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Altitude FC are PLB 2023-2024 Opening Season champions

SportsAltitude FC are PLB 2023-2024 Opening Season champions

Photo: Altitude’s Andres Orozco (center) scores the game winner.

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Dec. 28, 2023

The weather held up in time on Sunday afternoon, Christmas Eve, at the Marion Jones Sports Complex for the Premier League of Belize (PLB) 2023-2024 Opening Season championship final between Belize City’s Port Layola FC and Altitude FC from Mango Creek, Independence.

The odds had to be in Altitude’s favor, after their not having conceded a single goal in their last four outings, three against defending champions, Verdes FC, with whom they drew 0-0 to end the regular season, and then defeated twice by identical 1-0 scores in both legs of the semifinal playoffs, first in Mango Creek and then in San Ignacio. In their fourth consecutive clean sheet Altitude drew 0-0 with Port Layola in the first leg of the finals at home in Independence.

Meanwhile, Port Layola FC had lost their goal scoring leader Gilroy “Bredda” Thurton to a season-ending injury in their second semifinal against young Progresso FC. In the first game of that semifinal the Port Layola boys defeated Progresso, 2-1, in Orange Walk, with Bredda scoring one of their goals, but Progresso clipped them 1-0 in the Marion Jones Sports Complex. Without Bredda, their chances looked slim, indeed. Port couldn’t shutout Progresso in two tries, and Altitude was giving up nothing. They say that to be the champ, you have to beat the champ; and Altitude had done just that against Verdes.

From start to finish the more orchestrated passing and field spreading strategy of the Altitude offense, and their safe defensive unit in front of the versatile Colombian Oscar Palomino in goal, looked like a sure winner against the long ball approach of Port Layola, which led to a lot of turnovers. It was only a matter of time. Without the individual flair and unpredictable heroics of Bredda Thurton in offense, the Port Layola attack sputtered from too much “bang bang” from defence to forward, while the Altitude passing, with more purpose and direction, inevitably rewarded them with some good looks at the Port Layola goal.

Colombian all around midfield/striker Andres Orozco got both goals, the first from a cross goal pass by their little wizard Rene Leslie, whose game keeps improving. Another rising star for Altitude, Jardehl Muschamp, who scored both their goals in the semifinals against Verdes, is also developing into a very good midfielder with striking instincts.

It was a painful loss for the Port Layola boys, but it was a good day for football, especially because all the fans accepted that the better team had won.

Congratulations to Altitude FC and their coach, Zerrick Torres, a newcomer to the job for all we know, but whose choices and game time decisions proved that he has a great future in coaching. And hats off also to their captain, midfield general Delone Torres, who rebounded from what looked like a season ending injury against Verdes in their first semifinal game. In that game Torres had to be taken off the field on a stretcher, but miraculously, with great effort no doubt, he returned for the final against Port Layola FC. (Delone reportedly had knee surgery a year ago, which made his comeback even more remarkable.)

Congratulations to Port Layola FC too for finally giving Belize City fans a taste of the PLB postseason after a long drought. It was a great effort by Port Layola coach Charlie Slusher to bring a championship back to the city. It’s back to the drawing board for Port Layola; and hopefully they have a better home field to play on in the Closing Season, which certainly all their opponents and the fans would also appreciate.

Let’s fix up the MCC, please, Sports Council!!

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