Applauding the 2012-2013 Digicel Pro League champions Defence Force

Applauding the 2012-2013 Digicel Pro League champions Defence ForceLike it or not, Defence Force are the 2012-2013 Digicel Pro League champions and there must be something extraordinary about the soldiers, having won the title twice in the last three seasons.

Is it ‘goalden’ boy Devorn Jorsling… or no nonsense skipper and right-back Corey Rivers… or the levelheadedness of Kevin Graham between the uprights… or rising defensive talent Rodell Elcock… or the quickness of winger Kevon Carter… or the stocky services of attacker Richard Roy… or flank prospects Jemel Sebro and Ross Russell Jr. …or even the silky moves of midfielder Jerwyn Balthazar?

Or is it the gelled coaching combination of Head Coach Ross Russell and assistant coach Marvin that have led the club to a title every season since taking up the coaching posts in 2009?

Whatever the conclusion, Defence Force, winners of the League title in 2010-2011, claimed the title again this season. And who knows what would have happened, had there not been a Trinidad and Tobago Government issued State of Emergency in 2011 between September and December which resulted in the soldiers entering last season’s (2011-2012) competition late and without preparation.

Even after an abysmal performance on Monday night against last season’s League winners DIRECTV W Connection in their penultimate match, Defence Force, 43 points at the top, were the champions.

Led by a superb 18 year old Neil Benjamin second half hat-trick and capped off by another teenager Alvin Jones strike, third positioned Connection (35 points) flattened the soldiers 4-0 in the first match of the Round Three Match Day Six double header at the Ato Boldon Stadium.

But by 9:50pm, following the second match at the Couva venue, second positioned Caledonia (39 points) and the only club behind Army with a chance at the title, saw its mathematical chance disintegrate with a 2-1 loss against fifth positioned Central FC (30 points). Rundell Winchester the scorer of both Central items.

“First of all I think we have to give God thanks and praise for winning the League for the second time in the last three seasons,” said Gordon, who along with Russell, now have the 2009 First Citizens Cup, the 2010-2011 League title, the 2011-2012 season Digicel Pro Bowl and now the 2012-2013 League title under their belts.

The Army assistant coach added, “Our players were brilliant throughout the season and they should be given credit for winning the League, because it was the priority for us this season.

“Our guys have worked, game in, game out, and when I look at our results, I think the last time we suffered defeat in the League before last night (against Connection) was against North East Stars (1-0) in March, and the only other time was in October [against Caledonia 4-2].”

Thirteen wins, four draws and just three defeats, Defence Force leads the standings untouchable by four points ahead of Friday’s final League match day—Round Three Match Day Seven.

“It was a great achievement especially from the staff and players,” continued Gordon. “People see us playing football, but the guys have their regular [soldier] duties as well.  So I think the staff and players were brilliant throughout the League.”

Commenting on Monday night’s losing performance, Gordon said, “Honestly I thought we didn’t show up. I don’t know what happened. Maybe the thought of winning the League had some sort of negative effect our players. But W Connection were brilliant and as coaches we must accept the truth when another team played really well. I believe W Connection found a good run of form playing in the CFU qualifiers to the CONCACAF Champions’ League while our players were dead flat.”

Prior to Monday’s defeat, Defence Force’s last match was a 5-4 penalty defeat against North East Stars following a 1-1 draw in the semi-final round of the Lucozade Sport Goal Shield on April 20—exactly 17 days before—while Connection picked up a rich form in the last month with a flow of competitive matches.

The Connection football club was involved in the Caribbean qualifiers to the CONCACAF Champions’ League and successfully qualified ahead of Caledonia and Antigua and Barbuda club Barracuda FC a week ago. Connection’s recent form also landed the club the Lucozade Sport Goal Shield title by defeating North East Stars 4-3 on penalties following a goalless draw in the Final last Friday.

Connection remains chased by the Stars, also with 35 points, for a third position League finish this season. Connection will take on Police FC and Stars against Central, simultaneously from 6pm at the Ato Boldon and Marvin Lee Stadiums respectively in Round Three Match Day Seven on Friday.

This season’s League runners up Caledonia will close off their campaign against seventh positioned St. Ann’s Rangers (13 points) from 8pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium, and simultaneously at the Marvin Lee Stadium, Defence Force will look to finish on a high against bottom of the table T&TEC FC (8 points).

“We would seed a good enough team to win the game on Friday [against T&TEC],” assured Gordon. “It’s always good to win your last game going into a knockout competition. We have to defend our Digicel Pro Bowl title later this month. So we will take the opportunity on Friday to give a few of our players that haven’t been playing regularly, the opportunity to run out.”

With a roster inclusive of Toyota/TT Pro League Players of the Years 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, Jorsling and Roy respectively, Curtis Gonzales, Keston Williams, Devin Jordan, Carter, Glynn Franklyn, Marvin Jones, Josimar Belgrave, Rivers, Balthazar, Kerry Joseph, Russell Jr., Sean Narcis, Dexter Pacheco, Elcock, Aklie Edwards, Ronald St. Louis, Christon Baptiste, Jahvon Neptune, Sebro, Dwight Scott, Anton Joseph, Balondemu Julius and goalkeepers Graham and Sheldon Clarke, it’s tricky to assume the starting line-up on Friday.

Upcoming matches
Digicel Pro League Championship
Round Three Match Day Seven
Friday 8 May 2013
Ato Boldon Stadium
Police FC vs W Connection—6pm
Caledonia AIA vs St. Ann’s Rangers—8pm

Marvin Lee Stadium
North East Stars vs Central FC—6pm
Defence Force vs T&TEC FC—8pm