The draw for the next edition of the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) took place on Wednesday night at the association’s headquarters. 24 teams were filtered into eight groups of three, including three Caribbean clubs: Bayamon, Waterhouse and Alpha United.
Puerto Rican side Bayamon has probably benefited the most from the draw, named in Group 8 and pitted against Comunicaciones of Guatemala and Club America of Mexico. They avoided the MLS clubs and will be acclimatised to the expected heat in both Central American countries. Bayamon are making their debut in the CCL and they should be relatively hopeful regarding their chances of making it to the knockout phases.
Waterhouse of Jamaica has been given a tough draw alongside MLS club D.C United and Tauro FC of Panama in Group 4. D.C have a squad comprised of experienced players and the latter reigned supreme in last year’s Apertura, having already made five previous appearances at the CCL. Waterhouse are completely new to the competition and it is difficult to lobby a calculated prediction as to how they’ll cope with a reasonably modest squad in comparison to their opponents. They ran riot in qualifying, amassing 10 goals in three games and a total of nine points, including a mauling of former Caribbean representatives in the CCL, Caledonia AIA.
Jermaine ‘Tuffy’ Anderson left them in December last year. He was their primary source of goals, a prolific marksman who tore the Jamaican Premier League apart for several seasons. But it didn’t seem to affect Waterhouse in their qualifying process as the likes of Juvaune Benjamin and Kenroy Howell stepped up to the mark and delivered the goals. Highly rated midfielder Romario Campbell, Nicholy Findlayson and Hughan Gray are recent recruits to the Jamaican national setup, too, for summer friendlies. But there will inevitably be lingering doubts over their performances in the CCL simply because they are an unknown quantity at this level.
In Group 5, Alpha United of Guyana will test their mettle against Portland Timbers of MLS and Honduran side Olimpia. It’s a very tough group against two very capable opponents, but Alpha does have something in their favour over their Caribbean counterparts: previous CCL experience. Even if just a little, they still have it. The Hammer was put into the preliminaries three years ago against Costa Rican powerhouses, Herediano, and they took the brunt of a 10-2 hammering. This will be Alpha’s first CCL appearance since, this time at the group stages.
Usually, if striker Kithson Bain plays well then so do Alpha. He has enjoyed a fruitful 2014 thus far and the veteran will carry the burden of scoring most of the goals at the CCL, supported by Andrew Murray. Alpha will be the underdog of Group 5. No-one expects them to get results, to succeed, to push on to the knockouts. But that could just play into their hands.
Portland are already group favourites but their trip to the Providence Cricket Stadium – where Alpha play their big matches – located in the country’s capital, Georgetown, won’t be a straightforward task. Wayne Dover’s men will make it difficult, compact the midfield, try and hit opponents on the break with speed and incision.
Whatever the upshot of the competition is from a Caribbean perspective, them just being there at such a respected and well-covered event is positive news for the region in its own right. More people will now become familiar with these teams who previously they had never heard of. Players will have bigger platforms in which to perform, and this could culminate in a new contract overseas. Coaches can pick up on new tactics, formulas and methods of coaching and bring it to the region. Fans can experience high quality, memorable days out with road trips to different places in new countries.
The Caribbean’s inclusion in the CCL is a blessing, irrespective of their performances at the competition.