MoBay United, Reno set to recapture KO spirit in Flow Champions Cup final
Westmoreland giants Reno and Montego Bay United, a team of similar stature that changed its name from Seba United, will look to deliver a final showdown for the Flow Champions Cup knockout in like fashion to the semis.
Dramatically, both finalists won those matches in identical manner, penalty shoot-outs.
Such a decider typifies the competition's knockout format in every aspect - full of drama, full of surprise. Westmoreland's Reno prevailed with a 9-8 margin over favoured Harbour View and St James' Montego Bay United emerged 6-5 winners against St Catherine's Portmore United.
Thirty penalties in an action-packed four-hour package generated a level of excitement that so differentiates league and knockout football, as a wave of emotion rocked Trench Town at Arnett Gardens Sports Complex on Sunday, November 2.
The same will be expected when Montego Bay United and Reno line up in the grand finale on Sunday at Catherine Hall Stadium in Montego Bay, starting at 7 p.m.
The final will be broadcast live in Jamaica on Flow TV and regionally in Grenada, Trinidad, Barbados, St Vincent and St Lucia on Flow's CC6 network.
Corporate Area teams have been dominating national football for some time, until Montego Bay United won the national league last season.
Interestingly, as the date for the final and venue is set before the competition kick-off, urban dominance had influenced a decision to play this year's final at Harbour View Mini Stadium. However, Reno rose above the odds and Montego Bay played true to potential.
Now the traditional clubs from out west have ensured that the clash for the national knockout title - the Flow Champions Cup - is an all-western affair.
"It's great, an all-western final," said Montego Bay's goalkeeper and hero, Jacomeno Barrett, who saved a penalty kick and scored one in the semis. "I am happy for both Montego Bay and Reno and western Jamaica."
Had the semi-finals been league matches, spectators might have gone home disappointed, or equally happy with the 1-1 scoreline at the end of the Reno-Harbour View game, or the 0-0 draw between MoBay United and Portmore United. But knockout football is not the same.
"A knockout championship is different in that you have no room for mistakes like when you're playing in the league," Patrick Graham, the coach of Reno, said on Flow TV on the eve of the Champions Cup match against Harbour View.
"In the knockout, you've to bring your 'A' game every day," Graham said. "The moment you slip you're out."
That truth, that also represents misfortune, was exemplified by Harbour View. Fancied to beat Reno, the east Kingston club took the lead when Jermie Lynch was gifted a goal by Reno goalie Dennis Taylor, a real 'howler'.
Reno equalised with a thunderous free-kick by Romaine Lewis. Harbour View then had a chance to kill off the game in added time, when the Reno goalkeeper was shown the red card for a penalty offence, to become Reno's second player sent off in the match.
With Reno having used up all their substitutions, an on-field player, Codean Smikle, took over in goal. That's when the dramatics started.
Smikle sensationally saved John Ross Edwards' penalty kick, dashing Harbour View's chance to finish the game, sending it into overtime.
In extra-time, Smikle made a number of saves as nine-man Reno defended determinedly and Harbour View piled on the pressure. There would be no easy end through to this Flow Champions Cup spectacle.
It came down to penalties. Under FIFA rules, team
numbers had to be evened for the shoot-out, so two of Harbour View's players were scratched from the list.
Kick after kick scored, until Harbour View's goalie, Michaud Barrett, became the last man standing. Smikle is a little man, but one with a big heart. Having gone close to saving penalties twice, he made it third time lucky by saving Barrett's kick to send his team into the final.
In true knockout fashion, the underdogs prevailed yet again.
"I know I had a penalty save in me and I told my teammates to just score theirs (penalty)," the Reno makeshift goalie boasted.
"This is my second time. The first time was in inter-form football where I was the best player on the team and I had to go in the goal to keep the penalties, and I came up big just the same. It wasn't the same stage, but it felt good just the same," recalled Smikle.
With his team and Montego Bay United lined up for battle, the way to the title could take a similar route, a penalty shoot-out.
Who will win?
It's anybody's guess.