Far from finished: T&T go down fighting in San José but Panama result offers hope

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Trinidad and Tobago lost their third successive match in the CONCACAF Hex last night with a 2-1 defeat to Costa Rica in San José. And, at the final whistle, the Soca Warriors conceded further ground to their five opponents in the quest for the three and a half qualification spots available for the Russia 2018 World Cup.

Yet, in four months’ time, Soca Warriors supporters might remember Wednesday 13 June as a turning point.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago forward Jamille Boatswain (left) is hauled back by Costa Rica defender Michael Umaña during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the National Stadium in San José on 13 June 2017.
Costa Rica won 2-1.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

In Panama City yesterday, Panama and Honduras played to a 2-2 draw which means that, despite the San José setback, Trinidad and Tobago’s destiny remains in their own hands. And they may not need a point in the Azteca Stadium after all.

The Warriors will resume their World Cup campaign in Port-of-Spain on 1 September against Honduras and three points for the two-island republic will move coach Dennis Lawrence’s troops into fifth place.

Four days later, Trinidad and Tobago play away to a Panamanian team that have now failed to win any of their last five matches—their only triumph of the Hex came in the open round on 11 November 2016 when they defeated Honduras 1-0 in San Pedro Sula.

KFC Munch Pack

Another triumph in Panama City and the Warriors will again face the United States in Port-of-Spain with a potential World Cup place at stake—albeit a FIFA Play-off berth.

Of course, it seems a much simpler task on paper than it is in reality. But, arguabl,y for the first time in the Hex, there was also on-the-field evidence that Trinidad and Tobago are not done yet.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago playmaker Kevin Molino (left) celebrates his goal against Costa Rica with teammate Joevin Jones during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the National Stadium in San José on 13 June 2017.
Costa Rica won 2-1.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

Outside of Mexico City, San José has long been the most undesirable tourist destination for the boys in red, white and black. Two of the country’s most successful past coaches, Everald “Gally” Cummings and Leo Beenhakker, both travelled there and lost and it is not since 1985 that Trinidad and Tobago have managed a point away to Costa Rica.

Yet, at the hour mark, Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams had made just one save outside of the two goals conceded while Costa Rica custodian Keylor Navas had been forced to defend his goal area on four occasions. And, for the third straight game, Lawrence had a legitimate reason to feel aggrieved at the officiating as a disallowed penalty shout was added to disallowed “goals” against Mexico and the United States.

As full time loomed, Navas, a two UEFA Champions League winner with Real Madrid, was so timid about putting the ball into play from goal kicks that he earned a scolding by Cuban referee Yardel Martinez.

Lawrence and his boys might have got nothing tangible in San José. But, if Trinidad and Tobago were indeed inhibited by self-doubt ever since the likes of Dwight Yorke and Russell Latapy hung up their boots, then the last team standing from the Caribbean might have secured something almost as valuable last night.

At the start of the year, Jamille Boatswain was playing up front for the Pro League’s worst team last season, Point Fortin Civic. Defence Force coach Marvin Gordon saw something in the raw, fast poacher and offered the 23-year-old the chance to become a soldier and compete with veteran Devorn Jorsling, the Pro League’s record goal scorer, for the starting role up front.

Photo: Defence Force striker Jamille Boatswain (centre) celebrates the second goal of his treble against Police FC during the Pro Bowl semifinals at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 12 February 2017.
Looking on (right) is his teammate and captain Jerwyn Balthazar. Defence Force won 4-0.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Boatswain claimed the centre-forward position at Defence Force in just under two months—thanks, in part, to a Jorsling injury. And, four months later, Warriors captain Kenwyne Jones looks to be in trouble too under similar circumstances.

In the 51st minute, Boatswain made a diagonal run on to a pass by teammate Daneil Cyrus only for the panicked Costa Rica defender Michael Umaña to tug him back by his shirt.

Inexplicably, Martinez did not punish Umaña by awarding a penalty kick, which would have given Trinidad and Tobago a chance to make it 2-2. But Boatswain will remember the look of terror in the Costa Rican defender. He should also recall an illustrious Real Madrid goalkeeper praying for the final whistle.

Having faced the core of a Costa Rican team that eliminated Italy and England from the 2014 World Cup, the Trinidad and Tobago players must know they can compete now—at least if they properly apply themselves.

With any luck, there will be no more news of players turning up late for training, slipping out of the camp to party or demanding nights out with their wives. Not when they realise that professionalism and dedication to the craft is the biggest difference between them and several of football’s household names.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Mekeil Williams (left) grapples with Costa Rica and Arsenal FC forward Joel Campbell during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the National Stadium in San José on 13 June 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

This is not to say that Trinidad and Tobago were anything near flawless last night—from a tactical standpoint or otherwise.

Lawrence gambled again with his team sheet as the Warriors started with four offensive midfielders behind a lone striker in a remarkable show of chutzpah on hostile soil.

The biggest punt of all was in Defence Force playmaker Hashim Arcia who made his World Cup qualifying debut in central midfield. Arcia does his best work in the offensive third of the field with his club and it showed last night.

He was flat-footed when, after just 45 seconds, Francisco Calvo headed Costa Rica ahead off a Joel Campbell corner kick. And Arcia was beaten again in the 44th minute, when opposing captain Bryan Ruiz sent him the wrong way on the edge of the area before hitting a sublime left-footed effort into the far corner.

Ironically, it was the change that Lawrence had not made—not intentionally anyway—which made the most significant impact last night.

Captain Kenwyne Jones pulled up during the pre-match warm-up and Lawrence, a former Defence Force man himself, put his faith in another soldier.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago captain and forward Kenwyne Jones (second from left) exchange pleasantries with United States defender Geoff Cameron during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against the United States in Colorado on 8 June 2017.
USA won 2-0. Looking on (from right to left) are Kellyn Acosta, Tim Howard, Jorge Villafana and Nathan Lewis.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

Boatswain’s hold-up play is nowhere near Kenwyne’s level while he also lacked the latter’s aerial presence to threaten from crosses. But his pace and willingness to chase any ball within the same zip code forced the Costa Rica defence to take a deeper line; it meant more space for the Trinidad and Tobago midfield—and, in particular, Kevin Molino—to exploit.

Joevin Jones served the first warning of Trinidad and Tobago’s intent in the 28th minute with an angled free kick, which Navas saved at full stretch.

Then, two minutes later, Arcia almost pulled the Warriors level with a clipped effort from a Nathan Lewis pass—only for Navas to again pull off the block.

The best was still to come from the famous Costa Rican goalkeeper. In the 32nd minute, Arcia mishit an attempt which fell fortuitously to Boatswain in the opposing penalty area.

Boatswain sized up Navas and tried to dart around him for a simple finish. Navas’ ability to chase the striker and produce a block, despite being practically on all fours, seemed like something from a sci-fi movie and, in the same sequence, he followed that up with another save from close range as the Ticos survived rebound efforts by Arcia and then Boatswain again.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago forward Jamille Boatswain (centre) is stopped by a remarkable Keylor Navas save while Costa Rica defender Michael Umaña looks on during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the National Stadium in San José on 13 June 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

Navas had no answer for Molino, though. On another Trinidad and Tobago counter-attack, Joevin crossed low from the left and, although Boatswain might have been the target, the ball landed for Molino who found the far corner superbly with his supposedly weaker left foot. One all!

Navas had got a touch on the ball but, unable to keep it out, he screamed in frustration.

As the mobile front three of Molino, Joevin and Boatswain sprinted towards the substitutes’ bench to celebrate, it was easy to imagine that this is what Trinidad and Tobago’s football future will look like.

Of course, it is still too early to dismiss Kenwyne and his attributes. But at least there are now signs of a feasible Plan B.

Still, one minute before the interval, Ruiz brought the Warriors back down to earth with a classy move and finish.

Lawrence replaced Arcia with Khaleem Hyland at half-time, presumably to add more experience, grit and calm to the midfield area;  it proved futile. This was not a coach’s game. More than anything else, it was like a table tennis match: attack versus counter-attack.

Boatswain should have earned the penalty off Umaña and he had another shot saved by Navas’ legs. Molino too found an opening, driving one effort into the side netting from a sharp angle.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago playmaker Kevin Molino (right) drives home an equalising goal during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Costa Rica at the National Stadium in San José on 13 June 2017.
Costa Rica won 2-1.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

At the other end, Cyrus was caught in possession and was relieved to see Costa Rica forward Johan Venegas hit overbars while Campbell also wasted a decent look after a sloppy Hyland giveaway.

Lawrence swapped Joevin for Carlos Edwards in the 77th minute and then Mekeil Williams for Shahdon Winchester in the 89th. Whatever the intention, there was again little visible sign that either change made Trinidad and Tobago more solid defensively or more dangerous offensively.

The last 20 minutes were scrappy for both teams and Navas decided not to take any chances as he wasted as much time as the referee would allow. The hosts were thus relieved at the final whistle.

So what now?

Next month, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Panama and the United States are all guaranteed between three to six competitive fixtures against CONCACAF best teams in the 2017 Gold Cup tournament. Trinidad and Tobago are the only team from the Hex that failed to qualify for that competition.

Worse, there are no FIFA match days available between now and 28 August. It means the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) will need to get creative to find decent warm-up games for the Warriors. And, even then, Lawrence has no guarantee that any of his foreign-based players will be available to take part.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Dennis Lawrence (right) appeals to the referee’s assistant during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Costa Rica at the National Stadium in San José on 13 June 2017.
Costa Rica won 2-1.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

It is imperative that the likes of Boatswain, Lewis, Arcia and Gonzales get the opportunity to continue their development at this level. And soon. No doubt, Lawrence can learn more about his players too—and it is about time he had a look at the United States-based duo of Ataulla Guerra and Neveal Hackshaw as well as Slovenia-based left-back Keston Julien. Perhaps the lanky coach will extend his search further afield while there will inevitably be fresh attempts to woo former England National Under-17 team captain John Bostock.

Trinidad and Tobago’s position in the CONCACAF standings remains as precarious as ever. But at least, Lawrence now has something concrete he can work with.

The Warriors are far from finished.


Trinidad and Tobago (4-1-4-1): 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK) (captain); 2.Aubrey David, 5.Daneil Cyrus, 4.Sheldon Bateau, 17.Mekeil Williams (12.Shahdon Winchester 89); 15.Curtis Gonzales; 7.Nathan Lewis, 18.Hashim Arcia (8.Khaleem Hyland 46), 10.Kevin Molino, 3.Joevin Jones (11.Carlos Edwards 77); 20.Jamille Boatswain.

Unused substitutes: 1.Marvin Phillip (GK), 22.Adrian Foncette (GK), 6.Radanfah Abu Bakr, 13.Hughtun Hector, 14.Andre Boucaud, 16.Alvin Jones, 19.Kevan George, 23.Leston Paul, Triston Hodge,

Coach: Dennis Lawrence

Costa Rica (3-3-3-1): 1.Keylor Navas (GK); 19.Kendall Waston (4.Michael Umaña 22), 2.Johnny Acosta, 15.Francisco Calvo; 16.Christian Gamboa, 5.Celso Borges, 8.Bryan Oviedo; 12.Joel Campbell, 11.Johan Venegas, 10.Bryan Ruiz (captain); 21.Marcos Ureña (13.Rodney Wallace 81).

Unused substitutes: 18.Patrick Pemberton (GK), 23.Leonel Moreira (GK), 3.Kenner Gutierrez, 6.Jose Salvatierra, 7.Daniel Colindres, 9.Ariel Rodriguez, 14.Randall Azofeifa, 17.Yeltsin Tejada, 20.David Guzman, 22.Ronald Matarrita,

Coach: Oscar Ramirez

Referee: Yardel Martinez (Cuba)

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper and captain Jan-Michael Williams (right) asks questions of his defence during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Costa Rica at the National Stadium in San José on 13 June 2017.
Costa Rica won 2-1.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

CONCACAF Hex results

(Sunday 11 June)

Mexico 1 (Carlos Vela 23), United States 1 (Michael Bradley 6) at Mexico City;

(Tuesday 13 June)

Panama 2 (Blas Pérez 41, Roman Torres 90), Honduras 2 (Romell Quioto 6, Alberth Ellis 65) at Panama City;

Costa Rica 2 (Francisco Calvo 1, Bryan Ruiz 44), Trinidad and Tobago 1 (Kevin Molino 34) at San Jose;


Mexico              6-4-2-0-9-2-14

Costa Rica        6-3-2-1-9-4-11

United States  6-2-2-2-11-8-8

Panama            6-1-4-1-4-4-7

Honduras        6-1-2-3-6-14-5

T&T                    6-1-0-5-3-10-3

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About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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  1. Arcia didn’t look so bad but he had a part in bout goals scored by Costa Rica. He had 2 attempts at goal.

  2. Arcia didn’t have a bad game he linked well for a shot on goal which dotish man Navas saved. He was partly at fault when Ruiz scored. Costa Rica lucky to have gained 3pts. I am convinced referees are afraid to maked calls in Central America.

  3. Warning: Undefined variable $userid in /www/wired868_759/public/wp-content/plugins/user-photo/user-photo.php on line 114

    Who would they replace Colin?

  4. Ignoring foreign born players like Bostock for a minute

    Think Lawrence missed a trick by not having Hackshaw, Guerra in squad. Whatever one may think of USL their team is on top of their side of division & those two are regulars

    And all the complaints about Joevin performance playing LWB – it might have been useful to call up the talented young Julien from his Slovakia club to see if he could play that role instead

  5. We need to pick ourselves up from the unawarded penalty. Time to fight for it if we want it. The team looks quite capable

  6. Penalty shout aside, we should have taken our chances and come away with something from that game

  7. Allyuh talking. Is evident uall only play boball. Costa Rica made it to quarter finals in last wc. This not a cfu tournament

  8. Why alyur do get rid ah these blite

  9. Once kenwyn Jones is water boy l will keep supporting. I like this squad – the goat.

  10. Why Andre Bouchard always on the f**king bench!!!

    • Man could real ball i find…he touch on. Main fault is he may play too many backwards passes. But he’s good. He’d help us retain possession better and therefore give us a platform to go forward.

    • both Hart and Dennis refused to use the man!! that just pissing me off know how much his skill and experience would contribute to the team and those dumbass coaches take forever to learn how to use players, same way Boatswain was introduced to the team, to bench, up to now we can’t even see players like Trevin Caesar make a return to the team

    • Tell me this na he is a great ball playing mid and helps transition from defence to attack really good

    • dem coaches doe have a clue dred, you put and inexperienced Hashim and leave Boucard on the bench!!!

    • yeah this wasn’t the game for Hashim. Our midfield was real bare in the first half, especially considering we were ‘supposed’ to be playing with 3 in the middle of the park. Midfield was a lil too far from each other, leading to a disconnect between attack and defence so when we get the ball we was giving it away righttt through. But say what, 2nd half was promising. Have to put that into results now.

  11. Grabbing at straws! Let’s face it our football like WI cricket needs a full overhaul.

  12. What a crock! Soca Warriors not finished yet??!!! Maybe you’re right they’re ” not finished yet” ……..DEY DONE,DONE,DONE!!!….Happy now?

  13. Soca warriors are the only football team that plays thrilling and exciting football and lose.

  14. We not giving up we getting of the floor

  15. Last night was our best performance in years…Of course it could have been tighter, but only opportunities to play against stronger opposition will help that…We have to stay focussed…As the old adage goes…”youth is wasted in the young”…Partying and other distractions are always more important at a certain age…but say wha…I remain an incurable optimist…

    • …Also, as I said in another post yesterday…This T&T team reminded me of watching the old clips of T&T in the 1973 WCQ in Haiti….raw speed, power and football skills from Spann, Archibald, Cummings and company had Haiti, Mexico and the others teams mesmerized…The refree in the Haiti match was banned for life after disallowing two goals…I think we scored 4 but only 1 was allowed and Haiti went on to win the game and subsequently qualify for the WC in 1974…

  16. Don’t beat up ppl we always like to struggle to make it let’s rally round the soca warriors come sept 1st at the. Hasely. Crawford.

  17. All I could do is laugh thrillingly! Yet I am vex no arse!

  18. As long as they persist with Kenwyne and Carlos we dogs dead.

    • Ever saw a thrilling game of football that ended in a result? One team won. The other lost. The result doesn’t change the fact that game was thrilling. Just like you can have a scrappy, boring win.

    • a win is still a win, Panama don’t care if they play scrappy, once they win. same way we could play shit for all i care, but score, we need goals, but apparently everyone seems to be singing the same tune especially those fly by night supporters, and by the way the first 10 minutes was horrible. we have a coach who is a defender yet still we have many players lacking in that department. Coaches also need to know when their players are lacking form. Mikel Williams has been under performing for the last couple games. find a replacement if we dont have a proper left back. esle we will just continue to goals.

  19. Why is it always down to maths for us?

  20. We did not deserve to lose this game. Our team always performs better as tournaments progress. So, until we arrange and play meaningful International Friendlies at every opportunity, we will remain a stunted team. When will we ever learn. The US plays at least 10 internationals every year excluding tournaments like the Gold Cup. Many of the central American teams play friendlies against one another and against European teams in the US. Why can’t we? Blame it on an inept TTFA!

  21. That’s the best performance against Costa Rica on the road, I’ve seen from TnT. We could have easily gotten something from the game. 12 points is def possible. On another note, I hope they keep Tallest and support him matter what…you can see a difference.

  22. 3 winable games left…can still sneak into 4th with 12 points

  23. “Boatswain’s hold-up play is nowhere near Kenwyne’s level while he also lacked the latter’s aerial presence to threaten from crosses.” That has worked against us not for us. So let’s hope this coach will recognize the foolhardiness of using Kenwyne thus losing the ability to stretch the field and create more space for the midfielders. And as we saw last night our midfielders need a lot of space to play because they lack the technique to protect the ball.in tight spaces. The other preferred option is to play them both up front, one to stretch the field the other as a target

  24. they need to drop Kenwyn and Carlos permanently GIVE THE YOUTHS THE OPPORTUNITY Mr. Tallest!!!

  25. We have the talent, it is very obvious but our players lack the technique and levels of concentration that the international game require. We need to equip our players properly if they are to compete in concacaf.

  26. This reminded me of the match we played against them at the Dwight Yorke Stadium 2009 under Latapy. Back then every time we attacked, we looked like we could score, and every time we lost the ball, it looked like we would concede.

    • I am curious what did the public and the press say after that game you speak of. I am sure it was not glimpse into the future.

    • They pressured and recovered the ball well . This is not st.lucia and Grenada we were playing, so we did very well. The build up from the back was much much faster than the USA game. At one time we had more possession than Them and I have never seen our teams pass the ball fluently. We must give them credit .

    • Shawn Babooram for the first time since about 1998, the Trinidad and Tobago offence was run by players whose average age was under 25. And they carried a threat too.
      Why do you think it was not a glimpse into the future?

    • The young man is still raw at 23 or 24 years old and that’s a problem. One of the commentators said it last night and you can say that about most players his age. Things need to change for these young men to be ready to go at 23years old and not just be raw that’s when I would say the future looks bright.

    • Shawn I feel you are not really representing what I wrote though.
      I said the team played with more belief, which is encouraging. And I said we got a glimpse of what our future team would look like.
      I don’t think you can find evidence of me saying that we are now world beaters.
      And 23 won’t be raw in any developed football nation.
      All the same, we see something we can build on. No? That’s really the point.
      Of course you could disagree and say that you don’t think that those are our best attacking options which would be fair enough.

    • Btw Shawn the press gave new coach Russell Latapy a standing ovation at the press conference after the loss against Costa Rica in Bacolet that Nigel referred to and the public was very encouraged.
      Personally I didn’t join in the applause as I don’t think you applaud a home defeat that just eliminated you.
      Before this game, I said the team had to show some personality and spirit. I’d be a hypocrite now if I don’t congratulate them for showing that.

    • When we get serious about youth development then I would say the future is bright. For now I would say it looks ok. As u said something to build on not much more. I would say the young man took his chance I hope he starts the next game with a fit Levi and infrom Jovein Jones up front. We can build on that but midfield and defense is a problem. On last night the boys felt everything on the field.

    • And Kevin Molino I think the four of them up front and the coach putting things in place for these men to run at there defenders would give us a chance in every game. So I guess I sort of agree with you after all.

    • Why do we blame the defense Everytime a goal scores? Sometimes it is not the defense , sometimes it is. Last night the defense was good . They made a few errors like any other team. Costa Rica made mistakes also, even navas with the goal. We were 100 times worse under Hart defensively. I have seen a tremendous improvement. They keep possession better, they are actually finding the midfielders they are more aggressive, they cover each other better etc… tremendous improvement.

    • I am just saying the midfield and the defense needs more work. I have been say that before last night not blaming the defense for last night.

    • I’d agree with that Shawn. We haven’t found the right midfield combination yet.

    • I would try Levi brother who is with central Fc. Do you have any other players in mind.

    • It might just be about getting the right combination from what we currently have. And giving them the right instructions.
      I’d say Aikim Andrews, Neveal Hackshaw, Ataulla Guerra, Nathaniel Garcia and Sean De Silva are all possibilities. Some more than others.
      Hackshaw is the future in my opinion. A good strong, mobile box to box midfielder.
      But we have some good players in the team now. Something isn’t clicking. Maybe they haven’t worked together enough with Lawrence. Or maybe too much chopping and changing.

    • They need to add you to the Coaching staff eh Shawn Babooram because you really knows the subject eh. Them really good yes

  27. Lasana Liburd, since you are a great journalist, non TTFA member and not a young T&T footballer, I nominate you to write to CONCACAF to complain about the officiating. Those other teams are suppose to be good enough to beat us without the officials’ help. And try to get the letter/article posted in other Caribbean outlets.

  28. if they cyah win a game.how it could be far from finish?

  29. It is good that our football have more than the regular post up tactic which Kenwyn brings to the team, it was a blessing to see the speed of out attackers last night. I hope coach Dennis is brave enough to use this approach even when Kenwyn regains full fitness and that Kenwyn is humble enough to warm the bench if it ever happens again.

  30. We actually went toe to toe with Costa Rica .the team did very well and improved from their last game. The transition from defense to attack was much faster, the defense was tighter.some players didn’t have a good game, Like Joevin and Lewis …yet the overall performance was good

  31. I was actually impressed with the spirit shown by the lads though. Credit to them. We still have a slim fighting chance, but a chance none the less. We still need a lot of help and have to beat Panama.

  32. Earl Best

    I guess we’ll be hearing a lot of “I told you so’s” from the KJ haters. Who can blame them?

  33. We have not kept a clean sheet in 5 games now and the tactics were to go toe to toe which made for a good spectacle but it did not work. Until we fix our defense we will always be on the losing side. As for the next two fixtures the teams we will be playing will be looking for three points which could work in our favor. Need to be mentally stronger defensively.

  34. The lack of Gold Cup fixtures is hurting me badly

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