Regional

HIGH HOPES

Montego Bay United, FC Reno get into action as Red Stripe Premier League kicks off on Sunday

BY PAUL A REID
Observer West writer

Thursday, September 13, 2018

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T UCKER, St James —Optimism is going to be notched up this weekend as the 2018-19 season of the Red Stripe Premier League kicks off with a full slate of matches for western based-clubs Montego Bay United and FC Reno starting their quest for the title, at home.

Two-time champions Montego Bay United, who have never won their first game of the season, face Tivoli Gardens at Wesow Park, while FC Reno welcome Cavalier FC at the Frome Sports Grounds. These two matches are scheduled to start at 3:30 pm.

Both teams had disappointing 2017-18 seasons, finishing close to the foot of the standings; MBU in ninth position and FC Reno in 10th, just above the relegation zone.

In an effort to improve on last season, the two clubs have added a number of players, mostly youngsters, who they hope will revive their fortunes.

The stepping down of MBU's founding president Orville Powell, earlier this year, sparked fears that the club would not participate in the competition, but an almost new administration led by Dr Germaine Spencer, and the hiring of Vassell Reynolds as head coach have put to rest the rumours, igniting hopes of a return to the glory days when MBU reached three-straight finals.

Last season, MBU won just six of 16 games played at home.

Reynolds told the Jamaica Observer West recently that they are looking to significantly improve on that particular area of their game.

“Certainly, we want to recapture our ability to dominate on our home turf, which is one aim. Personally, I get the feeling that over the past season or two, when teams came to WesPow Park, there was a limitation of fear and we want to get back to the stage where we dominate our home turf,” said Reynolds.

MBU were well-placed to sneak into the six-team play-offs last season, but then got one point from their last four games, finishing with a limp, rather than a swagger.

“Clearly, the club would have been disappointed in how they finished last year, and we think, after assessment, that a number of factors could have led to that, and we think that it started from the get-go when the team was struggling in the early stages of the competition,” he argued, stressing that “it cannot be the same this year.”

“We want to ensure, and we have been putting in the work, so at least from the start, we are up there and we want to maintain that competitiveness right throughout the season,” Reynolds added.

Senior player, national representative Ladale Richie, as well as Ronaldo Rodney and Johann Weatherly, will not represent MBU this season. Reynolds noted, however, that the core of the team remains intact.

He pointed out that Dino Williams, who has been named team captain, Keniel Kirlew, Orlando McBayne, Jermaine Woozencroft, Dwayne Ambusley, who will have a player/coach role, and the return of Ghanaian centre half Nicholas Amponsah are positives for the team.

“We are fortunate to still maintain a strong core that most teams in the RSPL would love to have; that sort of stability, so the work goes on,” he stated.

Courtney Hughes, who will be in charge of the FC Reno team, said while they are still trying to “figure out some of the pieces”, they have high hopes for this year.

“We are still trying to figure out the pieces right now, but we are hoping the players will gel sooner than later, but we have a strong base, and the new players we brought in are all in the same age range, average age being around 21 years,” he told the Observer West.

“Management is asking for more effort this year. We still have a few challenges here and there, particularly in the mid-field and in goal, but hopefully, when all the pieces of the puzzles come together, we will be a good team,” he argued.

After losing Craig Foster, one of their better players midway last season, Reno FC are hoping that former Harbour View player Thorne Simpson will be able to fill the breach.

Simpson is one of nearly a dozen players signed by FC Reno, including goalkeeper Obrian Vennor, who was part of the Sandals South Coast team last year.

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