W Connection ready for Caribbean challenge, eyes Concacaf qualification

File photo: W Connection’s starting line-up against hosts Pumas UNAM in Mexico City, Mexico during the 2016-17 Concacaf Champions League.

Stuart Charles Fevrier, on the heels of his team’s opening game of the 2018 Concacaf Caribbean Club Championship, said Trinidad and Tobago Pro League clubs W Connection and Central FC “have a responsibility to go out there and try to bring some joy to the country where football is concerned.”

Connection, the multiple-time former Caribbean champions, are hosts of Group A where they must take on Haiti’s Real Hope (Jan. 31), Jamaica’s Arnett Gardens (Feb. 2) and Dominican Republic’s Club Atletico Pantoja (Feb. 4) at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.

Central, back-to-back champions of 2015 and 2016, meanwhile, are to travel to the Dominican Republic a week later against Jamaica’s Portmore United (Feb. 7), Haiti’s Racing FC (Feb. 9) and host club Atlantico FC in Group B at Estadio Cibao in Santiago.

Fevrier, Connection’s longstanding technical director/head coach, reminded, “Anytime you are competing at this level it’s not just about ourselves or the club.”

The top two team from each group will progress to the Caribbean final round in May—which consists of the semi-final and final stages—while automatically earning spots on the Concacaf stage.

The overall Caribbean champions will earn region’s automatic spot at the Concacaf Champions League while the second, third and fourth-place finishers will compete at the Concacaf League for Central American and Caribbean clubs.

“The Concacaf Champions League is our version of the (UEFA) Champions League and the Concacaf League is like the (UEFA) Europa League,” the Connection coach said.

“Once we qualify for the next round we have more international football to play, and that’s the objective. We believe we have a good chance as any team to qualify for the final round and we are positive about it. We are very happy that we have the opportunity to progress to a higher level.

“It’s always important to do well at this stage. We would like to play the game at the highest level and we definitely want to succeed for the benefit of the club but more so for the players because of the short life-span as a professional footballer. We want them to do well and create bigger opportunities for themselves.”

Connection, runners-up to rivals Central in 2015 and 2016, stands the most successful club of the new era having won the Caribbean crown outright in 2006 and 2009 and were joint winners in 2001, 2002 and 2013 when no final rounds were contested.

Despite being without last season’s Pro League top scorer Neil Benjamin Jr who joined Vietnam top-flight outfit Nam Dinh FC, Fevrier promised a formidable outfit.

Connection’s twenty-man squad for the group stage includes new signing in former Trinidad and Tobago Under-20 star Kadeem Corbin who will reunite with his former national youth teammates Kevon Goddard, Akeem Garcia and Jesus Perez.

Goddard and Garcia are back at Connection after helping North East Stars hold off the Savonetta Boys to the 2017 Pro League crown, while Perez has returned following a loan spell at San Juan Jabloteh.

Connection have also welcomed back Kurt Frederick after the talented left full-back’s loan stint at Costa Rica’s Alajuelense. Frederick’s experience will combine with that of goalkeeper Julani Archibald, veteran defender Gerard Williams, and forwards Marcus Joseph and Dimitri Apai.

Kennedy Hinkson, meanwhile, stands a surprise signing by Fevrier. But the 31-year-old ex-North East Stars and San Juan Jabloteh utility player – a past member of Connection’s youth system – could add depth to a side also equipped young talents in Isaiah Garcia and another youth product Jevaughn Humphrey along with new addition in former Shiva Boys College winger Quinn Rodney.

The Trinidadian-born Hinkson recently swapped the red-white-and-black making his debut for Grenada last year.

W Connection’s Concacaf Caribbean Club Championship 2018 Group stage squad
Goalkeepers: Julani Archibald and Jason Belfon;
Defenders: Kurt Frederick, Triston Hodge, Briel Thomas, Ronell Paul and Jesus Perez;
Midfielders: Kevon Goddard, Jameel Antoine, Kadeem Corbin, Kennedy Hinkson, Isaiah Garcia, Shaquille John and Quinn Rodney;
Forwards: Akeem Garcia, Dimitri Apai, Marcus Joseph and Jevaughn Humphrey.

2018 CONCACAF Caribbean Club Championship First Round Schedule

Group A (Trinidad)
Wednesday, January 31, 2018        
Club Atletico Pantoja (DOM) v Arnett Gardens FC (JAM), 5pm, Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, Trinidad;

W Connection FC (T&T) v Real Hope FA (HAI), 8pm, Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, Trinidad.

Friday, February 2, 2018        
Real Hope FA (HAI) v Club Atletico Pantoja (DOM), 5pm, Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, Trinidad;

W Connection FC (T&T) v Arnett Gardens FC (JAM), 8pm, Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, Trinidad.

Sunday, February 4, 2018
Arnett Gardens FC (JAM) v Real Hope FA (HAI), 5pm, Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, Trinidad;

W Connection FC (T&T) v Club Atletico Pantoja (DOM), 8pm, Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, Trinidad.

Group B (Dominican Republic)
Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Central FC (T&T) v Portmore United FC (JAM), 5pm, Estadio Cibao, Santiago, Dominican Republic;

Atlantico FC (DOM) v Racing FC (HAI), 8pm, Estadio Cibao, Santiago, Dominican Republic.

Friday, February 9, 2018    
Racing FC (HAI) v Central FC (T&T), 5pm, Estadio Cibao, Santiago, Dominican Republic;

Atlantico FC (DOM) v Portmore United FC (JAM), 8pm, Estadio Cibao, Santiago, Dominican Republic.

Sunday, February 11, 2018
Portmore United FC (JAM) v Racing FC (HAI), 5pm, Estadio Cibao, Santiago, Dominican Republic;

Atlantico FC (DOM) v Central FC (TRI), 8pm, Estadio Cibao, Santiago, Dominican Republic.