The Trinidad and Tobago National Under-23 Team got another harsh lesson in international football today as the young “Soca Warriors” were routed 4-0 by Uruguay in their opening fixture of the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.
Coach Zoran Vranes’ team was already eliminated from the 2016 Olympic Games in only the preliminary Caribbean round in June. And, whatever the results in Toronto, this squad will be disbanded this month.
There are unlikely to be fond memories of this afternoon’s contest at the Hamilton Pan American Soccer Stadium, though.
The Warriors were never really in the match as Uruguay took the lead in the fifth minute through captain Fabricia Duarte after goalkeeper Javon Sample flapped at a corner kick.
It should have been 2-0 in the 14th minute as Federico Ricca hit over from six yards as the Trinidad and Tobago players were again at sea against Uruguay’s set pieces. But Ricca made amends, six minutes later, as he got ahead of marker Tristan Hodge to ram home a header from another corner kick.
At that stage, Uruguay enjoyed over 70 percent of the possession as they bossed the midfield area.
The South American team used a 3-5-2 system in which one of their defenders was generally willing to bomb forward to flood the attacking zone. In response, the Warriors started five defenders with a four-man midfield diamond and the athletic Ricardo John alone upfront.
It was not that Trinidad and Tobago lacked ability on the ball. Midfielders Duane Muckette, Nathaniel Garcia and Neveal Hackshaw, for instance, all held their own in the individual contests.
Collectively, though, it was a mismatch.
This was only the third full international match from Vranes’s under-23 squad and, due to well documented managerial issues, he has used a different goalkeeper in ever game while there were a total of 10 changes to the starting line-up in their last two outings.
The Warriors did push Uruguay back at times and captain Alvin Jones came closest to an attempt on goal with a deflected free kick. But there was no surprise when Nicolas Albarracin got a third with a stinging low drive that flew past Sample at his near post in the 30th minute.
The South American team dropped a gear after and, by the second half, the Warriors’ ball possession rose dramatically to 42 percent. But that did not translate to much in an offensive sense as Trinidad and Tobago only managed two shots on target for the 90 minutes.
Jones, who played in central defence, was ejected for a late tackle in the 59th minute that prevented an opponent on a counter attack. But Uruguay did still get a fourth as Brian Lozano converted a free kick in the 68th minute.
The Under-23 Warriors will be in action again on Friday July 17 when they face Paraguay while their final Group B fixture will be against Mexico on Tuesday July 21. Only the two top nations will advance from their group.
The “Women Soca Warriors” enjoyed a better start to their campaign on Saturday July 11 when they held Argentina 2-2 thanks to strikes from Mariah Shade and Maylee Attin-Johnson.
The Women Warriors tackle Colombia tomorrow while they will face their Mexican counterparts on Friday July 18.
The National Senior Women’s Team has its Olympic qualifying series to look forward to in August, after the Pan Am Games.
For the National Men’s Under-23, it is now or never if they are do something memorable.
Trinidad and Tobago U-23 (5-4-1): 18.Jovan Sample (GK); 2.Shannon Gomez, 16.Alvin Jones (captain) [Red card 59], 3.Maurice Ford (5.Dario Holmes 54), 4.Jesus Perez, 8.Tristan Hodge; 15.Neil Benjamin (17.Aikim Andrews 37), 10.Duane Muckette (12.Xavier Rajpaul 73), 9.Nathaniel Garcia, 6.Neveal Hackshaw; 13.Ricardo John.
Unused substitutes: 1.Montell Joseph (GK), 7.Jomal Williams, 11.Shackiel Henry, 14.Jelani Felix.
Coach: Zoran Vranes.