BELIZE CITY, Mon. Nov. 21, 2016–The regular season of the Premier League of Belize (PLB) Opening Season 2016-2017 is fast winding down, and the race for the Top-4 playoff spots is as tight as it gets. Undefeated, defending champions Belmopan Bandits SC have already guaranteed themselves a spot in the playoffs, which are scheduled to kick off on the weekend of December 10 & 11. But 5 other teams are in a desperate struggle to seize one of the remaining 3 berths in the PLB playoffs. (See Week 15 standings below.)
The playoff race tightened more over the past weekend, where Week 15 games saw front-runner of the other 5 contending teams, FC Belize experiencing a serious set-back on Sunday afternoon, as they were surprised by home standing Wagiya FC at the Carl Ramos Stadium in a dramatic come from behind 2-2 draw. F.C. Belize enjoyed a comfortable 2-nil lead, with goals from Jordi Lopez (16’) and Russell Cassanova (52’), but with time winding down, Wagiya struck back with two spectacular goals, from Hector Lopez (87’) and Clifton Thomas (90’), to secure the 2-2 draw. Meanwhile, further south at the Victor Sanchez Union Field in Punta Gorda, late surging BDF FC grabbed a 2-1 win over home squad Freedom Fighters FC to put themself in a very good position one point behind F.C. Belize. Vallan Symms converted from the penalty spot at the 24th minute, and Michael Myvette added another at the 77th minute for BDF, before Freedom Fighters got a late consolation goal from Jamie Mangar at the 89th minute.
Week 15 actually began with action at the Michael Ashcroft Stadium on Friday night, November 18, when two playoff contenders, hosts Placencia Assassins FC and Police United FC battled to a 3-3 stalemate. Hot, young striker Ashton Torres (19’ & 72’) struck twice for the Assassins, who also benefited from an own goal by Police United’s Asrel Sutherland (53’ own goal); while Police got a goal each from Daniel Jimenez (33’) and Byron Usher (54’) along with an own goal by Placencia’s Arnie White (38’ own goal).
The only Week 15 game, on Saturday night November 19 at the Isidoro Beaton Stadium saw visiting Orange Walk United FC being blown out, 9-2, by Belmopan Bandits FC, who got 4 goals from Jairo Rochez, who is now in contention for the Golden Boot. Sharing in the scoring for the Bandits were Jairo Rochez (5’, 57’, 59’ & 62’), Jerome “Jarro” James (35’ & 50’), Aloisio Teixiera (53’), Jordi Polanco (87’) and Marlon “El Matador” Meza (90+1’); while both Orange Walk goals were by Joao Silva (49’ & 90’.)
Golden Boot & Golden Glove
In addition to the tight race to the playoffs, there is also a fierce competition for this regular season’s “Golden Boot,” the award given to the top goal scorer. Aside from the 4 teams making it to the playoffs, the winners of the Golden Glove (for best goalkeeper) and the Golden Boot (for top goal scorer) will be determined on a purely statistical basis in less than two weeks’ time, by the end of regular season. The Golden Glove looks like a foregone conclusion, unless some great calamity strikes the Bandits, whose goalkeeper, Shane Orio, has allowed by far the least goals so far but the Golden Boot that is shaping up to be a real “photo finish.” (See “Leading Goal Scorers” table below.) Week 16 games are mid-week, this Wednesday, November 23; and Week 17 and Week 18, to end regular season, are the weekends of November 26-27 and December 3-4.