St. Lucia, Grenada clash in Cup final

When the Caribbean Cup final kicks off on Sunday, it will be a battle between two New York-based teams from the Windward Islands. Team St. Lucia USA in search of its first Caribbean Cup title, will take on three-time champion Team Grenada USA at 4:00 p.m. at Jefferson High School Sports Complex in Flatlands, Brooklyn. Team St. Lucia upset eight-time champion Team Jamaica USA in one semifinal last Sunday, and Team Grenada defeated Team Guyana USA in the other.

As the old adage goes, ‘all good things come to an end’ and it did for former Cup champion Team Jamaica. The Jamaicans took the field last Sunday as heavy favorites to repeat as Caribbean Cup champion, something it did the last seven consecutive years (the last in 2011 as co-champion with Trinidad and Tobago), but Team St. Lucia, led by an outstanding performance by goalkeeper Chad Phillip, upset the New York version of the Jamaica Reggae Boyz with a 2-1 victory in a penalty kick shoot-out.

Before a very partisan crowd at Jefferson High School Sports Complex, Jamaica dominated for most of the game in regulation but failed to score several chances due in part to poor finishing and also to the presence of Phillip in the St. Lucia goal. Young Phillip inspired his St. Lucia backline and almost willed it to the shut-out in regulation play with four game-saving plays. His stalwart performance continued in the penalty kick shootout when he stopped four of Jamaica’s five penalties. After round five, the score was tied at one until round six, the sudden victory round, when Angus Williams stepped up to score the winning goal to put St. Lucia through to its third Caribbean Cup final after Jamaica missed its sixth kick; Nazie Hippolite scored the other penalty for the winners.

Phillip is no stranger to success. The former Castries Comprehensive High School player was a success in his early days of soccer in St. Lucia. He led Castries Comprehensive to title while a student there and was also a mainstay for successful club teams Roseau Valley FC and Reduit FC in the St. Lucia First Division. The young goalkeeper recently graduated with his bachelor’s degree in finance from McKendree College in Lebanon, Illinois and is currently completing his master’s degree in the same field at Caldwell College in New Jersey.

The win provided much relief and revenge for St. Lucia, which lost in its previous Cup finals to Jamaica (4-1 in 2008, a 1-0 in 2010) and now has the chance to win its first Caribbean Cup title in the 21-year history of the tournament. Said Grenada head coach, Alvin Felix, after the win, “We trained hard, worked on our passes, and our passes were good, we kept the ball on the ground and that was great.”

Team Grenada and Team Guyana have a history of staging very competitive games between them, and last Sunday’s semifinal was no different. After a goalless first half, forward Shane Rennie scored what eventually was the winner in the 60th minute. Team Guyana fought hard for the equalizer and may have been successful, but the ejection of midfielder Germaine Scott in the 70th minute presented too much of an uphill battle for Team Guyana. Team Grenada, playing with a man advantage, romped home with late goals from Marcus Julien and Kyle Joseph for a 3-0 advantage. Guyana captain Roger Cambridge blamed a lack of discipline in his team’s play for the loss.

So, it will be Team Jamaica versus Team Guyana in the third-place game at 2:45 p.m. and Team St. Lucia up against Team Grenada in the late final.

Arantes, Kandia in Bronx final

Let’s do it again! A grudge match is set up in the final in the Bronx as last year’s finalists will do it again. Defending champion Arantes FC will take on Kandia on Sunday, Sept. 9 at 7:00 p.m. in the Bronx New York International Soccer League 2012 championship game at Evander Childs High School Stadium near Gun Hill and White Plains Roads in the Bronx.

Last year’s final was a very competitive battle between the teams; in fact, Kandia had protested events surrounding the final and involving Arantes. Kandia now has its chance to avenge last year’s championship loss. All told, it will be the third time in the past four years that Arantes and Kandia will play for the title. Arantes won all previous meetings.

Last Sunday, Arantes defeated Upsetters, 3-1, in the first semifinal. Renae Lloyd, who plays for Jamaica Premier League runner up Boys Town, started the ball rolling for Arantes midway through the first half, but Upsetters got the equalizer just before half time. Jermaine Hardie put Arantes ahead in the 72nd minute and in the 75th, Christopher ‘Lamps’ Sharp completed the scoring.

In the nightcap, Kandia beat the undefeated Havoc, 1-0; Havoc came into the game with eight wins and a draw in nine regular season games. Kandia was determined to stop the win undefeated streak and Maurice “Beefy” Johnson and Anthony Andrews combined to give Kandia victory as Andrews latched onto to Johnson’s cross to beat Havoc goalkeeper Ralston Robinson in goal.

Meanwhile, at the other end, Kandia struggled to hold on to the lead and was led by a solid performance in goal by Omarley Francis, who came up with 10 saves to keeper Kandia in the lead, including a penalty kick from Don Smart.