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Fight like your lives depend on it! World Cup 2006 goalie gives view on USA, C/Rica tests

Trinidad and Tobago football has two absolutely crucial World Cup qualifiers coming up and we have to find a way to get two results. It will not be easy but I’m sure we all know that.

Let’s go back for a quick look at the last two qualifiers.

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)

Against Mexico, I think we missed a golden opportunity to get three points. Technically, Mexico are above us. But even if they are better than us, in football one and one do not always make two, so I strongly believe that we should have earned at least one point at home. In my opinion, we needed to be a bit more adventurous.

Mexico played well within themselves and would have been very happy with a point. They were in control of the game while not dominating it. I think we needed to be cuter tactically and realise that we could’ve been a bit more attacking.

I suspect that new coach Dennis Lawrence was a bit too wary about being too open. However, I believe such openness is crucial to winning your home games as it is very difficult to get three points away from home.

In the event, we conceded from a set piece and I’m sure the coach would have been livid. That was a total lapse of concentration and if we are not fully focussed and repeat that kind of error against the USA, they will, I am certain, punish us.

It is true that we had a good Joevin Jones goal chalked off but that’s football; in this game as perhaps in all team sports, I believe these things eventually even themselves out.

Photo: Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio (left) complains to the fourth official while Trinidad and Tobago coach Dennis Lawrence (right) follows the action during Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 28 March 2017.
Mexico won 1-0.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Panama are a decent enough team but I predicted we would beat them as historically they don’t travel well. They tend to struggle away from home and I believe we are marginally better than them, especially when we are at home. We never looked like losing the game. However, we were never in control and that can be dangerous.

The possession stat read 52 – 48 in Panama’s favour. In my opinion, possession is important; the team that keeps the ball better usually wins. Usually. Not all the time but most times.

To beat the USA, we will need everyone to play well. There can be no passengers and we must be compact when we don’t have the ball. We must also be very sharp from the first whistle. When we played them in the States 12 years ago, that was our Achilles heel. They were razor-sharp from the start and, not surprisingly, they scored after just two minutes. Our sluggishness and nervousness allowed them to create chance after chance. They were much better than we were and we lost 1-0.

I read that Lawrence has said that he intends to go toe-to-toe with the opposition. I would be personally wary of that because they are technically and tactically better than we are. Clint Dempsey is a very good player, Michael Bradley has a terrific engine and the imperious kid Christian Pulisic is hugely talented and a joy to watch.

Photo: USA forward Clint Dempsey (right) celebrates with teammate Christian Pulisic after scoring against Panama during their 1-1 draw in 2018 World Cup qualifying action in Panama City on 28 March 2017.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Rodrigo Arangua)

We cannot afford defeat on Thursday.  We also cannot concede a goal early as that will be disastrous. We must match their intensity first and foremost.  And from the outset. If we can remain concentrated and stay in the game, we will, I think, have a chance of earning three points.

Achieving a positive result will require intelligence and careful game management. The right tactics and good concentration will determine whether we win, draw or lose. Our defence line must be compact and smart.

The likes of the two Joneses—Kenwyne and Joevin—and Jan-Michael Williams must play well. Sheldon Bateau and Daneil Cyrus need to be switched on. I believe if all these major players are fully concentrated, we will have a chance in Colorado.

Costa Rica away is also a difficult game. I remember when I played in Scotland and we went off to play these games, my teammates would say those teams are not very good and all that rubbish. I used to say to them that I would back Costa Rica to beat England or Scotland in San José. During the 2014 World Cup when England, having been second-best for most of the game, could only manage a draw against Costa Rica, they realised the truth of what I had been telling them.

I received dozens of apologies!

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago right back Daneil Cyrus (left) tries to hang on to Costa Rica attacker Christian Bolanos during Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Costa Rica at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 11 November 2016.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Costa Rica are a very good team and very strong on their own patch. They play at a high tempo and keep the ball well. With Joel Campbell, Bryon Ruiz and Christian Bolanos, they carry a real threat.

But I believe we have a genuine chance in this game in San José. The Costa Ricans know that they are better than us and I think they may underestimate us. We can surprise them if we take whatever chance(s) we create, even if it’s just a half-chance.

Kenwyne must hold up the ball well and the pace of Joevin Jones will be crucial. The atmosphere will be hostile but we must remain calm. We will also need to start well and match their intensity straightaway.

I have to repeat it again: we must stay in the game. To give ourselves a chance of getting one point or three, Jan-Michael and his defence must play well. Our concentration and discipline must be spot on from the get-go and we must play 11 vs 11 from the first whistle to the last.

Although these two games are so crucial, we once again have a controversy in the dropping of Cordell Cato that will most likely adversely affect us. I have read on social media some people saying the manager was harsh. While there are two sides to every story, I am certain the manager would have made it clear wives and/or girlfriends are not welcome in the camp.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Cordell Cato (left) sprints past Guatemala left back Rafael Morales (centre) and midfielder Rodrigo Saravia during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain on 2 September 2016.
Trinidad and Tobago and Guatemala played to a 2-2 draw.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

That being so, Cato is wrong 100%. End of text.

If we get no points from these two games, it will be almost impossible to qualify. But I believe that, even if we get one of the six points up for grabs, we can still have a chance—albeit a slim one. Our situation will also depend on how the other games go.

I would personally like to see the top two teams dominate, so it’s a real dogfight for the remaining third and fourth spots.

But starting on Thursday, the players have to fight like their lives, all of our lives, depend on the next two results.

AboutKelvin Jack

Kelvin Jack
Kelvin Jack is a former Trinidad and Tobago international football team goalkeeper and was first choice at the 2006 Germany World Cup although injury restricted him to one outing against Paraguay. Jack is an ex-San Juan Jabloteh captain and played professionally in the UK with Dundee (Scotland) and Gillingham (England).

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51 comments

  1. See Dempsey start but if we could take the pressure till half time 0-0 then change it up in the sec half out kenwayne in the back he is very good in defense

  2. On a real USA loves to attack in the first 20mins there defence is not the best in the world , so the boyz them have to go with a tactical plan Dempsey is coming to score as quick as possible I sure bout that he has experience I would of put jones in CB with abu bakr for the first half then rotate after

  3. “Lawrence has said that he intends to go toe-to-toe with the opposition. I would be personally wary of that ”
    but “We must match their intensity first and foremost.” I seem to have missed the points here. He seems to be contradicting his own thought with the second statement. I await to be disabused.

    Best wishes to the team in their upcoming matches.

  4. I am totally not in agreement with Jack’s statements.
    I’m usually a fan of the US’s organization, discipline and technical competence (in the order). But I do think this the least talented US team we have seen in many many years.

  5. We need to play with believe & desire!

  6. The best I can see is T&T fighting for 4th place,bcuz @ any level of football, we have never beaten Costa Rica @ home or away!

  7. He should of done that at home to mexico he has it tatical worng sided

  8. Lool it be nice if TnT wins but will be luck I think its licks.

  9. Once we play with discipline the USA could never beat us.

  10. Joevin jones must show up for work

  11. Wanted Glenroy Samuel there he have heart give him a play on the team

  12. And the real problem is their concentration for the whole 90 minutes which is lacking so badly plus their fitness and the next thing, our professional league hasn’t started as yet, so what kind of football our local players on the team has been playing including our number one goalkeeper and even some of our foreign base players who themselves hasn’t been playing plenty football compared to the players that is representing my second sweetest country eh. Them really good yes.

    • Our fitness is a big problem. I forgot that part. Before first half reach men tongue out their mouth. By the time 60 mins reach men wanting to hear that final whistle so bad. Lol

    • Well by now you should have notice that they are using the ‘Check your fitness” company with the black vest that they are always wearing during their training and I think that it is a American company that is on board doing it to eh, so we shall see how effective it has been when they play against my second sweetest country tomorrow eh. Them really good yes. LOL

  13. We tend to match and go toe to toe for the first 10 mins but then we lose focus. I also realized if we’re playing good, all it takes is for us is to concede and our whole mental does break. I think mentally we beat ourselves to easy. Its all in our minds, on our day with the right discipline we could give plenty of the teams a test. But it starts with individual, team coach everybody. Even us as fans. Even our FA.

  14. I will reiterate that our fitness level will be the determining factor. I know we have the natural ability to beat the US.

  15. Dayne.. until such time there are video replays you will get these decisions for you or against you… also.. while it would have been fantastic if that goal stood how do you know we would’ve won or drawn? it’s a what “if”. We had an opportunity to still win or draw but switched off for their corner and we were 1-0 down. I always say.. deal with the things you can effect.. we could’ve defended better regardless; no excuses.

    • There are innumerable hypotheticals that could be considered and they are all immaterial because of the decision that was made.

      There are never any good excuses for conceding free headers ever, and certainly not at corners. Noone made excuses , not the coach or the players and that is the right approach.I absolutely agree , defend better. The coach was keen to steer away from blaming the officials and I feel he took the right approach in leading the team to focus on what we can control, as you are also doing, which is also good.

      Each of us play different roles. As a fan I am still very much aggrieved by that decision . I don’t agree “they level out”, perhaps to some degree in a league competition of 38 matches but not in 10 matches like the Hex. One match is monumental in determining your fate.

    • Dayne things do level out, in this case, against us lol, Panama scored a perfectly onside goal a few days before wrongly disallowed … can’t lose sleep over those decisions, as infuriating as they can be

  16. Our goalie needs to be on the ball! ☝️

  17. As Kelvin said the defence cannot concede a goal early in either halves this is key. I wonder if those guys believe they can win vs USA. Time will tell

  18. “It is true that we had a good Joevin Jones goal chalked off but that’s football; in this game as perhaps in all team sports, I believe these things eventually even themselves out.”

    This is actually nonsense. That goal could make the difference between Playing in Moscow next year or watching a Samsung TV.

    In any case, it is unlikely that we will gain a good result if history is anything to go by. I must say that I am encouraged by the performances in last two matches.

    I agree it is important to start well and remain focused for the entire match. Hopefully we can surprise them.

  19. Coach Dennis is really a madman or just trying to use the psychology on the Soca Worries players to really try to beat up my second sweetest country,does he really feel that Sole Campbell and himself both that never coached any professional team and country team as Head Coaches can beat up my second sweetest country who has a real professional coach Bruce Arena that does the right things in a real professional manner for the beautiful game and their players, just imagine that since the Panama game the players have yet to receive their bonuses and match fees and they shouldn’t complain because they are still putting on the red, white, and black and the continuing of the exploitation will always continue because the corrupted TTFA knows that they will always represent our sweet country for free and even for a box of chicken and chips and a red solo. I really don’t know when they will get some balls the same like my Jamaicans and my Americans players and finally put a stop to this continuing madness once and for all and of course Coach Dennis will never stand up for them in this respect because as an ex- army man they were always brainwashed in putting our sweet country first even without being paid and that is what the corrupted Jack Warner and the Major Brown use for years, hence the reason why so many army players always represented our sweet country back in the days. I will continue defending our players rights and they all need to stick my motto deep down in their hearts and brain. “Don’t play unless you get paid”….Them really good yes.

  20. We must dig deep…..play with everything all heart and soul…

  21. Good thinking Jack . In adition we need to be very lucky to . Wishing to them good luck

  22. Hopefully the coach is only sending out smoke signals because if that is honestly his strategy it will be a blood bath. We are not a disciplined defensive team and the U.S. plays a more direct offensive game than the other teams in CONCACAF. To go toe to toe with the U.S. at home is macho nonsense and will leave us vulnerable on defense.

  23. Costa Rica is practically the same. We’ve lost the last 5 games played against them anywhere, and we’ve been outscored 15-2. And you have to go back to 1985 for our one and only point ever gained in Costa Rica.

  24. Here’s how their fan site sees it:
    “The U.S. has won ten straight at home and outscored Trinidad and Tobago 25-3 during that stretch…
    “Due to the one-sided nature of this series this is one that really hasn’t gotten going. Trinidad and Tobago has served as a sure three points for the U.S. when it comes to qualifying and the main drama in the June 8th matchup in Denver is whether or not the Soca Warriors will end their two decade goalless streak.”
    http://www.starsandstripesfc.com/usmnt-news/2017/6/6/15735948/usa-usmnt-brief-history-trinidad-tobago-world-cup-qualifying

    • Well we’ve hardly ever given them much reason to take us seriously.

    • Very true. Because those licks came with guys like Dwight Yorke, Russell Latapy and Shaka Hislop in our squad.

    • True… and nobody on the current squad close to those three

    • Intensity has always been the bane of our football experience..we never seem to be able to switch on and stay switched on. Its almost a kind of immaturity in our style and approach. In the games where we’ve manged to overcome that weakness we’ve gained points. This indicates to me a mental problem…a confidence problem….we don’t nearly play enough games and part of building confidence is thru playing regularly. We are usually very tentative in the early periods of games and inevitably concede. The US knows this and usually hit us hard and fast….why do we always seem to be taken by surprise each and every time they come at us in this way. One of the keys to scoring one the opponent id attacking with speed and precision…. we most times get the ;speed’ part right but ‘precision’ is inconsistent and lets us down – this can break confidence too. As Kelvin Jack highlighted in his piece….I sincerely hope we can switch on from the first whistle and stay switched on throughout the encounter….if we can’t match intensity we will be in for another torrid night on US soil. I for one wish our boys well, they are a talented bunch and I invite them to play with heart and the indomitable spirit that their coach always displayed during his career on field.

  25. Good read. I actually think the US is underestimating us. There has been zero talk in the U.S. about this game. In fact Fox is promoting the Mexico game and that’s not until Sunday…. give them a shocker