Jeffrey eager to roll out new Jabloteh signings in Caribbean finals, ahead of 2017 Pro League season

​Photo: San Juan Jabloteh midfielder Keithy Simpson prepares a strike during a 4-1 win over Club Sportif Moulien in the first round group stage of the 2017 Caribbean Club Championship at Victoria Park in Kingstown, St. Vincent on 10 Mar. 2017.

San Juan Jabloteh head coach Keith Jeffrey is excited to get the ball rolling again following a handful of new signings which he says will improve the combative spirit of his team.

Jeffrey will let loose his side in the final round of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship 2017—the qualifier tournament to the Concacaf Champions League—hosted at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Trinidad from May 14 – 21.

The San Juan Kings, who qualified for the final round by topping their first-round group play in St. Vincent last March, must take on Haiti’s Racing FC (14 May, 5:30pm) and Jamaica outfit Portmore United (18 May, 5:30pm) in Group B, while two-time reigning champions Central FC, who received a bye to the final round as holders, occupy Group A against Antigua & Barbuda side Grenades FC (14 May, 8pm) and Dominica Republic outfit Cibao FC (18 May, 8pm).

Jeffrey has added ex-Trinidad and Tobago international winger Hayden Tinto, ex-Morvant Caledonia United and Central FC striker Julio Noel, St. Ann’s Rangers defender Shakiyl Phillip, and Jose Centeno Parra to his roster.

Centeno, however, a 23-year-old Venezuelan midfielder, is awaiting his international transfer certificate (ITC) and will not be available for the Caribbean Club Championship final round.

The incoming players also meant the surprising exit for T&T international winger Tyrone Charles, striker Jamal Gay, midfielder Keyon Edwards and defender Aquil Selby, who were all part of the team’s third-place finish (29 points) in the Pro League last season behind champions Central FC (47) and runners-up W Connection (46).

“The gap between the top two teams and the third place in the (Pro) league last season meant some things needed to be changed if we are to try and close the gap in the new season,” said Jeffrey.

“We still have the nucleus of last season because we didn’t want to break the chemistry. But the changes are all part of the new direction in the style of play we want to achieve. And sometimes you need a different type of player for a different style of play.”

Although preferring to keep his cards close to his chest, Jeffrey promised a “more combative” team which he says can hopefully produce more goals.

Tinto, 31, a former Morvant Caledonia and Joe Public star, returned to the Pro League last season with North East Stars, while Noel, 24, has had a stint in the United States with Birmingham Hammers before returning to Trinidad in the lower leagues.

Jeffrey’s new quartet enters a Jabloteh squad that includes T&T international Carlyle Mitchell and 19-year-old Panama midfield talent, Jairo Lombardo, who both joined earlier this year.

Mitchell, due to a groin injury picked up in training with the T&T national team earlier this year, is yet to feature for Jeffrey’s side but could be available for the start of the team’s 2017 Pro League campaign in June.

Lombardo, meanwhile, was one of Jabloteh’s star performers along with T&T international Nathan Lewis, Guyana international Vurlon Mills and Jamaican Keithy Simpson during the Caribbean Club Championship first-round group play.

Jabloteh topped that group with wins over St. Maarten’s Flames United (9-0), Guadeloupe’s Club Sportif Moulien (4-1) and hosts System 3 Sporting Academy (1-0) to enter the final round as the seeded team of Group B in Trinidad where they must take on Racing FC of Haiti on 14 Mayand 2005 Caribbean champions Portmore United of Jamaica on 18 May.

The top team out of each final round group in Trinidad will contest Caribbean title match on May 21, with the champions earning automatic qualification into next season’s newly re-formatted Concacaf Champions League, which commences in February 2018.

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.

Jeffrey, who would be delighted with an all-Trinidad and Tobago Caribbean final on 21 May, said he is happy with the squad he has assembled for Caribbean final round and upcoming Pro League season.

The Jamaican duo of team captain Damian Williams and Adrian Reid have been retained along with Kadeem Corbin, Aaquil Campbell, Kennedy Hinkson, Elijah Manners, Kion Joseph, Jevon Morris, Akeem Benjamin, Josiah Trimmingham, Micah Lansiquot, Jabari Mayers, Lombardo, Mills, Lewis, Simpson and goalkeepers Javon Sample, Grenadian international Shemel Louison and Guyana international Andrew Durant.

Mayers and Durant, though, are not part of the 20-man squad for the Caribbean final round.

Jeffrey must do without the services of rising talent, striker Brent Sam, who is currently on loan at Portugal third division outfit SU1º Dezembro, talented fullback Keston Julien, who signed with Slovakia’s AS Trenčín, and T&T international Willis Plaza who joined India’s East Bengal earlier this year.

Speedy attacker Sean Bonval, meanwhile, is expected to be out of competition a further two months after undergoing knee surgery last April.

But Jeffrey, who recently tested his bunch in practice matches against Defence Force, “the hardest team to beat in the Pro League” according to the Jabloteh coach, said, “I am so happy with this team. I think I have put these players in the right positions and I am impressed with the contribution of the players in the practice matches we have had.

“Our focus now is the Caribbean final round but I am also excited for the new Pro League season. All the teams in the Pro League are tweaking. A lot of teams have brought in the right additions, coaching and players. It’s going to be exciting …no game will be an easy game. The new season will be the hardest in a long time.”

Pro League champions Central FC 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)
Group A runners-up vs Group B runners-up—5pm
Group A winners vs Group B winners—8pm