• Friday Aug 24, 2012

    Caledonia set for debut against Seattle



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    The club is still in preseason and missing a few key players. None of that hasn't dampened Caledonia AIA's confidence heading into its CONCACAF Champions League debut against Seattle Sounders on Thursday night at CenturyLink Field.

    "We go with the intention to get a good result," Caledonia AIA technical director Jamaal Shabazz told TTProLeague.com. "We are also realistic that we are playing away from home and we think it's necessary to start very safe and very cautious."

    Caledonia sent a squad of 21 players to America on Tuesday morning, but not midfielders Akim Armstrong and Atulla Guerra -- who are injured, key central player Densill Theobald, who is exploring options abroad and striker Devorn Jorsling, who is back with Defence Force.

    Although a newcomer to the CONCACAF Champions League, and the fact that only one of 12 Caribbean teams before it has advanced past the Group Stage, Caledonia has lofty goals in Group 4 with Seattle and CD Marathon from Honduras.

    "It's realistic for Caledonia to advance," Shabazz said. "We would have nothing else. Our future depends on us advancing out of the group and we want to do just that. Failure is not an option for us. I think it's going to be difficult, but we are going to put our heads down and put our shoulders to the wheel and we are going to make every effort to advance out of this group."

    The Seattle Sounders, meanwhile, are Champions League veterans, making their third straight appearance after reaching the quarterfinals last season.

    The changes to the format - eliminating the Preliminary Round and reducing groups from four teams to three - have resulted in a lighter schedule, a welcome change for Seattle coach Sigi Schmid.

    "What's nice is you know you're only playing four games instead of six games, so that takes a little bit off the workload, especially the MLS teams where you're trying to play in-season," Schmid told the Seattle Times. "It drops two games off the schedule, so that part of it is positive, but you also now have to be a group winner, so being second doesn't work."

    Seattle currently sits in third place in the Major League Soccer's Western Conference and is coming off a 2-1 win against the Colorado Rapids Saturday. The club welcomed veteran German midfielder Christian Tiffert to training Tuesday, although he will not be eligible to play until he receives his P-1 Visa.

    Group 3 opens with a Central American showdown between Olimpia from Honduras and FAS from El Salvador Thursday night at Estadio Francisco Morazan in San Pedro Sula.

    Olimpia opened the Honduran Apertura with a 3-1 win against Deportes Savio Sunday. It was a win that satisfied coach Danilo Tosello, but the Argentine also knows its important to quickly turn the page.

    "A Champions League match is difficult," Tosello told Diez.hn. "FAS is a team that plays well. We'll have to do our best to make a good game."

    FAS opened the Salvadoran Apertura with a 1-0 victory against Juventud Independiente Sunday, getting the lone goal from Jonathan Aguila, on loan from CD Aguila.

    "I'm glad for the opportunity given to me," Aguila told DiarioCoLatino.com. "So every time I give the best for people to see that I'm grateful."

    W Connection opens Group 8 play against Guatemala's Xelaju MC Thursday night at Manny Ramjohn Stadium hoping to replicate some of its success from its first CONCACAF Champions League appearance in 2009. That year the Trinidadians upset the New York Red Bulls in the Preliminary Round to reach the Group Stage.

    Defender Elijah Joseph was part of that squad and he'll try to anchor W Connection's backline this year.

    The team also will lean on Champions League veterans Clyde Leon, Kern Cupid, Andrei Pacheco, Silvio Spann and Christian Viveros, but will be without teenaged midfielders Jomal Williams and Neil Benjamin Jr., who are competing with Trinidad's U-20 in the midst of Caribbean qualifying for the CONCACAF championship.

    "I want to congratulate the club on a very successful season in qualifying for the CONCACAF and winning the Pro League," Spann told TTProLeague.com. "I think the club deserves a round of applause for its efforts."

    Xelaju is eighth in the Liga Nacional table, splitting its first four games. The club's focus is squarely on the Champions League despite drawing 11-time Mexican league champion Chivas de Guadalajara.

    "It's a major championship, [we] will try to make things right," coach Hernan Medford told PrensaLibre.com. "In three years no one has gone on to win and statistics [state] that we will make it complicated, but not impossible to find a win. Everything is a challenge, but I have experience in these tournaments and it will help."

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