Tomorrow night's game between D.C. United and Waterhouse FC in Kingston is looking like the most crucial game in Group 4. A win for Waterhouse would require United to win home and away - and by more than one goal - over Tauro FC in the group's final two games, while a United win would see the Black-and-Red a single point away from clinching the group. To give us a closer look at how Waterhouse is approaching this game, we consulted Nathan from The Home of Caribbean Football:
B&RU: The game will take place at Independence Park, which many United fans will recognize from US World Cup qualifiers in the past. That's not Waterhouse's normal home, but both are in Kingston. Will there be a big crowd in the stands for this match?
Nathan: Well, Independence Park can hold up to 35,000 people so it’s of a pretty large size. In case you were wondering, the reason this venue is being used instead of the Waterhouse Stadium is firstly because it is the home field of the Jamaican Football Federation and adds more prestige, but, also it makes geographical sense for Waterhouse as they’re based in the country’s capital, Kingston, and little traveling is required.
I think there will be a decent turnout as this is a significant match for Fire-House given that, if they win, the club is on the verge of qualifying for the knockout phase for the first time in its history (indeed, this is their tournament debut). Just that alone should entice a greater number of spectators. The fact that this is a CONCACAF Champions League tie, too, as oppose to a standard league game, only elevates the interest.
Finally, Waterhouse have some domestic momentum as they finished top of the Jamaican Premier League last season, losing out to Montego Bay United in the playoff final, and their attractive style of football helps increase the proportion of people following them. In fact, they scored the most goals in the division in 2013/14 with 46 in 33 outings. But it is worth pointing out that Waterhouse is one of seven top-flight clubs located in Kingston which does strengthen competition in terms of attendances. There was a good crowd cheering them on in their last CCL game, a 4-1 victory over Tauro of Panama, and Waterhouse will need that encouragement once more as they tackle their main rival in the group.
B&RU: By defeating Tauro home and away, Waterhouse has already exceeded expectations. Another win would put them in a great spot to be the first Caribbean-based team to advance to the knockout round since the Puerto Rico Islanders (in the 2008-2009 edition). Is Waterhouse feeling any pressure? What's their mental state going into this one?
Nathan: First and foremost, admittedly I’ve been surprised by Waterhouse’s performances thus far in the competition. The two victories over Tauro symbolise something important; that perhaps the Central American and Caribbean gap is narrowing. For a long time teams from Central America have been perceived as better but the manner in which Waterhouse overcame the Panamanians, who boast a record 12 Liga Panameña de Fútbol titles, shows encouraging signs. To score six goals past a side of such reputation, and deservedly, is a noteworthy achievement in itself.
Waterhouse sort of slipped under the radar heading into the CCL, too, with more focus on Guyana’s Alpha United who had previously participated in the 2011/12 edition, albeit at the preliminary phase. They’re accustomed to playing in pressurised conditions in their homeland as the club is typically expected to finish in the higher echelons of the table and have a successful JFF Champions Cup run. But so far in the CCL, the team has played without fear and that has been a key part of why they’ve done so well.
I feel Waterhouse have enough quality to make it to the next round, especially when you look at the fact Puerto Rico Islanders did it several years back. Ironically, they only had to draw with Tauro to progress to the final eight and the Islanders enjoyed a truly memorable tournament, reaching the semi-finals. A Caribbean team has pulled it off before so there’s no real reason why Waterhouse can’t, as long as there is no dramatic decline in performance levels. Of course, winning against DC United would be a major step in achieving that dream; however, it wouldn’t mathematically confirm their advancement as DC could still usurp them with the matches in hand and goal difference factor. Sure, Waterhouse will be feeling nervous. But they’ll also be feeling excitement, anticipation and enthusiasm, which is only natural.
B&RU: At RFK Stadium, Waterhouse played a 4231 and looked to shoot from long range frequently. Should we be expecting any changes from that approach by coach Anthony Patrick?
Nathan: I actually thought Waterhouse were a tad unfortunate at RFK Stadium as they played hard and peppered the DC goal with plenty of shots. One early goal from Eddie Johnson was the difference, though, and reinforced the ruthlessness required to win football matches. Particularly at this level. They had 14 shots from outside the box which, although the majority didn’t have the desired effect, does give off the impression that Waterhouse aren’t afraid to test the opposition’s goalkeeper. DC restricted the visitors to limited close-range chances by employing a deeper defensive line, cautious of the fact Waterhouse possess some very quick forward players who can run in behind. I’m predicting DC will do the same in Kingston.
As for team selection, coach Anthony Patrick should have fresh legs to choose from given Waterhouse’s opening league fixture versus Barbican FC was postponed last weekend, and they don’t kick off their new campaign until Thursday, two days following the DC meeting. As the hosts, I would expect Waterhouse to try and get on the front foot from the outset and use the speed they have. There is a contingent of Jamaican internationals in the squad, most notably young attacking midfielder Romario Campbell who produced a phenomenal free-kick in the opener away at Tauro. He’s a really interesting player with a lovely sense of balance and touch.
Up top, meanwhile, veteran fans favourite Jermaine "Tuffy" Anderson is the main man. He scored twice in the last group outing in late August and, after returning from Águila in Honduras where he was playing professionally, Anderson will be heavily relied upon to provide a threat in the final third. Kenroy Howell, Vincent Earle, Damarley Samuels and Grenadian Nicko Williams, one of just three foreigners in the roster, are other offensive weapons.