Luchi Gonzalez has urged San Jose Earthquakes to turn PayPal Park into a fortress, starting against FC Cincinnati in the MLS on Saturday.

San Jose sit bottom of the Western Conference, three points adrift of FC Dallas and Sporting Kansas City after winning just three games this season.

The ‘Quakes are winless in their last four matches, but Gonzalez is confident the mid-season break served his team’s preparation for Cincinnati well.

"The guys had some time off to kind of recharge and miss each other, miss training, miss the competition," Gonzalez said. "They're showing hunger, they're showing intensity and excitement as we approach Cincinnati.

"It's about getting the stadium back to being our fortress. Making teams miserable here and our intensity and our urgency to push the game. We know Cincinnati defend very well. They can hurt you with some individual talent."

Meanwhile, Cincinnati’s seven-game winning streak was ended by defeat to Nashville SC last time out.

They sit second in the Eastern Conference, just two points behind leaders Inter Miami, having played two games less, but head coach Pat Noonan does not want them to pay any attention to the standings.

"I don't want our group to focus at all on where they are in the standings," said Noonan. I don't think it's indicative of the quality they have and the challenges that we'll face so that part’s important.

"The second you think you have any type of advantage because of the position in the standings, or your opponents’ position, you step on the field and understand pretty quickly that's a poor approach."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

San Jose – Amahl Pellegrino

Pellegrino scored his team-leading fifth goal in San Jose’s last match on May 31. He’s scored four of the Earthquakes’ last nine MLS goals dating back to early May.

Cincinnati – Luciano Acosta

Acosta has recorded at least one goal contribution in each of his last five away matches (three goals, four assists), the longest streak in club history. Only Cristian Arango (11) has more goal contributions in road matches than Acosta (10 – four goals, six assists) this season.

MATCH PREDICTION: FC CINCINNATI WIN

Each team recorded a home win over the other in the first two meetings between San Jose and FC Cincinnati. Cincinnati won the last meeting, 6-0, in 2022, the largest margin of victory in team history and tied for San Jose’s largest-ever defeat.

Cincinnati has lost only one of its last 14 MLS away matches (incl. playoffs) dating back to last August (W9 D4) including winning the last four in a row. The only team in MLS history to lose just once in a span of 15 road games (incl. playoffs) was LA Galaxy in 2009-10.

Meanwhile, San Jose has just 11 points from 16 matches this season, equaling their worst total at this stage of a season in club history (also in 2018). The ‘Quakes have never hit the halfway point of a 34-match season with fewer than 12 points.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

San Jose – 21.6%

Draw – 21.8%

Cincinnati – 56.6%

Despite watching his side beat Atlanta United in midweek, FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan still wants more from his side when they host St. Louis City this weekend.

Kevin Kelsy's seventh-minute strike was enough to earn Cincinnati a 1-0 win over Atlanta to make it five straight MLS victories.

Cincinnati currently sit second in the Eastern Conference, but Noonan is still demanding more from his side than Wednesday's performance.

"I wouldn't say 'negatives' but [there are] things we could have done better, and here we are with the guys keeping a clean sheet and winning the game," Noonan told reporters.

"They deserve credit and to be proud of the fact that they're still walking off the field with a win tonight."

St. Louis saw a five-game unbeaten streak end as they lost 2-0 to Los Angeles FC in midweek.

The defeat leaves St. Louis ninth in the Western Conference, though they are just three points off sixth-placed Austin FC.

Bradley Carnell is looking to get players back fit and raring to go for the visit to Cincinnati at the weekend, saying: "It's about how we manage over the next couple of days to get a solid, fit line-up for Cincinnati.

"We don't have much time to sit and dwell, and we have to be brave and positive to head to Cincinnati."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

FC Cincinnati – Kevin Kelsy

In his first MLS start, Kelsy scored Cincinnati's lone goal on Wednesday. The 19-year-old has scored in consecutive games, making him the first teenager to score multiple MLS goals for Cincinnati, and if he gets the nod from the off again here, he will once more hope to mark it with a goal.

St. Louis City – Joao Klauss

Having netted four in his previous four games, Klauss drew a blank against LAFC as St. Louis slumped to defeat. He is clearly a key man in St. Louis' attack, and he will hope to get back among the goals this weekend, and with a win too.

MATCH PREDICTION – CINCINNATI WIN

St. Louis beat Cincinnati 5-1 in the lone previous meeting between the sides last April. The four-goal margin is Cincinnati’s largest defeat since the start of last season and equals St. Louis' largest ever margin of victory.

But St. Louis are winless in eight straight away matches in all competitions (four draws, four defeats). St. Louis have won three of their last 23 on the road after winning the first three away matches in club history.

Cincinnati have won five straight regular season matches with all five wins coming by one-goal margins, the first team to do so since the Red Bulls in 2012, and though it may be a tight game again this weekend, the hosts will fancy their chances of coming out on the right side of the result and collecting another three points.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Cincinnati: 44.3%

St. Louis: 28.2%

Draw: 27.5%

Wilfried Nancy questioned why limits should be placed upon his Columbus Crew side after they reached the CONCACAF Champions Cup final.

Having taken a narrow 2-1 lead into the second and away leg, Columbus then impressively won 3-1 in Monterrey to secure their place in the final against Pachuca in June.

Columbus are also sitting fifth in the MLS' Eastern Conference, and Nancy believes his side can keep pushing the boundaries of their potential.

"For me, this is about trying to be limitless, and this value for me is so important," Nancy told reporters. "Why are we going to put limits on what we do?"

Nancy's men turn their attentions back to domestic football this weekend, hosting FC Cincinnati on Saturday.

Cincinnati are flying themselves having rattled off three straight MLS victories to leave them second in the East and three points behind leaders Inter Miami with a game in hand.

Despite winning 1-0 at Orlando City last time out, Noonan was not impressed with his side's showing, saying: "I don't think anybody in there is doing cartwheels because of their, and our, performance.

"We won a game on the road and did things well enough to get a win, but didn't perform anywhere near what we know we're capable of.

"Hopefully, we use this as a chance to learn a little bit about ourselves and grow from it and then hopefully, have a good week and a strong performance in Columbus."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Columbus Crew – Cucho Hernandez

Hernandez leads the Crew for goals so far this season, netting four times in eight appearances. His tally is twice as many as his team-mates have managed, and Hernandez looks the most likely to lead his team's attacking threat this Saturday.

FC Cincinnati – Luciano Acosta

Acosta scored 17 seconds into Cincinnati’s 1-0 win over Orlando last weekend. It was the earliest goal ever scored in a 1-0 win in MLS history, and if his team are to pick up three points again this weekend, another fast start from Acosta could prove helpful.

MATCH PREDICTION – COLUMBUS CREW WIN

Columbus have lost only two of their 13 all-time MLS meetings with Cincinnati (seven wins, four draws), including winning the last two in a row. The Crew have scored multiple goals in 11 of those 13 matches, including each of the last seven in a row (incl. playoffs).

Cincinnati, meanwhile, have won three straight matches in all competitions for the first time since a four-match winning run in May-June last season. Two of those wins have come on the road with Cincinnati winning seven of their last 11 away matches in all competitions dating back to last September.

Columbus are unbeaten in 27 consecutive home matches in all competitions dating back over a year, though, with only two longer home unbeaten streaks in all competitions by an MLS club before, and they look the favourites to claim victory on Saturday.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Columbus – 52.5%

Cincinnati – 21.2%

Draw – 26.3%

Chris Armas says his Colorado Rapids players deserve to enjoy their meteoric rise up the MLS standings, and he is confident they will not get carried away ahead of their trip to FC Cincinnati.

Colorado sit fourth in the Western Conference with 15 points from nine games, winning three of their last four after an inconsistent start to the year.

They benefitted from two own goals as they beat FC Dallas 2-1 last time out, and Armas has no issue with his players enjoying their place in the standings, particularly given they finished rock bottom of the West in 2023.

"I see the boys looking at the TV where we have the standings posted, and they see that we're climbing, so it's all good stuff," Armas said.

"From day one the message that I preached is that everything we do will be based on hard work and that we will never get too low on ourselves.

"We don't get too high, the boys are realistic. That part's not that hard and our group is hungry and looking to improve every day."

Supporters' Shield holders Cincinnati have had an up-and-down start, going unbeaten through their first five games of the year before suffering back-to-back defeats against the New York Red Bulls and CF Montreal (both 1-2).

However, Pat Noonan's men bounced back with a statement 2-1 victory over Atlanta United last week, and defender Matt Miazga hopes that result will be a turning point.

"I look at everybody and I'm like, 'Alright, I see in his face, I see in his face. We want it,'" Miazga said. 

"We all realised we are a top team, with big personalities, big characters, and it's time to show up in big moments."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

FC Cincinnati – Luciano Acosta

Acosta assisted Cincinnati's equaliser against Atlanta last Saturday before scoring the winner two minutes later. 

That was Acosta's 13th regular-season match with a goal and an assist since the start of the 2022 season, three more than any other player in MLS has managed during that time.

Colorado Rapids – Djordje Mihailovic

Mihailovic has created at least twice as many chances as any other Colorado player in MLS this term (16), with Keegan Rosenberry and Sam Vines creating eight apiece.

He also has two goals and one assist to his name, while only Rafael Navarro (16) has bettered his 10 successful dribbles among his team-mates.

MATCH PREDICTION – FC CINCINNATI WIN

Cincinnati earned their first win over the Rapids last May, triumphing 1-0 on the road. The Rapids had won the first two meetings between the sides, including a 2-0 victory on their only previous trip to Cincinnati.

The Rapids also enter Saturday's game having won successive regular-season matches for the first time since September 2022, eyeing their first three-game winning streak since August 2021.

However, Cincinnati ended their poor run by beating Atlanta last time out and have, despite some underwhelming performances, only lost two of their nine league games this term (four wins, three draws). On home soil, the Supporters' Shield holders are favourites.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

FC Cincinnati – 49.3%

Colorado Rapids – 23.3%

Draw – 27.4%

Though faced with uphill tasks to overturn 0-2 and 0-3 deficits, Caribbean clubs Cavalier of Jamaica and Dominican Republic’s Moca FC, will be intent on leaving everything on the pitch when they challenge FC Cincinnati and Nashville SC in Round one return leg of the Concacaf Champions Cup on Wednesday.

Cavalier will be away to FC Cincinnati at the TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio t 7:00pm, while Moca FC are also away to Nashville SC at Geodis Park in Tennessee for the 9:15pm encounter.

Last week’s first leg was the first ever Champions Cup match for both Cavalier and FC Cincinnati, with the Major League Soccer (MLS) side proving too good for their Jamaica Premier League (JPL) counterpart, despite a gritty effort by the latter.

Sergio Santos and Malik Pinto did the damage for FC Cincinnati inside Jamaica’s National Stadium. But perhaps more impressive was the effort from FC Cincinnati’s defence to shutout the highest scoring team from the 2023 Concacaf Caribbean Cup, which comprises Golden Boot winner Shaniel Thomas.

With a two-goal cushion and a pair of away goals, FC Cincinnati, playing their first ever Champions Cup match at home, are in the driver’s seat to progress to the Round of 16, and only need a repeat of last week’s performance to confirm that much.

While MLS clubs hold a seven-win advantage in meetings with Jamaican clubs, that statistic will mean very little to Rudolph Speid and his Cavalier side, who will be hoping to summon their best all-round performance to not only shutout the menacing Luciano Acosta and company, but more importantly, score some goals of their own.

Cavalier twice scored five goals during last year’s Caribbean Cup, doing so in the group stage against Golden Lion of Martinique in a 5-2 win, followed by a 5-0 win at fellow Jamaican club Harbour View in the semifinals.

Cavalier will require that kind of output if they are to turn this series around in their favour. In addition to Thomas, Jalmaro Calvin and Orlando Russell, will need to fire on all cylinders.

Meanwhile, Nashville SC, who got their first-leg goals from Hany Mukhtar, Sam Surridge and Tyler Boyd, will be aiming to maintain their dominance to also confirm their spot in the Round of 16.

However, with Mukhtar and Surridge both carrying injuries, their absence could dampen Nashville’s attacking prowess and possibly present a window of opportunity on which Moca FC will be aiming to capitalise on.

A win on United States soil would see Moca FC being the first Dominican Republic team to do so. Though highly unlikely, it is by no means impossible and Gustavo Ascona, who was one of the stars of the 2023 Concacaf Caribbean Cup with four goals, along with Juan Angeles, will be integral to their chances.

 

Jamaica's Cavalier and Dominican Republic's Moca FC will both have to play catch up in order to progress to the next round of the Concacaf Champions Cup, after they suffered 0-2 and 0-3 defeats to Major League Soccer (MLS) outfit FC Cincinnati and Nashville SC in their respective Round One first-leg fixtures on Thursday.

Despite a gutsy performance, Cavalier were undone by goals from Sergio Santos (45+5) and substitute Malik Pinto (87th), much to the delight of a small FC Cincinnati fan base, which outcheered their local counterparts inside Jamaica's National Stadium.

FC Cincinnati started more purposeful and controlled the tempo of the game for the most parts, as their high attacking line forced Cavalier into a defensive posture from where they tried to catch their opponents on the counter.

By virtue of their consistent press, the visitors, which boasts the likes of out-of-favour Reggae Boy Alvas Powell, were always more threatening in opening play, and it took some good glovework from Cavalier's custodian Jeadine White, as well as the crossbar, to keep them at bay.

Santos's header from close range, was kept out by a well-positioned White in the 22nd minute.

Cavalier responded immediately after, on the counter, through Orlando Russell, whose effort was parried by FC Cincinnati's goalkeeper Roman Celetano.

FC Cincinnati again went close on two occasions in quick succession, first in the 33rd where the menacing Luciano Acosta's effort from a distance was parried by White, who got down well to his right, and the second a minute later through Santos, who caught White off his line, but his right-footer came back off the crossbar.

It took some desperate defending from Richard King and Jeovanni Laing, putting their bodies on the line to deny Acosta, who got through on twice in the 38th and 45th minutes. However, just when it seemed as if Cavalier had survived the storm, Santos broke their hearts when he poked home from a Bret Halsey on the stroke of the break to put FC Cincinnati 1-0 up.

Cavalier were more assertive on the resumption as they went on the probe for the equaliser, which they should have had in the 64th minute, but Shaniel Thomas failed to finish off a tidy team build up and was later dispossessed.

With the introduction of fresh legs, FC Cincinnati again went on the attack and almost doubled the lead in the 82nd, when Pavel Bucha met Acosta's weighted corner kick on the volley, but the effort grazed the crossbar on its way out.

Pinto, who entered the field in the 84th minute, eventually found the second for FC Cincinnati in the 87th when he drove home a right-footer from an Arquimides Ordonez backheel pass, to give his team a tidy cushion heading into their home leg on Wednesday.

MOCA FC vs NASHVILLE SC

Over in Dominican Republic, Hany Mukhtar and Sam Surridge each had a goal and an assist to lead Nashville SC to a 3-0 over Moca FC at the Estadio Cibao in Santiago de los Caballeros.

Mukhtar (12th), Surridge (25th) and Tyler Boyd (75th), got the job done for Nashville, who will be aiming to wrap things up on their home turf on Wednesday.

Nashville SC could not have asked for a better start, as they broke the deadlock in the 12th minute, when star attacking midfielder Mukhtar polished off a one-two combination with Surridge by finishing past goalkeeper Pascual Ramirez.

The dynamic duo of Mukhtar and Surridge hooked up again to produce Nashville’s second in the 25th. This time it was Mukhtar, who filtered a pass for Surridge to fire past Ramirez.

Moca started to threaten toward the end of the half and forced the Nashville defence into some nervy moments, especially when a Juan Angeles shot required a reaction save from Joe Willis, in goal for Nashville.

But Nashville later regained their momentum in the second half and after several looks at goal, they inevitably added a third through Tyler Boyd, who fired home in the 75th minute.

From there, it was just a matter of seeing things out for Nashville, who ensured Moca went scoreless, and maintain a very healthy advantage going into the return leg.

 

FC Cincinnati asserted their dominance in the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup Round One series, securing a convincing 2-0 victory over Jamaican club Cavalier in the first leg at the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica.

The match witnessed early and intense action, with both teams having promising opportunities to score within a span of 30 seconds. Sergio Santos of FC Cincinnati initiated the action, heading a shot at Cavalier goalkeeper Jeadine White. In response, Cavalier's Orlando Russell's shot at goal was thwarted by a save from FC Cincinnati custodian Roman Celetano.

Santos came close to breaking the deadlock in the 34th minute, striking the crossbar with a powerful shot. However, his persistence paid off just before half-time when Bret Halsey found Santos, who skillfully slotted home a shot, giving FC Cincinnati a 1-0 lead.

In the second half, Cavalier aimed to stage a comeback and tested the FC Cincinnati defense. A crucial moment occurred in the 64th minute, with Shaniel Thomas, the top scorer in the 2023 Concacaf Caribbean Cup, seemed poised to take a shot but FC Cincinnati's Yuya Kubo intervened with a last-ditch slide tackle, clearing the imminent threat.

Determined to further assert their dominance, FC Cincinnati sought a second goal and they came close in the 82nd minute when Pavel Bucha unleashed a volley from a corner kick that grazed the crossbar.

The coveted second goal materialized for FC Cincinnati in the 87th minute, orchestrated by a slick back heel from Arquimides Ordonez. Malik Pinto sealed the deal with a powerful and well-placed right-footed finish, securing the 2-0 victory and putting Cavalier on the ropes as FC Cincinnati will carry this advantage into the next leg, aiming to advance further in the competition.

 

Jamaican club Cavalier and Dominican Republic’s Moca FC will be targeting quick starts in their respective 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup Round One campaigns, as they tackle Major League Soccer (MLS) outfits FC Cincinnati and Nashville FC in first leg action on Thursday.

Moca FC hosts Nashville SC at the Estadio Cibao in Santiago de los Caballeros at 7:00pm, while Cavalier will also be at home to FC Cincinnati at the National Stadium at 9:00pm Jamaica time.

Cavalier, who secured their spot in this edition of the Champions Cup by virtue of their runner-up finish in last year’s Concacaf Caribbean Cup, will be hoping to carry their form from the Jamaica Premier League into play and upset the proverbial applecart across the two-leg tie.

The Rudolph Speid-coached side currently head the Jamaica Premier League standings on the back of a 12-match unbeaten run, the last four of which ended in clean sheet victories.

“We have only conceded two goals in 12 (Jamaica Premier League) games, one being an own goal. So, we are on a trajectory and it is something that we plan because we know that we will be up against some good attackers in the Concacaf Champions League, so we try to hone our defence,” Speid said.

While the level of competition on the Champions Cup stage is more formidable that the Jamaica Premier League and the Caribbean Cup, Cavalier have proven that they can compete and, if their rich scoring from the Caribbean Cup, in particular, is anything to go by, then FC Cincinnati will have to put every foot right defensively.

No player had more goals in the Caribbean Cup than Shaniel Thomas, who finished with eight goals, including a pair of hat-tricks. However, Thomas didn’t do it alone as Jalmaro Calvin also scored four goals and was one of the playmakers in attack.

Speid is backing that dynamic duo and others to execute accordingly against an FC Cincinnati team playing its first match of the year.

“We just want to see what we can get from the two games against Cincinnati,” Speid added.

Cincinnati FC also enjoyed a fruitful 2023 season in MLS, where they won the Supporters Shield as the team with the best regular season record.

Like Cavalier, the Ohio-based club will be making their Champions Cup debut as well but boast both quality and experience within the squad. Attacking midfielder and 2023 MLS Most Valuable Player Luciano Acosta, who had 17 goals and 14 assists in 2023, is no stranger to the Champions Cup, as he enjoyed a stint with DC United in 2015-16 season. Now, almost eight years later, Acosta will get another crack at Concacaf glory.

FC Cincinnati also have great strength in defence, especially in central defenders Matt Miazga and Miles Robinson, both of whom have won a Concacaf Gold Cup with the United States Men’s National team.

A pair of seasoned FC Cincinnati defenders going up against Cavalier’s prolific attack should make for an intriguing first leg.

Moca FC vs Nashville SC

These two teams will also be making their Concacaf Champions Cup debuts, as Moca FC progressed by virtue of their third-place finish in the Caribbean Cup, while Nashville SC, due to their runner-up finish in last year’s Leagues Cup.

Moca used a stifling defence and timely goal-scoring to reach the knockout stage of the Caribbean Cup, as they conceded just three goals in their four group stage games.

In attack, Gustavo Ascona was a headache for opponents defence in scoring four goals, while Victor Sanchez was also threat in notching two goals.

But they are up against an MLS team that boast one of the strongest squads in the Eastern Conference, which makes for a daunting assignment.

Leading the way for Nashville is talented midfielder Hany Mukhtar, who pocketed MLS’s Most Valuable Player for the 2022 season, a feat he followed up with 15 goals and 11 assists in 2023. New arrival Tyler Boyd should also help in attack, after scoring seven goals and contributing four assists last season with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Nashville SC are also quite strong in defence, with United States Internationals Walker Zimmerman and Shaq Moore at the back. 

New ground will be broken in this year's Concacaf Champions Cup when Jamaica's Cavalier Football Club square off against Major League Soccer's (MLS) FC Cincinnati in Round One action next month.

Not only will it be the first time that both teams will parade their skills in the tournament, but it will also be the first time that a Jamaican club will lock horns with an MLS outfit that is not DC United.

This two-legged encounter, like others in the first round, is possible due to the tournament's expanded format to accommodate 27 teams.

By virtue of winning the MLS Supporters Shield for the 2023 season, in which they had the league’s best record during the regular season, FC Cincinnati qualified for their first Champions Cup, while Cavalier qualified by way of their runner-up finish in the 2023 Concacaf Caribbean Cup.

This means that two teams making their Champions Cup debut will meet in the first round of action, for the first time since the 2020 edition when New York City FC faced Costa Rica's San Carlos in the Round of 16.

In all four previous instances when Jamaican teams drew an MLS opponent in the Champions Cup, all were somehow pitted against DC United. This started in the 2005 quarterfinals, where DC United eliminated Harbour View 4-2 on aggregate with a pair of 2-1 victories.

Three years later in 2008, those same two sides met again in the quarterfinal round. Harbour View earned a 1-1 draw at home, but succumbed 5-0 away loss, as DC United won 6-1 on aggregate.

In the 2014-15 Champions Cup, Waterhouse was the Jamaican opponent for DC United in the group stage. DC United narrowly won that encounter 1-0 at home and then 2-1 in Jamaica on their way to group honours.

The following season in the 2015-16 group stage, DC United faced Montego Bay United, and again came out tops. DC United collected a 3-0 win at home and then rallied from a three-goal deficit to claim a 3-3 draw in Jamaica.

Thanks to DC United’s prowess, MLS teams have six wins and two draws against Jamaican opposition in the Champions Cup, a mark that will be put to the test by Cavalier against FC Cincinnati in next month’s fixture.

 

It is always exciting when a club makes its debut on a stage which they long dreamed of. Such is the case of Jamaica Premier League outfit Cavalier, who is among the first-timers set to grace this year’s edition of the Concacaf Champions Cup, after they finished as runner-up in last year’s Concacaf Caribbean Cup.

Anchoring what is the youngest team in Jamaica’s top-flight league is goalkeeper Vino Barclett, who started all eight matches for Cavalier during the tournament, and made 28 saves, which assisted the Rudolph Speid-coached team to the Caribbean Cup showpiece.

Though they lost 0-3 on aggregate to Suriname’s Robinhood, their main objective was met, as their vision of playing against some of the best clubs in the Concacaf region, has come to fruition.

“It was a big achievement for a Jamaican club. We played in a knockout tournament domestically and got to the finals, we played in the domestic league and got to the finals and so getting to the Caribbean Cup final and qualifying for Champions Cup was another big achievement for us,” Barclett said in a recent interview with Concacaf.com.

“All of the players were deserving, we worked hard for it, the only thing we lacked was winning silverware,” he added.

While most of his Cavalier teammates are from Jamaica, Barclett is one of the team’s full-time international players, as he represents St Lucia on an even bigger stage. Giving his vast experience representing St Lucia in Concacaf Nations League, Barclett is not one to shy away from tough competition and, as such, is now eager to parade his skill in Concacaf’s premier club competition.

“Representing St Lucia on this stage is like a dream come true. I’m still a relatively young player, just 24 years old, I think I’m the only goalkeeper from St Lucia to have played in this tournament. It is a big achievement for me, and I want to show our amateur players back home that they can be on this big stage. I’m excited for the exposure and opportunity,” Barclett shared.

Cavalier’s Round One encounter will be against Major League Soccer (MLS) outfit FC Cincinnati, scheduled for February 22, and Barclett knows a sturdy challenge awaits as their opponents capped the 2023 MLS regular season with the best record.

“The preparation has been going up to standard, we have been putting in the work. In our domestic league in the last six games, we are unbeaten with five wins and one draw, so I think the team has prepared with full conviction. We know it won’t be easy game. We have to be focused in every second of the game, we cannot switch off. Our team has a good chemistry and in preparation for that game we are working very hard,” the agile goaltender said.

With Cavalier boasting so many young players, the 2024 Champions Cup represents the perfect platform on which a group of hungry players can demonstrate their skills to the world. It is also a chance to show everyone the strength of Jamaica’s domestic football.

“I would say this is the biggest moment of my career. I have been in finals, but this will be the biggest game of my career. This is a game that can be an opportunity for many of us. Maybe scouts see us and who knows where that might lead. Representing the Caribbean is a responsibility that we embrace, knowing that we are representing the Jamaican nation, so we will be relying on our fans in the home game,” Barclett ended.

Caribbean sides Cavalier of Jamaica and Dominican Republic's Moca FC will have Major League Soccer (MLS) outfits FC Cincinnati and Nashville SC to contend with in the opening round of the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup, the region's premier men’s club competition.

The draw was conducted on Wednesday evening.

This, the tournament's 59th edition, revamped to include 27 of the best clubs from North America, Central America, and the Caribbean, and five rounds, crowns the Confederation's club champion. It also serves as the sole qualification route for the region's clubs to the new and expanded FIFA Club World Cup. 

Participating clubs in the tournament's Round One were drawn as follows: 

Round One

RO Matchup #1: Philadelphia Union (USA) vs Deportivo Saprissa (CRC)
RO Matchup #2: Deportivo Toluca (MEX) vs CS Herediano (CRC) 
RO Matchup #3: Club America (MEX) vs Real Estelí FC (NCA)
RO Matchup #4: CD Guadalajara (MEX) vs Forge FC (CAN)
RO Matchup #5: New England Revolution (USA) vs CA Independiente (PAN)
RO Matchup #6: Houston Dynamo FC (USA) vs St. Louis CITY SC (USA)
RO Matchup #7: Tigres UANL (MEX) vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC (CAN)
RO Matchup #8: Orlando City SC (USA) vs Cavalry FC (CAN)
RO Matchup #9: CF Monterrey (MEX) vs Comunicaciones FC (GUA)
RO Matchup #10: FC Cincinnati (USA) vs Cavalier FC (JAM)
RO Matchup #11: Nashville SC (USA) vs Moca FC (DOM)

Following home and away play, in February 2024, the aggregate score winner in each matchup will advance to the Round of 16. The Round of 16 matchups will be as follows: 

Round of 16 

R16 Matchup #1: CF Pachuca (MEX) vs W1 
R16 Matchup #2: SV Robinhood (SUR) vs W2 
R16 Matchup #3: W3 vs W4 
R16 Matchup #4: LD Alajuelense (CRC) vs W5 
R16 Matchup #5: Columbus Crew (USA) vs W6 
R16 Matchup #6: W7 vs W8 
R16 Matchup #7: W9 vs W10 
R16 Matchup #8: Inter Miami CF (USA) vs W11 

The Round of 16 will be played in March 2024, followed by the quarterfinals and semifinals in April, and the single-leg final on Sunday, June 2.  

Concacaf will announce the complete schedule for Round One in the coming days.

2024 Concacaf Champions Cup Windows 

Round One: February 6-8 (Week 1), 13-15 (Week 2), 20-22 (Week 3) and 27-29 (Week 4) 
Round of 16: March 5-7 (First Legs) and 12-14 (Second Legs) 
Quarterfinals: April 2-4 (First Legs) and 9-11 (Second Legs) 
Semifinals: April 23-25 (First Legs) and April 30 - May 2 (Second Legs) 
Final: Sunday, June 2 (Single Leg) 

By virtue of winning the 2023 Concacaf Champions Cup, Mexican outfit, Club Leon secured a berth in the expanded 2025 FIFA Club World Cup, joining the 2021 and 2022 champions, CF Monterrey (Mexico) and Seattle Sounders FC (USA), respectively. The 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup winner will join these three clubs as the region's four representatives in the expanded 32-club FIFA Club World Cup 2025.

Philadelphia Union saw its 2023 season conclude with a 1-0 loss to FC Cincinnati in the Eastern Conference Semifinals on a late goal from the hosts at the TQL Stadium in Cincinnati on Saturday.

Yerson Mosquera got the all-important goal in the 94th minute to send FC Cincinnati to the Eastern Conference Final.

Alvaro Barreal placed a pinpoint ball into the box which was met by Ian Murphy who headed it into the path on Mosquera. Mosquera then controlled well before firing the ball expertly past goalkeeper Andre Blake into the bottom right corner.

After a lengthy check from the Video Assistant Referee for a possible offside on Murphy was completed and ruled the goal good and the Union’s season over.

FC Cincinnati will take on the Columbus Crew in the Eastern Conference Final on December 2.

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