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‘Yes, we can!’: Lawrence calls on T&T to believe in our Russia 2018 W/Cup chances

“We have to start believing as a nation that [World Cup qualification] can be done.”

Trinidad and Tobago head coach Dennis Lawrence does not look too much like the 44th US President. But after his team’s 1-0 victory over Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Friday evening, his message clearly resembled Barack Obama’s hugely successful campaign slogan, “Yes, we can!”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence (right) thanks midfielder Cordell Cato for his effort during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence (right) thanks midfielder Cordell Cato for his effort during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

“Trinidad and Tobago came out and I saw a team that was willing to fight,” a satisfied Lawrence told the post-match media conference. “They tried to give the public something to say; these boys are here fighting for their country.”

Lawrence’s Panamanian counterpart, Hernán Gómez, was understandably rather less enthusiastic about the result and declined to attend the briefing.

Scores in the other Hex games on the night meant that, despite opening their 2018 World Cup Qualifying campaign account with the crucial win, T&T remain fifth on the table.

Mexico leapt to the top of the table after recording a 2-0 win over Costa Rica while the USA bounced back from opening round defeats to wallop Honduras 6-0 and move from last to fourth.

But nothing could dim Lawrence’s delight at the result and his team’s performance in what was his first competitive match at the helm. According to him, the players showed the type of hunger that he had been demanding of them.

Singled out for special mention with regard to showing hunger and spirit were the much maligned duo of Kenwyne Jones and Daneil Cyrus.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago forward Kenwyne Jones (left) outruns Panama central defender Roman Torres during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago forward Kenwyne Jones (left) outruns Panama central defender Roman Torres during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Jones, re-appointed captain prior to kick-off, was purposeful in his play and produced an enterprising performance that, one hopes, will have silenced his naysayers even if only temporarily. It certainly pleased his coach.

“The captain led by example,” he told the assembled media. “He gave me what I wanted from him.”

Lawrence continued, “I told him, you’ve been there and done it (and) he gave me every single thing he can. I’m quite happy.”

“We know what we need to do,” the lanky number nine responded indirectly to his critics in a post-match interview. “And I’m here to do my job and do what the game requires. Whatever the fans want to say, that’s up to them. Fans are fans.”

Cyrus did not have the opportunity to respond to the criticism levelled at him. But as far as Lawrence was concerned, he already had where it matters—on the field and in his favoured central defensive role. Time and again, he put his body on the line to smother shots on goal.

The road to the player’s redemption, Lawrence pointed out, is paved in the middle of the defence.

“He has done well,” the coach told the media. “I saw Cyrus as a young player and that’s the position I saw him playing. I thought he was a young, upcoming, good centre-back.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago right back Daneil Cyrus controls the ball during 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup action against Cuba. (Courtesy: Arianna Grainey)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago right back Daneil Cyrus controls the ball during 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup action against Cuba.
(Courtesy: Arianna Grainey)

The unavailability of regular central defenders Sheldon Bateau, Radanfah Abu Bakr and Carlyle Mitchell made it easier for Cyrus to get his chance. But Lawrence, a 2006 World Cup veteran, was careful to point out that the lanky defender was not yet on easy street.

“He has to keep his concentration going,” he noted, “not just today but all the way through.”

The combined efforts of Cyrus and his fellow defenders meant that custodian Jan-Michael Williams had an easier night between the sticks than has been the case of late. But Williams, a player with 76 full international caps, will know to expect things to be rather different in Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier against table-toppers Mexico.

Mexico’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernández opened the scoring against Costa Rica to pull alongside “El Tri” legend Jared Borghetti as the country’s all-time leading goal-scorer with 46 goals. But it was T&T’s own goal-scorer Kevin Molino who pushed his tally to 17 international goals from 36 appearances to capture the attention of the Mexican media as they look ahead to next week’s clash.

Lawrence offered a glowing review of his playmaker’s performance on the night but remained coy on the player’s fitness after he left the field on a stretcher late in the second half.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevin Molino weighs up his options during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevin Molino weighs up his options during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Molino was making his first appearance in the Hex after a two-match internal suspension for twice breaking the team’s curfew policy to attend a party.

In playful mood after the win, Lawrence had fun with the notion that his ace attacker may have been badly injured before he eventually conceded that the Minnesota United player had merely suffered from fatigue.

Experienced campaigner that he is, the rookie coach also knows that Mexico will be a horse of a different colour and he has already begun to turn his and the team’s attention to preparation for that now ultra-critical encounter.

“We can enjoy [tonight’s win] for maybe five minutes,” he announced, “because the focus goes immediately onto Mexico.”

“We have a short space of time to prepare for the game,” he warned, preaching to the choir. “The main thing at the moment for the players is recovery.”

Rookie coach but veteran footballer, Lawrence is clearly on top of his game, ticking all the boxes as he seeks to earn at least one more point from this two-match home interlude.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Dennis Lawrence (centre) makes a point to his players during World Cup qualifying action against Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Dennis Lawrence (centre) makes a point to his players during World Cup qualifying action against Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

“I’ve managed to send somebody out to watch the Mexico game,” he alerted the gathering. “It was one of our coaches that works with the Football Association, (…) somebody that I trust. I sent him out there to watch the game and do a report.”

The revelation highlights an attention to detail that has to be a feature of the modern game—Wired868 understands that former local football legend, Russell Latapy, got the scouting assignment. But it also raises serious questions about the resources made available to one of Lawrence’s predecessors, Stephen Hart, who continuously petitioned for assistance that never came.

Lawrence’s technical staff dwarfs those of his immediate predecessor Tom Saintfiet and Hart and he has even had the benefit of introducing GPS fitness monitoring equipment to the players’ training regime.

“I think football has moved on,” Lawrence explained in the post-match session,  “and if we want to compete with the best, we need to be somewhere close to these people.”

For the moment, the people he’s concerned with being close to are Panama (third on four points) and the US (fourth on three). And if he can somehow conjure up another one point or three against the Mexicans on Tuesday, he will be one step closer to getting Trinidad and Tobago to believe that, as far as 2018 Russia World Cup qualification is possible, yes, we can!

About Amiel Mohammed

Amiel Mohammed
Amiel Mohammed is a sports enthusiast and has worked in communications for Central FC and the Women's Premier League TT. He has also pioneered numerous projects geared towards creating opportunities for the differently abled such as the Differently-Abled Football Camp 2015 and Focus Football Coaching Academy.

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22 comments

  1. ..Because the plan was to sabotage Hart and to move in cohorts. Mercifully, the TTFA Board found the balls to stand up and Dennis was appointed. Long may it continue. The Board has a serious role to play in the saving of Trini football from the Gang of Four..

  2. Effort yes but how effective? His main role is attack and he’s too slow in that critical 5-15 yd sprint for me to worry defenders. If we played a long ball game with one guy making a burst/decoy run from midfield that might suit him and maybe he could be more of a worry. Same problem we had with stern. We hold on to strikers way too long. The team imho needs to up tempo(and fitness; hyland looked roasted/less zippy) and more importantly improve and maintain defensive focus so as to not get stretched out of shape in attack and on counter attacks as happened here v Costa Rica, who didn’t really outplay us. I actually think our defense was great except for the last 20 or so mins when the speedier subs came on and we became stretched and vulnerable. Great game from Cyrus especially in the centre(on the right clearly wasn’t his best position).

  3. Kenwyne made a much greater effort the last game than he has in the past prior games. He just needs to be consistent with the effort. In the interim, someone would have to be groomed/coach to assume his position.

  4. Lol true. I think the guys would be motivated enough but I’m not sure about the philosophy re kenwyne. The tempo he causes us to play with appears easier for us to manage and keep our shape but unfortunately it’s also easier for the opposition defense to manage too.

  5. Well two hands would have to clap here. We believe in the team, but the team would have to play like a beast straight out ah hell on Tuesday because them midgets in green ent no joke.

  6. We didn’t look compact when we attacked with speed(amen; that would give defenses less time to settle) in the second half. Appear stretched and vulnerable to counter attacks when ours break down.

  7. Very spirited performance last night . Well played lads !.

    Lots of work to do
    All the support is needed and lets give this a massive push .

  8. Good job guys we are happy we won but on the same note hope ppl don’t have de world to say if we ain’t get fe result we want

  9. Congrats to Tallest but they need to play better against Mexico and hart wasn’t given any of these resources, the question needs to be asked as to why Hart was sabotaged?

  10. The allocation of resources thing does raise some eyebrows. Cause I was a fan of Hart. The team played well until Molino got axed. That being said congrats to Dennis the team played hard. And gave a solid shift. Hope they can recover for Mexico

  11. “The negative on a historic night for Hernandez and the Mexico national team was that the former Manchester United striker limped off in the 66th minute, although coach Juan Carlos Osorio said in the postgame news conference that he may be able to play on Tuesday against Trinidad and Tobago in Port of Spain.

    One player that is out of that game is Jurgen Damm, who picked up a hamstring strain towards the end of the Friday’s match after coming on as a substitute.”

    http://www.espnfc.com/mexico/story/3089053/javier-hernandez-never-dreamed-hed-equal-jared-borgettis-mexico-goals-record

  12. Let’s keep on truckin’… This is serious business. We have way to go…