Central FC ready to take points bite on Guatemala’s Comunicaciones

Photo: Central FC midfielder Darren Mitchell shields the ball during action against LA Galaxy at the Stubhub Centre in Los Angeles in their opening group match of the 2015/2016 Concacaf Champions League.
Wednesday 26 August 2015

Central FC, the reigning Caribbean Club champions, are chasing maximum three points when they tackle CSD Comunicaciones from 8 pm (10 pm TT time) on Thursday at the Cementos Progresso Stadium in Guatemala City, Guatemala in Group D action of the 2015/2016 Concacaf Champions League.

Comunicaciones, a 66-year-old club, stands as one of the most popular and successful clubs in Guatemala football, winning 30 national championships, including six consecutive titles, the most of any Guatemala club.

One of the “classical world” clubs according to FIFA, something only six Central American clubs have been, and even the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) recognises Comunicaciones as the second best club in the twentieth century CONCACAF.

“The Creams”, their nickname, stands as the only Guatemalan club to have played against Real Madrid (with Francisco Gento, Ferenc Puskás, Alfredo Di Stéfano), Santos FC (with Pelé), and Boca Juniors (with Diego Maradona), and are currently the Guatemala Major League A Division 2015 Clausura champions.

Meanwhile the highest profile opponents of Central FC, a club that’s just three years old, happens to be the Major League Soccer (MLS)’s LA Galaxy. Galaxy hammered the “Couva Sharks” 5-1 on August 4 at the Stubhub Centre in Los Angeles in their opening group match of the 2015/2016 CCL without the use of Ireland international and captain Robbie Keane and star summer signing Steven Gerrard, a former England and Liverpool captain.

Galaxy, who also defeated Comunicaciones 5-0 on August 18 at the Stubhub Centre, leads Group D of the CCL with 6 points while Central and “The Creams” sit without points on the three-team group.

Central, who must later host Comunicaciones on September 17 and Galaxy on September 23 – both matches at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Trinidad –, won six domestic titles and the Caribbean crown last season, including the 2014/2015 Digicel Pro League championship.

But at present the “Couva Sharks” are out of season for the last three months, while Comunicaciones and Galaxy are well into their respective domestic seasons.

“We had a number of complications in our opening match against Galaxy,” explained Anthony Rogier, Central FC Football Operations Manager.

“We had our new coach Ross Russell coming into the team late because of his duties with the (Trinidad and Tobago) Women’s Team. Goalkeeper Jan (Michael Williams) wasn’t fully fit due to an injury picked up in the (CONCACAF) Gold Cup with the (T&T) national team. Also, we are not in season domestically while Galaxy are full into their season.

“But now we have to say we have a good opportunity to put some pressure on Galaxy by defeating Comunicaciones in the upcoming matches. We had the opportunity to see them (Comunicaciones) play and know what we are against. We had a lot more time to prepare. We are aware that football cannot be predicted but preparation is everything. Our goal is to stay in the competition and on Thursday we are about trying to represent Trinidad and Tobago at best in Guatemala.”

However, Rougier, a former European based footballer and Trinidad and Tobago utility player and captain, knows that although optimisms are high, realistically, the task ahead is no easy one.

“We have a lot of challenges. For instance, the surface (at the Cementos Progresso Stadium) is astro (artificial) turf and we mainly play on grass in Trinidad. Also the match is at the night when it is chilly in Guatemala and Comunicaciones are saying that we can only train at the venue from 4 pm. This time is really humid and nothing to what we are going to experience during the game.”

It will be a cold night for Central with rainfall expected in Guatemala City and temperatures expected between 21-20ºC during match-time. But things can get really chilly for Central if Comunicaciones can fill to near capacity the 17,022-seater Cementos Progresso Stadium.

Central arrived in Guatemala City on Monday afternoon with a 19-man squad that doesn’t include midfielders Jason Marcano and Sean de Silva, who were part of Russell’s team in the defeat to Galaxy.

Marcano is said to be unfit due to recent illness and De Silva, a former T&T Youth World Cup player is out with a level 2 groin tear.

The squad based at the Hilton Garden Inn, Guatemala City, includes Jan-Michael Williams, star veteran midfielder Marvin Oliver, who turned 40 earlier this month, Ataulla Guerra, Willis Plaza, Jamal Jack, Kaydion Gabriel, Darren Mitchell, Marcelle Francois, Nicholas Dillon, Akeem Benjamin, Keion Goodridge, Kevon Villaroel, Elton John, Nathaniel Garcia and Guyana national team goalkeeper Akel Clarke along with new signings Marcus Joseph and Ettienne from Point Fortin Civic, veteran attacker and Kerry Baptiste from San Juan Jabloteh, and ex W Connection and Caledonia forward, Tobagonian, Mickaeel Jem Gordon.

Central FC’s technical and management staff in Guatemala includes head coach Ross Russell, assistant coach Dale Saunders, physiotherapist Sheldon Scipio, equipment manager David Moses, football operations manager Anthony Rogier, assistant football operations manager Kevin Jeffrey, and marketing manager Derick Khan.