Jamaica int’l ‘keeper Ryan Thompson among fresh faces as Central FC look to historic Caribbean crowning

​Photo: Jamaica national team goalkeeper Ryan ‘Godda’ Thompson.
Expect a new-look Central FC when the two-time reigning champions attempt to rewrite history with a third straight Caribbean crown, and book a place in the newly reformatted 2018 Concacaf Champions League.

Jamaica national team goalkeeper Ryan “Godda” Thompson is one of twelve new (12) foreigners in an overall pool of twenty-nine (28) players assembled by Central ahead of the final round of the 2017 Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship in Trinidad from May 14 – 21 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.

But head coach Dale Saunders, who must trim his side to 20 for the Caribbean Club Championship final round, said he is confident his players “will do a good job” despite having to work with 17 new additions in recent weeks.

“We have some quality in the team mixed with the foreigners,” added the Central coach. “It wasn’t bad for us building with a new team. The foreign players came with the attitude to work hard for the team and they have gelled well.”

Central, who received a bye to the final round as title holders, occupy Group A against Antigua & Barbuda side Grenades FC (16 May, 8pm) and Dominica Republic outfit Cibao FC (18 May, 8pm), while fellow Trinidad and Tobago Pro League side San Juan Jabloteh must take on Haiti’s Racing FC (16 May, 5:30pm) and Jamaica outfit Portmore United (18 May, 5:30pm) in Group B.

The overall group winners will face each other in the Caribbean final on Sunday 21 May from 8pm, which will be preceded by the third-place game from 5pm between the second-placed team of the respective groups.

The Caribbean champions will earn automatic qualification into next season’s newly re-formatted Concacaf Champions League which commences in February 2018.

While the second, third and fourth place finishing teams in the CFU tournament will join 13 Central American teams in the Confederation’s newly launched club championship which kicks off in August. The overall champion team of the club championship for Caribbean and Central American clubs will also qualifying for next season’s Concacaf Champions League.

Last year Central became only the third team in the history of the Caribbean Club Championship, after Joe Public and Puerto Rico Islanders, to successfully defend the crown by prevailing over fellow Trinidadian side W Connection for a second consecutive time, but first under then promoted coach, Saunders.
​Flashback: Trinidad and Tobago Men's Senior Team coach Dennis Lawrence and TT Pro League general secretary Julia Baptiste presents Central FC captain Darren Mitchell with the 2016-17 Pro League crown.
Sean De Silva, Kaydion Gabriel, Jason Marcano, Johan Peltier, Keron Cummings, Nathaniel Garcia, Rondel Gibson, Keston George, Mickaeel Jem Gordon, Tyrik John and Guyana international goalkeeper Akel Clarke, who were members of Central’s historic Pro League three-peat-winning team last March, as well as new signings in Trinidad and Tobago international Carlos Edwards and T&T youth players Taryk Sampson and Jesse Joseph are all part of a pool of players assembled by Central for the duration of the Caribbean Club Championship final round.

Former T&T youth defender, Sean Bateau, 30, who has had recent stints in Thailand and the Philippines, has also joined the Couva-based club for the Caribbean campaign.

But Saunders’ final 20-man selection could have more an international look in the coming week with such players as 32-year-old Thompson, a former United States and Ireland-based shot-stopper, who had stints at Tampa Bay Rowdies, Pittsburgh Riverhounds and Shamrock Rovers among others.

Twenty-three year-old American midfielder Graham Smith, and 19-year-old rising Antigua and Barbuda international Vashami Allen are also among the list of foreigners including Jamaica’s Akeem Priestley and Haiti’s Fresnel Simil, Richard Pierre and John Charles, heaped up by Central.

“An agreement” with recently partnered Belgian amateur division side Patro Eisden Maasmechelen, according to Central operations director Kevin Harrison, allows Couva Sharks the services of six players.

Patro Eisden Maasmechelen, who currently employs Central forward Nicholas Dillon, has loaned the Couva Sharks Trinidadian midfielder Michael Kedman, 21, United Kingdom quartet of Lloyd Bannister, 21, Elliot Messam, 22, Clinton Olagunju, 30, and Callum Harris, 21, and Ghanaian Nuha Jabbi, 23 for the Caribbean Club Championship final round.

Harrison said that while most of the new players have been contracted with the view of the Caribbean final round, it is in the coaches’ discretion to assess who they think can be part of the upcoming Pro League 2017 season.

Central, the reigning Pro League champions and Defence Force, the Pro Bowl winners, will lift the curtain on the 2017 PL season in the Charity Shield on 26 May.

Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship 2017
Final Round
All matches will be contested at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Trinidad
(Sunday, May 14, 2017)
San Juan Jabloteh vs Racing FC—5:30pm (Group B)
Central FC vs Grenades FC—8pm (Group A)

(Tuesday, May 16, 2017)
Portmore United vs Racing FC—5:30pm (Group B)
Cibao vs Grenades—8pm (Group A)

(Thursday, May 18, 2017)
San Juan Jabloteh vs Portmore United—5:30pm (Group B)
Central FC vs Cibao—8pm (Group A)

(Sunday, May 21, 2017)
Third-place
Group A runners-up vs Group B runners-up—5pm
Final
Group A winners vs Group B winners—8pm