 20 squad which performed so well in 2009.”

Bentick, who also represented T&T at the Under 17 and Under 23 levels, last represented North American Soccer League (NASL) outfit Carolina RailHawks during the 2014 season and joins Central on a 6-month agreement with the option to renew.

In 2013, Bentick was a supplemental draft pick by Major League Soccer (MLS) club Philadelphia Union but failed to secure a contract.

Bentick, who had completed his studies at Liberty University in Virginia, where he represented the Liberty Flames for 4 years, then went on to represent United Soccer League (USL) Pro club Wilmington Hammerheads for the 2013 season.

The 6-foot-plus defender has been described as having “the tools to become a good defender” and “won’t be beat for strength”, according to MLS.com.

“Uriah is a big, strong, naturally left footed defender,” said Central FC managing director Brent Sancho.

The ex-Trinidad and Tobago defender and 2006 World Cup player continued, “Signing him (Bentick) is a continuation of our policy of tracking down excellent T&T footballers who are overseas and have never played in the Pro League.

Sancho added that Bentick is only one of several signings Central FC will make during the mid-season window, which commenced on January 6 and closes at 3pm on January 31.

“We are constantly working to raise the overall quality of our squad,” said the Central FC managing director. “We will see the return of Willis Plaza and Rundell Winchester and we have several foreign internationals on trial with us. It may seem ambitious, but we are building a squad strong enough to compete in the CONCACAF Champions League in August. That’s not to say that we are arrogant or over confident about progressing from the CFU Club Championships, but if we do, we must be prepared for the next challenge.”

Central FC, last season’s Digicel Pro League runners-up, and champions DIRECTV W Connection, will begin qualification towards next season’s CONCACAF Champions League when they tackle the rest of the Caribbean, beginning in February, in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship.

“The Pro League is improving and most teams are very hard to beat,” Sancho said. “This sometimes gives the impression that the Pro League is not of good quality. But, in fact, it’s the opposite. The competition in T&T is tough and the season is a battle of attrition. This helps to build strong squads which are essential when competing overseas.”

Central are hoping to formalize new deals with former forwards Willis Plaza and Rundell Winchester this week, pending International Transfer Certificates (ITC).

Both players have both been out of competitive action in recent months since returning to Trinidad from Belgium lower division outfit CS Visé.

During the Christmas break the “Couva Sharks” have parted ways with Argentine midfielder Miguel Romeo Liberia but plans to make a couple new international signings within the coming week.

However the club remains committed to its philosophy of creating opportunities for local players while building a formidable team.

Sancho explained that while Central’s first intentions when signing players are to increase the standard of the squad and win trophies, there are additional benefits for the club and the Trinidad and Tobago national team.

In the case of Bentick, Sancho said, “Obviously, Central FC would be happy to find Uriah a club overseas to further develop his career. But also, Stephen Hart (Trinidad and Tobago Senior Team coach) does not get the opportunity to see Trini players overseas play week in week out. So by bringing these boys home we can help to increase the talent pool available to Stephen. I am very confident that Uriah will soon be forcing his way into Stephen’s plans.

“Just like Yohance Marshall last season, we hope that Stephen Hart will get lots of opportunities to see Uriah play and bring him into the national squad.”

Sancho also believes that a good performance in the Pro League and the Caribbean Club Championship will add value to Bentick and may attract transfer fees to the club.

“Of course, a professional football club must develop an income from player sales. Youth development is so difficult in T&T with players frequently slowing their development by returning to school football. However, our policy of bringing home players from outside of T&T could reap rewards. Even if we let the player go for free, we are still building the Central FC and T&T brands overseas.”