It’s been a rough first 4 games for the Soca Warriors in The Hex to qualify for the World Cup in Russia. Opening with two losses against Costa Rica and Honduras, a win against Panama and then a game that felt like it should’ve been a win against Mexico, have us looking at a 1-0-3 record and last place in the 6-team playoff for a spot in Russia.
Our next two games are against 3rd place in CONCACAF USA and 2nd place Costa Rica (according to FIFA Rankings) and a poor showing against these two CONCACAF giants could see our World Cup hopes go up in smoke (again). To make things a little worse, Head Coach Dennis Lawrence said that San Jose Earthquakes winger Cordell Cato will not be a part of the two fixtures due to “disciplinary actions.”
Coach Lawrence had began preparations for the Soca Warriors 2nd matchup for the USMNT 2 weeks prior to the game in Denver, running practices in order to acclimatize his players to the high altitude in the Mile High City.
Getting accustomed to the thin air is one thing; the Americans are another. Last time these countries met in the National Stadium, it was a 4-0 defeat in the final game of the 4th round in CONCACAF qualifying. Jozy Altidore got a brace, while Sacha Kljestian and Paul Arriola also added to the tally.
The second match is against Costa Rica, who defeated us 2-0 in September after a strong showing in the 1st half but unable to take advantages of the opportunities that were given to us. It was all downhill from there in the 2nd half when Christian Navarro and Roland Ulate put us down late in the 2nd half.
The obvious problem is that 1.) we don’t score enough and 2.) we don’t do enough to keep goals out. Through 4 games we have a goal difference of -4 and we’re going against teams that we haven’t scored in their own dojos in more than a decade.
America has won 10 straight home games against the Soca Warriors, scoring 25 goals and allowing a stingy 3 goals in that span. The last time we scored a goal on American soil, Arnold Dwarika scored his 2nd goal against the Americans in a 3-2 loss in the Rose Bowl in Gold Cup competition in 1996.
Below is a chart found on MLSSoccer.com showing the goal differential between USA and T&T dating back to 1982. As you can see, it’s THAT bad.
And we haven’t got to Costa Rica yet, where we have a 3-4-18 record against them and we last beat them 17 years ago in Gold Cup play where we won 2-1. Mickey Trotman scored the golden goal in the 101′ to seal the victory to meet eventual champs Canada in the semi-final. The last time we scored a goal on Costa Rican soil was a month earlier in January where Dwarika scored in a 2-1 defeat.
Trinidad and Tobago have got to find ways to score on the road on Thursday and Tuesday if they want to keep their World Cup hopes alive. We’ve shown that we could hang with the best that CONCACAF has to offer (see first Costa Rica game & Mexico in March). We just need to do what’s necessary in order to get the results that is needed.
Kenwyne Jones is our unquestioned leader and captain but he needs to convert the chances he gets into goals. We can’t afford for him to keep coming up empty. Kevin Molino has done great things coming back into the fold but we need more from him, and also for him to keep his composure when things get feisty. Joevin Jones has been one of our most important players, giving everything thing he has. Jan-Michael Williams has to do better to keep goals out and the back four has to keep the pressure off him. These are recurring themes that Coach Lawrence has improved but still has to work on in order for the Warriors to get over the hump.
Realistically, I’m looking at two draws this weekend and calling that a success. It’s going to be really difficult to score wins in those environments, especially the America game, but i believe that Coach Lawrence could make a difference this time around. We won the Panama game, and we played the Mexicans with a lot of confidence and heart and that was a game we probably should have won, but circumstances allowed us to lose our grip on the game. I believe that Lawrence could find positives from that game especially to show his Soca Warriors that we could play with the best that CONCACAF has to offer and get these crucial points to keep us in World Cup contention.
Trinidad & Tobago Roster
Goalkeepers (3): Jan Michael Williams, Marvin Phillip, Adrian Foncette
Defenders (9): Radanfah Abu Bakr, Sheldon Bateau, Curtis Gonzales, Daneil Cyrus, Mekeil Williams, Triston Hodge, Alvin Jones, Carlos Edwards, Aubrey David
Midfielders (9): Hashim Arcia, Andre Boucaud, Kevan George, Hughtun Hector, Khaleem Hyland, Joevin Jones, Nathan Lewis, Kevin Molino, Leston Paul
Forwards (3): Shahdon Winchester, Jamille Boatswain, Kenwyne Jones