U.S. midfielder Ralph Lundy pledges to excite Pro League

Caledonia AIA midfielders Ralph Lundy (left) and Jameel Neptune, flanks general manager Ricarda Nelson, as they proudly display thier team jerseys

Caledonia AIA new-boy Ralph Lundy III is promising something new and exciting to the Trinidad and Tobago Pro League. And it has nothing to do with the fact that he is one of the few Americans to ever play professionally in the twin-island.

The 23-year-old Lundy, yet to make his mark anywhere professionally, said, “I can bring some excitement and something that people aren't accustomed to seeing on a regular basis.

“I think my skills set is with my distribution and creating chances to go to goal—my vision—that's definitely apart from players down here.”

Lundy is a former teammate of T&T and recently signed Central FC midfielder Sean de Silva at the College of Charleston, where his father Ralph Lundy II, continues to serve as the long-standing and very successful coach, isn’t a stranger to the twin-island.

Unknown to most, Lundy has very close ties to T&T. Ever since his junior years he would frequently visit Tobago – the island of his parents’ honeymoon – where he would train under his father’s friend and former T&T head coach, Bertille St. Clair, at the Bertille St. Clair Coaching School.

St. Clair and present T&T technical director Anton Corneal both served Lundy’s father’s at his Ralph Lundy Soccer Academy Summer Camp in the past, and well before that, Corneal and Kestor Lendor, president of Super League club Real Maracas, both played under Ralph Lundy II. while attending Erskine College and College of Charleston, respectively.

“Literally (St. Clair) raised me in soccer and I have to credit him a lot in terms of my soccer. Both him and Anton Corneal had a massive role in my soccer development,” said Lundy III.

Years later, and out of college, Lundy joined United Soccer League (USL) Professional Division side Charleston Battery on trial during the 2013 pre-season and unluckily suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). He was side-lined for seven months following surgery, and today credits Greg Banks, athletics trainer for the U.S. Women's National Team and U.S. Soccer Federation,  for his successful recovery.

Lundy arrived in Trinidad last November on the invitation of Real Maracas' Lendor, but explained, “I got the opportunity to train with Caledonia and coach Jamaal (Shabazz) thought I can make a difference in his team.”

“He would certainly add some colour to the team,” said the riveting Shabazz. “His ability to play the ball to the back of defences is something that we need in the team. And for him to choose to play with us, has humbled us tremendously… that Caledonia could attract players of different races. Who knows… very soon the nephew of Sat Maharaj—the secretary general of the major Hindu organisation in T&T the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha—will come to our team."

Shabazz in his efforts to inject new blood – a rebuilding attempt – in a team that is suffering the effects of wear-and-tear have included midfielders Jameel “Shooter” Neptune, 20, Guyanese Pernell Schultz, 19, Dylon King, 20, Vincentian Nical Stephens, 21; St Lucian defender Otev Lawrence, 17; and forwards St Lucian Lester Joseph, 20, Grenadian Denron Frederick, 24, and veteran Conrod Smith returning from a short stint at St. Ann’s Rangers.

Jamaican goalkeeper Kevin Graham, 30, also returned during the December/January while 21-year-old goalkeeper Jesse Peters was snapped up.

“We focused a lot on youth because we are at a rebuilding stage,” explained Shabazz. “We’ve got to keep an eye on the club with regards to (veteran players) Abdallah Phillips and Stephan David.”

Shabazz singled out former Central FC and Malabar FC midfielder Neptune as player with promising talent.

The Caledonia head coach said, “I think in the case of Jameel ‘Shooter’ Neptune, it’s only natural that a ‘shooter’ will want to come to Morvant/Laventille. But this is a ‘shooter’ with a difference. He is a very talented footballer, good head on his shoulders, and I think he will be the future shock of the local game.

“I followed him closely in the Super League with Malabar and I think once he works hard, he will bring a lot to the table.

“As for our signings from other islands, we have a commitment to our Caribbean neighbours in the same way we see the development of youths in Morvant/Laventille. It’s the same development we want for the youths of Georgetown (Guyana), Casties (St Lucia) and Kingstown (St Vincent). Ideologically, Caledonia AIA is about one Caribbean people. We are the West Indies.”

Caledonia, winners of the 2012 Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship and last season’s Digicel Pro League runners-up behind champions Defence Force, will vie for a third consecutive Concacaf Champions League appearance in Caribbean qualifiers which runs from February 19 – 26.

“It’s one of the biggest reasons why I'm here,” said Lundy, who is signed on a short-term contract, with an option to renew. “It's a big opportunity (for players to play in the Concacaf Champions League)... one that doesn't come around to every player.”

But domestically Caledonia are in desperate need of points, sitting sixth on the nine-team Pro League table with 14 points, just as fifth positioned Central FC, and a miserable 3:5:3 record.

Ahead of them are Point Fortin Civic, North East Stars and Police FC, all with 17 points, while undefeated runaway leaders DIRECTV W Connection enjoys a 15-point lead with 32 points.

Caledonia next faces cross-town rivals and eight positioned San Juan Jabloteh from 8 pm on Friday at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, following a 6 pm clash between Police FC and Central FC.

“I’m hoping that we can find our feet and climb the table,” Lundy said. (…)and put some pressure on Connection because they are on cruise control.”

Connection meanwhile will travel to the Mahaica Oval on Saturday to tackle home side Point Fortin Civic from 3.30 pm in the Round Two Match Day Five top of the table clash.