Sports — 24 January 2014
PLB Belikin Cup Opening

PLB Belikin Cup Opening Season semifinals end Saturday

BDF vs Bandits in ‘Griga; Verdes vs FC Belize in Benque

The first encounters of the home-and-away semifinal playoffs in the Premier League of Belize Belikin Cup Opening Season 2013-2014 took place on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, with one team now holding a commanding position, while two others are “even-steven” going into the decisive game 2 of the semifinals this weekend. Belmopan Bandits prevailed, 3-0, over BDF at the Isidoro Beaton; while FC Belize and Verdes FC played to a 0-0 stalemate at the MCC.

BDF vs Bandits

On Saturday night at the Isidoro Beaton Stadium in Belmopan, it was home standing and #3 seed Belmopan Bandits FC delivering what most fans are feeling was a 3-0 knockout punch to #2 seed Belize Defence Force FC. The game was more competitive than the score indicated, and the difference may have been the return to top form of Deon McCaulay, considered Belize’s best striker, despite being surpassed in the scoring race this year by Jarret Davis of FC Belize and hot newcomer Clifton West of Police United, who took the top scoring honors.

Deon had been plagued by injury going into the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament in July of last year, which carried over into his early participation in the current PLB Opening season, and that has also been interrupted by his travels abroad to test the waters for a possible international playing contract. One week idle in an Amsterdam airport due to visa problems disrupted Deon’s form during this season, but from what we saw in Belmopan on Saturday night, if his injury is minor as he indicated, then it will be a near impossible task for BDF to overcome the 3-goal deficit in game 2.

Against the most physical team in the league, Deon was strong and resilient in protecting the ball and executing his offensive arsenal, and his movement between forward and midfield created problems for the BDF defense to effectively guard him.

The bright light for BDF was their outstanding young rookie, Ambrose “Fubu” Thomas, whose penchant for going one-on-one in too many situations in midfield, may have detracted from his overall effectiveness in bolstering the BDF offense. BDF had speed on the midfield flanks in Fubu and Paul Nunez, and strong aggressive tackling in the central midfield from Khalil Velasquez and Harrison Tasher, both former star defenders, now converted to midfield. It made for a very fast and strong midfield, but they may need more patience and finesse in orchestrating the pace and direction of their attack if they are to stand a chance at breaking down the Bandits defense. Besides, Fubu’s speed and ball wizardry would probably attract less physicality if he were in the front line nearer the Bandits goal.

For their part, the Bandits utilized two strong and fast veterans on their midfield flanks in Dennis Serano and David Trapp, while their two outstanding playmakers, the veteran Deris “Colombia” Benavides and young Denmark Casey, Jr., gave good tactical support to the attack from their central midfield position.

BDF had strong tacklers on their defensive flanks in Victor Nunez and Rickey Rickets, but their veteran sweeper Vallan Symms, one of the smallest players on the field, had a former talented midfielder, Phillip “Justo” Lewis playing the stopper role in front of him, and Justo also is neither tall or of a large physique. A more muscular presence seems to be needed in front of Vallan in the BDF defense.

If the Bandits had an apparent weakness, it would have been on their left defensive flank, where the seasoned midfielder Ernest Wiltshire was called into service, due to injuries to their regular defenders. But the wiley veteran proved that his overall football IQ and ability was enough to contain the younger and faster BDF attackers. The rest of the Bandits defense was more than formidable, with Ian “Yellow” Gaynair controlling the other defensive flank, Dalton Eiley sweeping, and the tall, talented and solidly built Erick Rodriquez manning the stopper position.

Up front, BDF utilized budding striker Shane “Chucky” Flores and Abraham Chavez, who has yet to make a name for himself as a striker of caliber. Chucky has scored some good goals in the past, but Saturday night was not his best showing.

On the other end, the Bandits had the fleet footed Belmopan native David Madrid alongside Deon McCaulay, who often dropped back in midfield to help initiate the attack with incisive passing, and was thus a perpetual menace to the BDF defense.

In goal, the Bandits had no other than Woodrow West, completing his third consecutive shutout with the Bandits; while BDF had Derol Roches, a promising keeper, but not yet one of the elite in the position.

Come this Saturday night, BDF has to focus on redeeming themselves with an outstanding performance in front of their home fans in Griga. Coach Gregory “Paisa” Cantun knows that they have to play to win first, and if they find themselves ahead in the score, they must then push to close the seemingly impossible 3-0 margin.

For the Bandits, their experienced head coach Leroy Sherrier Lewis will not allow them to become complacent; and neither would their former head coach, now assistant, Edmund “Buzzard” Pandy. The Bandits’ ship is led by men with championship experience, and they will be bringing no “easy pickings” for the BDF at the Carl Ramos on Saturday night, as they want to build their momentum going into the finals.

Verdes vs FC Belize

Benefiting from some early postponements, the Verdes squad was the surprise front runner late in the regular season when their back match victories resulted in a surge in points to surpass all others at the top of the standings. In undoubtedly the most hotly contested semipro regular season ever, #1 seed Verdes only totaled 17 goals scored, 3 more than cellar dwelling San Ignacio United, who managed to score 14 but gave up 25. Verdes’ opponents in the semifinals, FC Belize also scored 14 goals, 3 less than Verdes, but they surprisingly gave up 19, the second most in the tournament.

But that 19 figure might only reflect some recent upheavals in the FC Belize club, following the sudden mid-season departure due to illness of owner/manager Lionel Welch. Things have since settled down somewhat, and the FC Belize squad on Sunday last looked like the FC Belize of old, a team with championship pedigree; and they will not be intimidated going into the Marshalleck Stadium on Saturday night to meet Verdes on their home turf for the decisive game 2 of the semifinals.

Both teams are committed to a stern defensive posture, and both also feature some young offensive talent who have the potential to explode and become goal scoring heroes on Saturday in what is expected to be another low scoring affair. Verdes youngsters to watch include Nahjib Guerra, Julian Maldonado, Gilroy “Bredda” Thurton and Jamil Cano; while FC Belize may hit the jackpot with Steven “Breds” Baizer, Devaun “Beckham” Zuniga or Travis Eiley. Of course, FC Belize’s Jarret Davis will be a marked man from the opening whistle, as will Verdes’ midfield legend Norman “Tilliman” Nunez.

All roads to Benque

We know of two different excursions which have been announced for the game in Benque Viejo on Saturday night. “Mi Rogi” (Leslie Rogers) informed the Press Show on Wednesday that his bus will be leaving at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday from the old Venus terminal on Mazagine Road (Contact Mi Rogi at 600-6245); and this afternoon FC Belize manager Ken Vasquez informed us that the club will also be taking an excursion bus which will leave from in front of Civic Center (what’s left of it) on Saturday evening at 4:00 p.m. (Contact Tyrone “T-bone” Muschamp at 620-8509.)

Semifinal Game 2 schedule:

Saturday, January 25
7:30 p.m. – Belize Defence Force FC vs Belmopan Bandits FC – Carl Ramos Stadium
7:30 p.m. – Verdes FC vs FC Belize -Marshalleck Stadium

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