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Verdes comes to town!

SportsVerdes comes to town!

Photo: Verdes striker Matias Veron vs Port Layola defender Floyd Jones

1st leg of PLB 2023-2024 Closing Season championship finals at the Marion Jones Sports Complex this Sunday

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. May 9, 2024

PLB semifinals review

The semifinals are over, and the stage is now set for the championship finals of the Premier League of Belize (PLB) 2023-2024 Closing Season.

In the 1st leg of the semifinals last weekend, Port Layola FC of Belize City had clipped defending champions, Altitude FC, 2-0, at the Marion Jones; and Verdes FC had also dropped Benque United FC, 1-0, at the Marshalleck Stadium. And in the 2nd semifinal leg this past weekend, Port Layola advanced to the finals, despite losing, 2-1, to Altitude at the M.A. Stadium in Independence, due to the 3-2 aggregate score. Altitude’s goals were by Andres Orozco (30’ PK) and captain Delone Torres (90+2’), while Shawn Young (44’) got the goal that clinched the finals berth for Port Layola. Meanwhile, Verdes and Benque drew, 0-0, at the Norman Broaster, so Verdes’ aggregate 1-0 sends them to the championship finals against Port Layola.

PLB finals outlook

If it was just a numbers game, then hands down, the odds are all in favor of the Green Machine from the western district of Cayo, Verdes FC walking away with another PLB championship and a return visit to the Concacaf League club tournament. They are by far proven to be the best defensive team in the league this season; and as is often said, defense wins championships.

If the championship were decided by the regular season, as in some European leagues, Verdes FC would have long been crowned champions of the PLB Closing Season 2023-2024, having completed the regular season with an awesome record of 12 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss, including a record 7 shutouts along the way. Conceding only 4 goals in their 14 regular season games, their only blemish was in Week 9, a close 2-1 loss to their nemesis Altitude FC, whom they had beaten 1-0 in their first encounter in Week 2. Verdes finished the regular season with 37 points, a full 8 points ahead of second place finisher, defending champions Altitude FC from Mango Creek, Independence, who garnered 29 points, followed by Port Layola FC from the old capital and Benque United FC with 26 points each.

But the PLB had years ago chosen the playoff format to decide the championship, and so the regular season statistics are history, except to determine the individual awards and the top 4 qualifying teams to the playoffs. So, it’s a new ball game, and Verdes FC must prove again that they are still the best team in the PLB.

With a trip to Concacaf determined by the season champion with the aggregate most regular season points between the Opening and Closing seasons, a championship crown by Verdes (66 pts) in the Closing Season would automatically send them to Concacaf. In fact, should Port Layola FC (53 pts) prevail in the finals, it is they who would get the Concacaf nod, since they are also ahead of Opening Season champions Altitude (52 pts) in that category.

Port Layola FC, under head coach Charlie Slusher, renowned all-Belize goalkeeper of yesteryear, is making their second appearance at the Big Dance, the national football championship of the Premier League of Belize. They lost in the finals of the 2023-2024 Opening Season to Altitude FC, the team that eliminated former champions, Verdes FC in the semifinals. Now, in the Closing Season it is Port Layola FC that has eliminated defending champions, Altitude FC in the semifinals, and are set to face 3-time Concacaf representative, Verdes FC for the championship.

In the Verdes – Port Layola matchup over the past two seasons, Verdes has practically “owned” Port Layola. In Opening Season regular meetings, they drew 4-4 in Week 4 and Verdes won, 3-1, in Week 11. In the Closing Season regular matches, it was Verdes, 1-0, over Port in Week 4, and Verdes again on top, 2-0, in Week 11.

If it’s just the numbers, it’s all Verdes in the finals. In terms of offensive firepower, Verdes scored 37 goals in regular season, to Port Layola’s 33; and on defense there is no comparison, where Verdes allowed only 4 goals total in 14 games, while a shaky Port defense conceded 18 goals, the most of the top 4 playoff teams.

But the finals are down to just 2 games, and as the numbers guru would say, “any number can play”.

The last time Port Layola FC showed dominance over Verdes FC was three seasons ago when young striker Michael Palacio was with Port, and blasted Verdes’ all-Belize goalkeeper Woodrow West from the edge of the eighteen. But Palacio has since been grabbed by Verdes.

The key for Port Layola is in the striking department, which could be peaking in these finals. Absent almost all of regular season with a fractured leg, former leading goal scorer Gilroy “Bredda” Thurton may be nearing his top form in the playoffs. Verdes will have to be very mindful of Bredda along with this season’s leading goal scorer Latrell Middleton and rising stars Shawn Young and Orlando Velasquez in the Port Layola offense. Can Verdes’ Jordy Polanco and Darrel Myvett take away the midfield from Port Layola and thus stifle their attacking forces?

Smoke or dust, come Sunday, May 12, it will surely be some football fireworks at the Marion Jones Sports Complex football field – Verdes FC vs Port Layola FC!

Game 2 is next week Sunday at the Norman Broaster Stadium.

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