By Derek deChabert | The Royal Gazzette
Avenues United 2 Devonshire Cougars 2
Devonshire Cougars surrendered a two-goal halftime lead to draw hosts Avenues United 2-2 in their opening match of the 2010 Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Champions Cup qualifiers last night in St. Vincent after Kijuan Franks was sent off in the early stages of the second half.
Cougars blazed their way to a 2-0 halftime lead against United courtesy of strikes from Aljame Zuill and Domico Coddington in the club’s first ever appearance in the tournament.
Franks was then sent off early in the second half for dissent towards the referee, which proved a pivotal moment in the match as the hosts struck twice after the infraction to leave matters all square.
In the evening’s opening match Trinidad and Tobago Pro League champions Joe Public kicked off their campaign in the tournament when they took on Suriname league runners-up SV Leo Victor in a Group C first-round match winning 4-3.
During the qualifying series, Eastern Lions Joe Public, winners of five trophies in 2009, also play Avenues United (St. Vincent & Grenadines) on Sunday and Devonshire Cougars on Tuesday.
Group C is one of four in the CFU region to select its trio of qualifiers for next season’s CONCACAF Champions League. The four group winners, runners-up and best third-place team will advance to the second round along with seeded clubs Puerto Rico Islanders, Tempete FC of Haiti, and T&T’s San Juan Jabloteh.
This year’s tournament is a three-round event that will conclude with a four-team final league phase that will run from May 4-8 in Puerto Rico.
Trinidad and Tobago’s other representatives, San Juan Jabloteh, have gotten a bye by virtue of playing in last season’s CONCACAF Champions Cup. They go into action on April 13 when they take on the best third-placed team emerging from the first round competition.
Former Devonshire Cougars coach Devarr Boyles is leading Cougars down in St. Vincent in their maiden CFU Club Championships qualifier.
Cougars qualified for the CFU Club Championship by winning the Premier Division title under Boyles last season, who then left the club to become Bermuda Football Association’s (BFA) youth director.
Boyles also returned to the Cougars bench for their defeat against Trinidad Under-23s in December and is eager for local teams to take on foreign opposition.
During his time with Dandy Town he took the team on a tour of the United States where they played MLS side’s LA Galaxy and Chivas USA.
He said it was important for domestic coaches and players to become enriched by overseas experiences.
«When I joined Cougars I told them I wanted them to become a travel club,» he said. «If, by the second season they weren’t a travel club then I wasn’t interested that was before the BFA decided to enter the title winners into the CFA Club Championships.
«I think most teams in Bermuda should aspire to become a travel club.»