Cracking start

Glamour side 'Pleasant' get acid test in RSPL opener against Portmore

BY HOWARD WALKER
Senior Staff reporter
walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, September 16, 2018

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THE much-anticipated Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) season kicks off today with five games, weather permitting.

Despite the forecast for heavy rains assocciated with the passing of Tropical Depression Isaac, all eyes will be trained on the Spanish Town Prison Oval where champion Portmore United welcome hotshot newcomers Mount Pleasant Football Academy to top-flight football with a 3:30 pm start.

In the other games at 3:30 pm, FC Reno host Cavalier SC at Frome Sports Complex; Tivoli Gardens tackle Montego Bay United at WesPow Park, while Harbour View travelled to The University of the West Indies (UWI).

At 7:00 pm, former champions Arnett Gardens play Humble Lion at the Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex.

On Monday, last season's runners-up Waterhouse FC take on newcomers Dunbleholden FC at 8:30 pm at the Drewsland.

The new RSPL season is set to feature 12 teams once again competing on 33 match days during the league phase. Action then enters a play-off format before the grand finale next May.

For the first time since the 2010-11 season when Benfica FC participated, the “Garden Parish” of St Ann will be represented and Mount Pleasant look set to really make some noise this season.

Following their meteoric rise on the back of a wealthy owner in Peter Gould, Mount Pleasant have reached top-flight football after just two years in existence, and with cash abound, they have formed a squad ready to reap rewards immediately.

However, Head Coach Donovan Duckie remains grounded, but optimistic that his star-studded team will deliver as he looks forward to the opening game.

“We are prepared for the start having done well in preseason, unbeaten in seven games. But it is different because the only way you can find true analysis in what we are doing is in true competition,” Duckie told the Jamaica Observer.

“We know what Portmore United is about. It's is no secret that they are one of the best projects in local football history and their reputation precedes them, so we know what to expect. But more importantly, we will be able to influence the game out of possession, and in possession,” he noted.

“We have played a number of games and we are growing and this will be a good test to see exactly where we are at the start of the season,” Duckie pointed out.

Mount Pleasant have snapped up a host of quality players in Kemar Beckford and Cardel Benbow from Waterhouse FC; Montego Bay United's national defender Ladale Richie and Ronaldo Rodney; Sue-Lae McCalla from Portmore United; Evan Taylor, Daniel Green and Kareen Manning from Harbour View; Romario Campbell, Kevaughn Isaacs, Ricardo Dennis, Ricardo Campbell of Humble Lion, just to name a few.

In the final game of last season, Portmore United defeated Waterhouse; then coached by Duckie, to lift the title. Today, both Duckie and Portmore United Head Coach Shavar Thomas come face-to-face once again.

Portmore United are a well-oiled machine, and having done well in the Concacaf League, means their preseason started early and they might just be ahead of the pack.

Again, they will look to national players Javon East and Ricardo Morris for inspiration, supported by Chavanny Willis, Romaine Breakenridge, Damano Solomon, Jermie Lynch and the returning Damion Williams.

“We are ready and when you play a season opener you have to be concentrated and focused and try to put your best foot forward,” said Thomas.

There will be another intriguing match-up as Arnett Gardens host Humble Lion as it will see the return of Oneil “Bigga” Thompson, who left Arnett for Humble Lion. Also returning for Humble Lion to their old stomping ground will be Renae Lloyd and Keniel Hyde.

Arnett Gardens, on the other hand, will welcome the talented Jamiel Hardware from Boys' Town in forming a most formidable midfield alongside Marvin Morgan and Vishinul Harris.

On Monday, the other promoted team Dunbleholden have strengthened too, but in a quiet way by bringing in useful players like Kemar Shaw (Cavalier), Andre Dyce, Shaquille Dyer and Cornelius Henry (Portmore United), Nickoy Christian (Humble Lion) and Kimorlee Brissett of Grenadine FC in Grenada.

They will be aiming to prove that they belong when they play Waterhouse on Monday night. Waterhouse have brought in Girvon Brown, Kaemmar Daley (UWI), Rafeik Thomas (Harbour View) and Oshane Roberts (Cavalier).

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