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Jeffrey eyes Concacaf qualifying spot
Kevon Villaroel and Akeem “Battery” Benjamin have returned to the San Juan Jabloteh team in its bid to secure a CONCACAF qualifying spot from the Pro League campaign.
The duo is expected to be part of coach Keith Jeffrey’s squad to face Morvant Caledonia United in the first match of a doubleheader tomorrow from 6 pm at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, when Pro League action resumes from the international break. In the other game, Defence Force FC will take on Club Sando at 8 pm.
Villaroel, 30, a left back, represented the San Juan club between 2007 and 2008, before joining Queen's Park Cricket Club FC, and played also for Puerto Rico Islanders, Central FC and North East Stars.
Benjamin, on the other hand, represented W Connection and Central FC as a centre-back, before renewing his commitment to Jabloteh.
Jeffrey said after assessing his team’s bottom-place finish in the group stage of the First Citizens Cup, it was clear his side lacked a leader. In addition to the duo, Jeffrey also welcomed the return of defensive midfielder Elton John, expected to be the team's captain, and veteran striker Jason Marcano.
According to Jeffrey John, Marcano, Villaroel and Benjamin all have extensive experience as multiple-time former pro league winners, as well as experience on the Concacaf and Caribbean Club Championship stage.
Jeffrey said he is dreaming of returning to the international stage and wants his players to share his ambition.
To do so, Jeffrey’s side must achieve a top-two finish at the pro league to qualify. North East Stars and W Connection, the most successful clubs on the Caribbean stage, will represent T&T at next year’s Caribbean Club Championship, as pro league champions and runners-up respectively in 2017.
Jabloteh is currently second on the standings with 13 points, three adrift leaders W Connection with 12 games left, while Defence Force, Central FC and Club Sando are close behind on 10 points.
“We are happy to be challenging again because Jabloteh has always been one of the better teams in the Pro League,” said Jeffrey, whose team started the campaign unbeaten in five matches.
“The goal is to finish in the top two. I want us to go back to Concacaf.” Jeffrey guided Jabloteh to a top-two finish in the 2015-16 season, to join the Couva Sharks at the 2017 Caribbean Club Championship.
Jabloteh, under Jeffrey, went on to the Caribbean final before being edged 1-0 by Cibao FC of Dominican Republic at the Stadium.
“I want my players to dream as the coach. It is an honour playing at CONCACAF level, and it’s also an honour coaching at that level. I want our young players to experience a whole new level of the game. The experience of travelling abroad for home and away games. The way the international clubs are managed. The professionalism of players on the international level and different playing styles. These are some of the ways our players can improve.”
Pro League 2018
Round One Match Day Seven
(Friday 14 September):
Morvant Caledonia United vs San Juan Jabloteh, 6pm at Hasely Crawford Stadium;
Defence Force FC vs Club Sando, 8pm at Hasely Crawford Stadium.
(Saturday 15 September)
Point Fortin Civic vs W Connection, 6pm at Mahaica Oval;
Terminix St. Ann’s Rangers vs Central FC, 4pm at Ato Boldon Stadium;
Police FC vs North East Stars, 6pm at Ato Boldon Stadium.
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