Combine three domestic titles from four Finals and a third place finish in the League Championship this season—a best ever tally in the club's history—, now weigh its worth against competing in the CONCACAF Champions’ League.
Caledonia AIA, winners of the First Citizens Cup, the FA Trophy and the Lucozade Sport Goal Shield; and third place finishers in the Digicel Pro League Championship, just two points off the leaders W Connection(40 points) and one point behind runner-up T&TEC FC(39 points), would willingly trade it all for a place in the CONCACAF Champions’ League which begins at the end of July.
“The opportunity to play in the CONCACAF Champions’ League is our dream for some time now,” stated Caledonia Technical Director & Head Coach Jamaal Shabazz.
“Notwithstanding how well we have done this season, we have put all that behind us because the most important thing to us is to qualify to play against the big guns in CONCACAF.”
However the Morvant/Laventille based club can eat its cake and still have it, as the saying goes.
Caledonia qualified for the Caribbean Football Union(CFU) Club Championship which is also the Caribbean qualifying tournament for the CCL, and after receiving a first round bye along with fellow TT Pro League club W Connection and two-time defending champs Puerto Rico Islanders, all three advanced out of the second round group stage and are into the semi-final round along with Antigua Barracudas of the USL PRO division.
Caledonia and Barracudas are scheduled to take on eachother from 6pm at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium, Trinidad on Tuesday 19 June in the first match of a semi-final double header followed by four-time winners W Connection against Islanders from 8pm.
The two semi-final winners and the third place winner will automatically occupy three Caribbean spots in the 24-team CCL group stage.
The third place play-off and the Final of the Club Championship are scheduled for Thursday 21 June at the same Mannie Ramjohn Stadium with 6pm and 8pm kickoff times.
“We will play essentially the Antiguan national team under the guise of (USL team) Antigua Barracudas,” continued Shabazz who is also the head coach of Guyana’s Men’s National Senior Team.
“What makes the task for Caledonia even more daunting is the fact that Antigua is now coming off a credible draw with Jamaica in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.”
Meantime assistant coach Jerry Moe, who welcomed the presence of midfielder Densill Theobald back home following a successful stint with Indian League winners Dempo SC, is very confident of advancing into the CCL.
Moe said, “We are more focused on the game and what we have to do, rather than what they(Barracudas) did against Jamaica.
“Despite the fact that our local season is finished, our guys have been working hard and I think we have what it takes to advance as one of the three teams,” he added.
“Jerry Moe is the backbone of the Caledonia effort,” explained Shabazz who has been away on duty with the Guyanese National Team for World Cup final round qualifiers.
“In the last 10 years he(Moe) has never been late for one session and missed only two sessions in a decade, one of which to register his daughter's birth. With that type of commitment I am just a figurehead to guide and give advice.”
Caledonia welcomes the return of centre-backs Nuru Abdallah Muhammad and Radanfah Abu Bakr, Guyanese wingback Walter Moore and international teammate goalkeeper Ronson Williams; and boasts the new addition off T&T U23 goalie Glenroy Samuel.
In offence the Morvant/Laventille squad is equipped with T&T international Devorn Jorsling and T&T U23 teammates Jamal Gay and Tobagonian Trevin Caesar.
But conversely Shabazz’s roster remains without talented midfielder Ataulla Guerra and young Keda Roderick still recovering from injuries and would be heavily dependent on veteran Stephan David and striker converted midfielder Keyon Edwards.
W Connection coach Stuart Charles Fevrier also has injury concerns with young talents striker Shahdon Winchester, midfielder Andre Quashie and defender Joel Leslie Russell all expected to miss the semi-final round.