BELIZE CITY, Mon. Jan. 15, 2018– Week 1 is in the books for the Premier League of Belize (PLB) 2017-2018 Closing Season, and already the race is on for the aggregate regular season points total and a chance to secure a berth in the CONCACAF League tournament. Opening Season sub-champs, Belmopan Bandits finished that regular season with 35 points, to 30 points for eventual champions, Verdes. In their Closing Season Week 1 games this past weekend, Bandits drew, for 1 pt, while Verdes won for 3 pts, thus closing their aggregate points gap to 3 pts, 36 to 33. Between the Opening Season and Closing Season champions, the one with the greater aggregate regular season points total will gain the CONCACAF berth. Whichever club hopes to displace Opening Season champions, Verdes FC from that spot in CONCACAF, must first eclipse their aggregate points total in the two regular seasons (Opening and Closing), and then become champions of the Closing Season.
At the M.A. Stadium in Independence on Saturday night, the lead went back and forth, as home standing Placencia Assassins twice jumped ahead of the visiting Belmopan Bandits SC; but each time the Bandits equalized, for the 2-2 final score. Shaking the net for the Assassins were Alden Foreman (13’) and Arnie Whyte (37’); while the Bandits replied through Elroy Smith (25’) and new addition Mexican Hector Martinez (45’).
Starting at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, the game featuring San Pedro Pirates FC and visiting Police United FC started brightly for the home team, but soon turned into a nightmare for the San Pedro fans. Newly recruited Highking Roberts struck early, at the 12th minute, to give San Pedro the 1-nil lead; but Police United came storming back, with goals pouring in from Byron “Barrow” Usher (36’, 53’ & 64’), Daniel “Danny” Jimenez (56’ & 84’) and Andres “J.R.” Makin (66’), for the 6-1 final score. Barrow’s hat trick might surprise some fans, since he has been playing defence for Police for some time; but others will recall that he made his semipro debut a few years ago as a striker for FC Belize.
Later in the afternoon at the Norman Broaster Stadium, reigning champions, Verdes FC escaped with a 3-2 victory in injury time, after visiting Wagiya FC had erased a 2-nil deficit late in second half. Newly acquired Krisean Lopez, Best Young Player in the Opening Season, delivered the opening goal for his new team, Verdes FC, at the 22nd minute against his former teammates; and Jarret Davis increased the lead to 2-nil for Verdes early in second half with his 49th minute goal. But things took a sudden turn later, as Wagiya’s Jolard Castillo struck twice, at the 71st and 88th minutes, to tie things up; until Verdes got the 3-2 game winner in injury time from veteran David Trapp (92’).
Meanwhile, here in Belize City, Punta Gorda’s Freedom Fighters FC started the Closing Season as they did in the Opening Season, with a big win; but this one was especially sweet, as they avenged an Opening Season ending 7-0 loss to BDF by shocking the army, 3-2, on their home turf at the MCC yesterday. Young Zidane Hines struck twice in two minutes, a penalty conversion at the 17th minute and a right foot grounder to the left “far corner” at the 18th minute, to give P.G. the 2-nil lead; but he was seriously injured almost immediately after by a defender’s vicious elbow to the face, that neither referee Efren Guy or any of his assistants had apparently seen, so no BDF player was sanctioned. Hines had to leave the game; but reports are the incident was captured on Channel 5 video, and the offending player might still be sanctioned after the Disciplinary Committee reviews the tape. George Ortega’s header from a scramble in front of goal made it 3-nil in favor of Freedom Fighters at the 48th minute. BDF got on the scorecard with a penalty conversion by Vallan Symms (56’ PK) after Rickey Rickets was cut down in the eighteen; and their big striker, Jaren Lambey pounced on a defensive lapse to slam in his team’s second goal at the 89th minute. But the Freedom Fighters held on for the 3-2 victory.
Following their Opening Season game 1 victory that Freedom Fighters team slumped into a 10-game losing streak. From what they displayed at the MCC yesterday, we consider such a scenario highly unlikely this time around; in fact, we would venture to say that Verdes will have their hands full this coming weekend against a young, motivated team that also features some battle proven veterans at the top of their game, namely Evan Mariano, Ralph Flores, Alexander “Pleck” Peters and Onest “Cinquez” Martinez.
BDF must go back to the drawing board and, having lost the services of star goalkeeper Tevin Gamboa, will depend on his replacement, young Ricky Muschamp to mature quickly in goal if they are to regain their status as a top contender.
Upcoming Week 2 games:
Saturday, January 20
8:00 p.m. – Belmopan Bandits SC vs San Pedro Pirates FC – Isidoro Beaton Stadium
Sunday, January 21
4:00 p.m. – Wagiya FC vs BDF FC – Carl Ramos Stadium
4:00 p.m. – Freedom Fighters FC vs Verdes FC – Victor Sanchez Union Field
5:00 p.m. – Police United FC vs Placencia Assassins FC – Isidoro Beaton Stadium