Portmore, UWI FC in semi-final showdown
The first semi-final of the 2017 Red Stripe Premier League is on today at the Wembley Centre of Excellence in Clarendon.
Today's opponents, Portmore United and UWI FC, each set themselves the goal of going one better than they did last year. That situation puts more pressure on Portmore United, who are home away from home, as, despite the fact that their name suggests that they are domiciled in St. Catherine, they are a Clarendon team.
"The players are eager to go. They understand the importance of the first leg and are really focused on getting a positive result.
"Our plan for the season is to go one better this year because we lost in the final last year," Portmore United coach Linval Dixon told The Sunday Gleaner.
While that means they have to get past today's opponents, Dixon knows that the result is not automatic.
"We are not looking past UWI because the game has to be played on the field. Nothing is owed to us. We have to play for the result we want," Dixon added.
Second-year team UWI FC have already done better than they did last season, but Coach Marcel Gayle and his players are not satisfied.
"We missed the semi-finals last year by a point to Humble Lion and decided that this year, we have to take it a step further and this being our second year in the League, it is our first time in the semi-finals, so we are little bit new to it and have to be mentally prepared," said Gayle, who was an assistant before leading the club to the promised land after being promoted to head coach.
Things could have gone even better for Gayle and his players as they could have topped the league on points and collected the $1m bonus. They, however, lost some crucial points on the home stretch and were bettered by that team again - Humble Lion.
"Yes, we lost some points at a crucial stage, yes, but we had two choices - going for the bonus or the big one. We would have wanted to get the million, but we don't necessarily have the numbers like other people, and going after the million could have cost us as we had injuries. We decided to ensure that they heal and go for the big prize," Gayle explained.
To get the better of Portmore United, a team he described as tough, tactical opponents with a deep squad, Gayle will look to the likes of former national player Keammar "Dada" Daley who, on his day, is one of the better midfielders in the country, captain Rochane Smith, Girvon and Patrick Brown, as well as Davion Garrison.
Portmore United, according to Coach Dixon, are difficult to pick.
"Everyone is available. It is just to get the right team. It is difficult to get the right 11 when you have 25 to 30 players to choose from and everyone wants a chance" Dixon said.
Whatever the 11, goalkeeper Shaven Sean Paul should feature as should Damono Solomon, Ricardo Morris, captain Ewan Grandison, in-form goalscorers Jovan East and Malique Foster.
3 p.m: Portmore United vs UWI FC - Wembley Centre of Excellence.