Trinidad and Tobago.- Two time Caribbean club champions Central FC are gearing up for their challenge in the 2018 Flow CONCACAF Caribbean Club Championship Finals in Kingston, Jamaica.
The Central "Sharks" are currently preparing under the guidance of head coach Stern John, the former Trinidad and Tobago prolific goalscorer who also played for the Trinidad and Tobago club during the latter stages of his playing career.
Central, winners of the Caribbean Club Championship in 2015 and 2016, will face Jamaican club Arnett Gardens in one of two semi-final matches on May 11 at the Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex. Portmore United will face Atletico Pantoja of the Dominican Republic in the other semi-final encounter. The winners of both semi-finals will meet in the final on Sunday May 13, determine the Caribbean champions which will automatically advance to the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League.
The runners up will advance to the CONCACAF League while the third-place finishers will also have a final opportunity to qualify for the CONCACAF League through a playoff with CONCACAF Caribbean Shield winners Club Franciscain of Martinique.
John spoke about the team's build up, describing the training regime as intensive even though the T&T Pro League is currently in offseason. Central had previous top the semi-final group in Santiago with a 1-0 win over Dominican Republic outfit Atlantico FC.
"The preparations have been okay. We have faced some financial constraints but we've gotten on with the job. We have some experienced players coming back into the fray and they are hungry for success. They want to go to Jamaica and win this Caribbean title and advance to the CONCACAF Champions League," John said.
Two integral members from the team's success in the previous round, T&T internationals Carlyle Mitchell and Nathan Lewis have moved onto USL club Indy Eleven. But they have snapped up defender Daneil Cyrus and goalkeeper Marvin Phillip who are current Trinidad and Tobago senior team members while the veteran duo of Densill Theobald and Anthony Wolfe, two members of the Trinidad and Tobago's 2006 World Cup in Germany, are also in the squad for the upcoming matches.
"We've been focusing on our defensive game. We will be missing Carlyle Mitchell and Nathan Lewis who have gone on to play with clubs in the United States but we also have some good experienced players coming into the set up such has defender Daneil Cyrus and goalkeeper Marvin Phillip who are both current members of the Trinidad and Tobago national team.
"After the experience of winning the two previous competitions in 2015 and 2016 and then coming out on top on the previous round in Dominican Republic, the boys are very eager to taste more success. They are relishing the opportunity because they know how important it is to get into the Champions League and compete with the clubs from the MLS and other big leagues in CONCACAF.
"This a really important assignment for us because for obvious reasons Central wants to maintain a presence at the top level of CONCACAF club football and it would certainly be welcomed boost for us before our regular season begins in Trinidad," John said.