YOUNG football analyst Simon Preston has described the absence of national age-group player Alvas Powell from Portmore United's Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) team as one of the season's major surprises.
Powell, a Paul Bogle High daCosta Cup player, was a standout for Jamaica at last summer's FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Mexico, but is yet to make the transition into the senior set-up at Ferdie Neita Park.
"I'm a little disappointed that Portmore haven't given Alvas Powell much playing time in the senior team," Preston said. "His composure and technical ability at such a young age is (very good).
"The 17-year-old utility player has a bright future ahead of him," added Preston, the inaugural winner of CVM TV's sports game show Set Play. "He played his heart out every game for Paul Bogle and was one of Jamaica's best players during the U-17 World Cup.
"If Portmore do not intend to give him playing time, which will be crucial in his development, then it's time to cash in on him."
When reached yesterday, Portmore manager, Clive Marshall, said Powell "has played a couple of games in the Under-21 league". The club said that the player has been given time off from a substantive role in the club at this time to concentrate on catching up on his academics.
Even without the promising Powell, Portmore have dominated the first two rounds of the RSPL to establish a five-point lead atop the standings and, with 16 games to go, are favoured to claim a fifth league title.
Preston, however, thinks the St Catherine side will be pushed to the brink by resurging defending champions Tivoli Gardens and the inconsistent Harbour View.
He said: "The title race is certainly promised to go down to the wire. Teams have started to step it up a gear... I believe it will be a three-way horse race right down to the end with Harbour View, Tivoli Gardens and Portmore United.
"The main thing from now until the (end) of the season is for (teams) to keep their composure and pick up maximum points. Points dropped cannot be regained."
The Calvin Lewis-conditioned Portmore will today look to create history as they hunt a third successive end-of-round title against promoted Montego Bay United in the second-round decider at the Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex.
The incentive final will serve as the inaugural staging of the new Monday Night Football feature being initiated by the Premier League Clubs Association and title sponsors Red Stripe.
But with games scheduled to begin at 9:00 pm each Monday, Preston reckons the organisers might have a problem attracting large turnouts.
"It's a challenge with Monday night football. The crowd will not be large," he posited.
"It's the start of the week and that's when people get into their routine for the (rest of) the week.
"When students go to watch a game it's going to be a challenge as they won't be reaching home until maybe midnight. Not many (persons) are going to work 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and then go to a game; they are exhausted after a long day at work.
"Unless it's a public holiday or a special occasion, matches on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday would... draw more excitement," the young analyst argued.
Meanwhile, Preston has named Tivoli Gardens' on-loan striker Romeo Parkes and Harbour View midfielder Joel Senior as two of the standout performers over the past two rounds.
Parkes, the league's joint top-scorer, started the season at relegation-threatened Highgate United by scoring four first-round goals, but needed just two games with Tivoli to double his tally.
Senior joined Harbour View at the start of the season and has gone on to be a solid midfield player for the 'Stars of the East'.
Preston said: "They've worked overtime for their respective teams and... (with) World Cup qualifiers around the corner, I'm sure they'll be fighting to get into the player pool."