Portmore, Arnett in top of the table showdown
The Spanish Town Prison Oval should be rocking today at 3 p.m. when leaders and defending champions Arnett Gardens play away to last year's beaten finalists and current second-place team Portmore United in a top-of-the-table clash.
"It will be a big clash at the Oval. As the defending champions, you are up against 11 teams. Teams are always coming at you and aiming to get the better of you, but our preparations for the game have equipped us for that," a confident Jerome Waite, coach of Arnett Gardens, said ahead of the game.
Portmore United's Shavar Thomas expressed similar expectations.
"Both teams have for the past few years played good, competitive, entertaining football against each other and that is what everyone is looking forward to," said Thomas, a former national representative.
Thomas did, however, give a hint that it would not be entertainment at all cost.
"With all of what has been said, we are looking for three points. When you play teams like Arnett Gardens, it is all about the grind and who wants it more. Yes, we are both teams with our creative players and matchmakers, but it is a home game for us, and we want the three points," explained the former MLS campaigner.
The three points at home are especially important for Thomas and his team as after setting the league on fire and rising to the top, they had a bump of two successive losses being edged at home by UWI FC and losing heavily away to the up until then struggling Reno. Portmore United followed that up with a thumping of Boys' Town, a team currently sitting in 11th position on the 12-team table. They will need more to renew confidence.
Arnett Gardens, on the other hand, like Tivoli Gardens, are the only teams not to have lost in their last five games and are coming out of a bruising encounter in which they got the better of Montego Bay United 1-0. Previous big victories were recorded over UWI FC and Reno away and at home, respectively.
"We still have a full slate of players to choose from despite the physical nature of the last game. Everyone that we had then is up and ready," outlined Waite, who will be looking to the likes of Ricardo Oldham, who has taken over the creative midfield role from the injured Vishinul Harris; Fabian Reid, Marvin Morgan, leading scorer Lennox Russell, Renae Lloyd, Jabeur Johnson, and captain O'Neil Thompson in the centre of the defensive unit.
Portmore United should welcome back their tough inspirational keeper Shaven-Sean Paul, captain Ewan Grandison, Ricardo Morris, Jovan East, the hot-again Jermie Lynch, and Malique Foster if needed.
But while the sound coming from Prison Oval could be the loudest, a similar atmosphere could permeate the league tomorrow if the weather allows. Cavalier, led by the exciting attacking trio of Chevone Marsh, Alex Marshall, and Nicholas Hamilton, welcome UWI FC to Stadium East. This match-up will also mark the return of the competition's leading scorer, Ryan Miller, Oshane Jenkins, and Girvon Brown - if fit - to their former club. For UWI FC, who should return to full strength, it will be an opportunity to demonstrate that there are no problems in their camp.
Sandals FC will host Boys' Town in a bottom-of-the-table clash and one in which neither team would want to lose. Boys' Town cannot afford to fall too far off the pace, while Sandals South Coast do not want the players to start taking on a defeatist attitude.
Humble Lion showed signs of life with a thumping of Sandals South Coast, but a return to Tivoli Gardens, one of his former clubs, will prove a much tougher test for coach Lenworth Hyde and his charges. Victory last week, it was generally felt, kept the axe off Hyde's neck, and another positive result will take him further to safety.
Great expectations mark Donovan Duckie's return to the struggling Waterhouse and a tough encounter away to a Montego Bay United team - which is trying to find its identity. Another loss for the home team could force the club to ask questions and probably take action.
- 3 p.m.: Cavalier FC vs UWI FC - Stadium East
- 3 p.m.: Portmore United vs Arnett Gardens - Prison Oval
- 3 p.m.: Sandals South Coast vs Boys Town - Frome Complex
- 3 p.m.: Tivoli Gardens vs Humble Lion - Edward Seaga Sports Complex
- 6:30 p.m.: Montego Bay United vs Waterhouse - Montego Bay Sports Complex
- 8:35 p.m.: Harbour View vs Reno - Harbour View Stadium