The Soca Warriors will resume preparations for September’s vital 2018 World Cup qualifying matches with a trip to Guayaquil for friendly international action on 26 July.
Ecuador are ranked 31st in the world by FIFA—almost 50 places above Trinidad and Tobago, who are at 78. However, both teams are expected to be under-strength since the match does not fall within the FIFA international match window.
The Warriors host Honduras on 1 September before travelling to Panama City to face Panama four days later. And if his side is to have any chance of advancing to the Russia World Cup, coach Dennis Lawrence needs to engineer wins in both games.
Honduras and Panama are both participating in the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament at present. Honduras have so far recorded a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica and a goalless draw against French Guiana and need a result in their final group match against Canada on Friday to qualify for the knock-out stage.
Panama drew their opening group fixture with the United States and should seal their place in the next round with a win over Nicaragua today, with a game to spare.
Trinidad and Tobago failed to qualify for the Gold Cup after an extra-time loss away to Martinique under coach Stephen Hart and home losses against Suriname and Haiti—also in extra time—under his successor, Tom Saintfiet.
The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) will hope that the affair in Guayaquil, which is at sea level, and a possible contest against an unnamed “Spanish-speaking country” can help compensate for the gap in the level of activity between the Warriors and their future qualifying opponents.
Lawrence said the trip should be a good test for his squad, which will comprise largely locally-based players.
“The game versus Ecuador is another step in our preparation for the upcoming World Cup qualifying match against Honduras,” Lawrence told TTFA Media. “The game is against a good South American opposition and I expect it to be good for us.
“It will give us an opportunity to assess those players who are selected and provides us valuable game time in a period when some of our other Concacaf opponents are also involved in international matches.”
Trinidad and Tobago and Ecuador have never met at senior level although both nations drew 1-1 at Under-23 level in the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara.
At present, Ecuador, lying sixth in the South American qualifying table and two points below a FIFA Play-off berth, are preparing for competitive matches away to Brazil on 31 August and at home to Peru on 5 September.
The TTFA has gone quiet on a potential friendly clash with Sierra Leone which, according to the Sierra Leone FA general secretary Chris Kamara, was likely to happen “on a FIFA calendar date between 28 August and 5 September 2017.”
TTFA president David John-Williams confirmed that the two football bodies were in talks.
“We are in preliminary negotiations for two friendlies in August, that [Sierra Leone game] being one of them,” John-Williams told Wired868, via What’sApp. “Timing could be an issue based on our [World Cup qualifier] on September 1.”
However, the affair appears to have been scrapped as it would almost certainly have involved trips to and from London within three days of the Honduras qualifier in Trinidad.
Another gamble that the TTFA is actively considering is shifting the vital September qualifier from the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain to the football body’s new headquarters at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
The Port-of-Spain venue seats 23,000 patrons while the Couva stadium holds just 10,000. However, there were roughly 10,000 fans at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Friday 24 March when the Warriors edged Panama 1-0 for their only win of the Hex so far.
If the spectator interest does not improve, shifting the qualifier to Couva could generate a better game-day atmosphere when the Trinidad and Tobago team kicks off against Honduras.
However, the TTFA will be risking losing almost half the potential revenue for one of their two remaining home qualifiers as the Ato Boldon Stadium can be notoriously difficult to reach for fans who have to travel to the ground.
Remarkably, Trinidad and Tobago have never beaten Honduras in a World Cup qualifier on home soil in three attempts. The two-island republic drew goalless with their Central American guests in 1988 and 1-1 in 2009 under coaches Everald “Gally” Cummings and Francisco Maturana respectively.
Lawrence wore the captain’s armband for that contest against Honduras in Port-of-Spain in 2009 while goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams, full-back Carlos Edwards, forward Kenwyne Jones and midfielder Khaleem Hyland all featured.
Hyland, who came off the bench, scored a late equaliser to ensure a share of the spoils that night.