• Thursday Dec 06, 2007

    First Caribbean Zone finalist club to be decided this week

    The first Caribbean Zone team to qualify for the first round proper of the 2003 FC Champions Cup will be determined this week as Arnett Gardens FC of Jamaica play host to VSADC (Saint Lucia) and Violette AC (Haiti) in the Group A zonal tournament.

    The winner of the round-robin advances to the round of 16 of the 2003 FC Champions Cup, set to begin in the early part of next year. Club Franciscain of Martinique, scheduled to be the fourth team in the group, withdrew after advancing to the seventh round of the Coupe de France.

    Arnett Gardens enters the group as the favorite. The two-time defending champion of Jamaica's National Premier League, the Kingston-based club won the first round championship (of three) this season, and have lost just one match in their 13 league encounters this year.

    Kevin Wilson, who has gained national team attention over the past year, leads the league with nine goals, while the "Junglists" also count upon national team performers in defender Fabian Davis and striker/sweeper Walter Boyd.

    Violette AC, the doyen of Haitian clubs (founded in 1918), finished seventh in the overall table in Haiti's Premiere Division for the just-completed 2002 campaign, after finishing as runner-up a year ago. They finished the campaign with 43 points from 30 matches, winning 11 matches and drawing 10. Winners of the CONCACAF Champions Cup in 1984, Violette is coached by Carlos Alberto, captain of 1970 FIFA World Cup champion Brazil.

    Brazilian Leandro Mencao, one of five players from that South American country on the Violette books, was second in the league with 13 goals last season. Violette also had a handful of national team players which secured Haiti's advancement to the Caribbean Zone finals of Gold Cup qualifying a couple of weeks ago.

    VSADC (Vempers Sports, Athletic and Dramatic Club), located in the capital of Castries, won Saint Lucia's Premier League in 2001. This will be the club's second appearance ever in the CONCACAF Champions Cup, the only previous trip in 1987. On that occasion, they defeated Juventus de Sainte-Anne of Guadeloupe 5:3 on aggregate in the first round, before going out to a second club from Guadeloupe, L'Etoile de Morne a l'Eau, 4:2 on aggregate in the second round.

    The second entrant to the round of 16 from the Caribbean Zone will be known a week later when Harbour View FC (Jamaica), US Robert (Martinique) and FICA (Haiti) all travel to Trinidad & Tobago to do battle with hosts W Connection FC in Group B.

    The six finalists from the Central Zone have already been determined in a series of quadrangulars played earlier this fall. Two teams from Guatemala - CSD Comunicaciones and CSD Municipal - lead the way, joined by LD Alajuelense (Costa Rica), Deportivo Arabe Unido (Panama), CD Motagua (Honduras) and CD F.A.S (El Salvador).

    The four U.S. representatives in the final round are all from Major League Soccer: Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS Cup champion), New England Revolution (MLS Cup runner-up), San Jose Earthquakes (Supporters' Shield winner) and Columbus Crew (U.S. Open Cup champion).

    The field will be rounded out with four Mexican representatives, following the completion of the Torneo Apertura liguilla (playoffs) in the Primera Division. There will be a new champion crowned next year - Pachuca CF, which won the 2002 FC Champions Cup with a 1:0 victory against CA Monarcas Morelia, did not qualify for the playoffs for the second half-season running.

    PHOTO: Arnett Gardens FC and Harbour View FC - Jamaica's entrants in the Champions Cup - do battle in the NPL end-of-round final in November (courtesy Arnett Gardens FC).

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