Kingston, Jamaica - Jamaica's Portmore United and Club Atletico Pantoja of the Dominican Republic will put it all on the line when they meet in semi-final one of the FLOW Concacaf Caribbean Club Championship at the Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex in Kingston on Friday.
Match time is 6:00 p.m. Jamaica time. In the other match-up of the double-header, Jamaica's Arnett Gardens will welcome Trinidad and Tobago's Central FC at 9:00 p.m.
Portmore, Caribbean champions in 2005, is taking aim at victory as it set its sights on competing at the higher level in the confederation. "The players are focused after coming off a high on winning the Red Stripe Premier League... we want to qualify for the (Scotiabank Concacaf) Champions League where we can rub shoulders with the likes of the Mexicans and the MLS teams.
"This is a platform that we want our players to showcase their talents on so they are more than motivated," said Portmore coach, Shavar Thomas. But the Jamaican coach is fully aware that Club Atletico Pantoja won't be a pushover. Thomas admitted that he scouted the Dominican Republic club during the January play-offs when they drew 0-0 with Arnett Gardens.
"They are a solid team, fairly new organization and they have quite a number of overseas players. They have some quality as I have watched a number of games with them because they were in Arnett's group in February and I watched a couple of league games with them and they are a solid squad," noted Thomas.
"They have good talent in the frontline as well as their midfield and we are expecting a tough game, but we like challenges and we are ready," the Portmore tactician added.
Portmore will be banking on strikers Jovan East and Jermie Lynch to carry its offense burden, while midfielders Maalique Foster and Ricardo Morris are expected to figure prominently. Meanwhile, Club Atletico Pantoja will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow Dominican Republic outfit Cibao FC, who won last year's Caribbean Cup title and created history by becoming the first club from that country to qualify for the Concacaf Champions League.
"It would be magnificent for the players because they deserve to reach such an important cup like the [Concacaf Scotiabank Champions League]," Club Atletico Pantoja Head Coach Lenin Bastidas had told CONCACAF.com.
Playing at home, Portmore United could be a tough nut to crack. "It is going to be a very tough match against an opponent playing at home and who won the Jamaican championship, so it will be a difficult match, but we believe we have the tools necessary to play a great match and get a good result," said Bastidas.
The Dominican Republic club possesses a lot of talent to push Portmore to the limit, numbered among them are the offensive quartet of Armando Maita, Ronaldo Vasquez, Luis Espinal and Jonathan Fafia.
Both winners of Friday's semi-final clashes will meet in the title decider on Sunday at the same venue while the loser enters a play-off for third place. Victors of the Caribbean Club Championship will earn a place in the 2019 edition of the prestigious Concacaf Scotiabank Champions League.
Runners-up and the third-place team will move into the Concacaf League. The fourth-place finishers will enter a play-off with Concacaf Caribbean Club Shield champion Club Franciscain of Martinique for the final Caribbean spot to the Concacaf League.