DIRECTV W CONNECTION made full use of a one-man advantage to win the inaugural staging of the season-opening Charity Shield on Saturday when they defeated Defence Force 2-0 at the Manny Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella.
Twenty year-old striker Shahdon Winchester got the opening goal of the season in the 19th minute, and left wing-back Joevin Jones added a second two minutes after the start of the second half to give W Connection the first trophy of the season.
The Charity Shield winners were awarded a $10,000 prize, which W Connection donated towards the recovery of Candice Worrell, the girlfriend of their captain and Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Jan Michael Williams, who was attacked and left in a coma a few months ago, but is now on the road to recovery.
Champions in the 2011-2012 season, W Connection sported a full team, captained by keeper Williams and including Clyde Leon, Kern Cupid, Rennie Britto and the experienced Elijah Joseph at the back. Andrei Pacheco also marked his return to Connection from T&TEC with a second half run from off the bench.
Likewise, the army side were back to full strength with the return of former top striker Devorn Jorsling to the fold after a stint in the USA, and last season with Caledonia AIA. Speedy winger Kevon Carter is also fully recovered from a broken foot. Also among the Defence Force regulars were captain Corey Rivers, Aklie Edwards, Sean Narcis, last season's top-scorer Richard Roy, who came off the bench and keeper Kevin Graham. But Army coach Ross Russell soon had to make adjustments to his plans to "beat people" this season, when he lost the services of defender Curtis Gonzales, who was sent off just shy of a quarter-hour for fouling on W Connection midfielder Jomal Williams.
Neither team created many clear chances, but the extra player gave W Connection a distinct advantage over their opponents who were struggling to find their footing early in the season.
It took just five minutes before W Connection took advantage of their superior numbers, when Winchester netted from close-up via a re-directed corner-kick which came off strike partner Hasim Arcia before he put it in.
Defence Force's best first half effort came in the 42nd minute when Jorsling forced Jan Michael Williams to push a free-kick behind for a corner. And after just edging the first half, Connection also had the better of the second half, getting a 47th minute second goal through the adventurous Jones, who also struck the cross bar earlier in the match. He let fly from distance and caught army keeper Graham off guard for the second goal, while Winchester also drilled the ball marginally wide in the 88th after taking a through ball from Pacheco.
As he did for much of their league-winning 2010 season, Russell used Jorsling as the lone striker on top, while packing his midfield with five players.
Russell brought on Roy for Josimar Belgrave early in the second half, and later replaced fellow midfielders Jerwin Baltazar and Ross Russell Jr, with Sean Narcis and veteran Michael Edwards respectively, but his side was unable to disrupt the comfort level of the home team.
Following the Charity Shield, Pro League action kicks off this week with a Super Friday double-header at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. A new-look St Ann's Rangers, strengthened by the signing of several former San Juan Jabloteh players, will take on Defence Force at six o'clock, while two hours later North East Stars face Caribbean Champions Caledonia AIA.
On Saturday, fans will have a first look at last season's runner's up T&TEC when they take on Police. Since having their budget significantly slashed, T&TEC have released players such as Andrei Pacheco and Kerlon Fergusson and will now field a team consisted of players who work with the company.
DIGICEL CHARITY SHIELD RESULT:
W CONNECTION 2 (Shahdon Winchester 19, Joevin Jones 47), DEFENCE FORCE 0
Friday September 14
6 p.m. - St Ann's Rangers v Defence Force, Hasely Crawford Stadium
6 p.m. - Caledonia AIA v NE Stars, Hasely Crawford Stadium
Saturday September 15
Police v T&TEC, Hasely Crawford Stadium