Kelvin: The Hex table doesn’t lie; T&T had poor campaign and Lawrence is lucky to have his job

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Our Russia 2018 World Cup campaign is now complete and the summary of the Hex results makes for some grim reading: played 10, won 2, drawn 0, lost 8. We scored seven goals and conceded 19. Yes, NINETEEN!

Let’s compare that with our statistics in 2005: played 10, won 4, drawn 1, lost 5. We scored 10 goals and conceded 15. We will come back to these stats in a bit. First, let’s have a brief look at our last two games.

Photo: Mexico captain Andres Guardado is felled by a tackle from Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevin Molino during World Cup qualifying action in San Luis Potosi, Mexico on 6 October 2017.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Yuri Cortez)

We went to Mexico already knowing we had no chance of qualifying and the manager made wholesale changes. Out went goalkeepers Jan-Michael Williams and Marvin Phillip and in came Greg Ranjitsingh, Glenroy Samuel and Adrian Foncette.

There was still no place for Andre Boucaud while Shahdon Winchester and Levi Garcia were recalled.

Kenwyne Jones appears to have played his last game for Trinidad and Tobago—at least under this coaching staff—and I will touch on him later on.

I have seen endless comments on social media about how well the boys did against Mexico. I sometimes wonder if I’m watching a different game; but I have realised that our fans have been so disappointed by this campaign that they want to hang on to even the very slightest bit of improvement.

Mexico, having already qualified, were in cruise control. They enjoyed 68 percent possession. I always read about ball possession being over-emphasised and all that rubbish but the team with the most possession usually wins.

The only time when this isn’t the case is when you have a fantastic counter-attacking team that uses quick players effectively. We opened the scoring in the 65th minute with a magnificent composed finish from Winchester. This threatened to spoil the Mexican party.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago forward Shahdon Winchester (right) tries to keep the ball from Mexico winger Javier Aquino during World Cup qualifying action in San Luis Potosi, Mexico on 6 October 2017.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Yuri Cortez)

However, Mexico increased their speed of thought and passing and equalised in the 78th min through Lozano. Their build-up to the equaliser showed their technical superiority—they sliced through our midfield like a hot knife through butter.

The razor-sharp Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez reacted first to score their second following a sharp save from Foncette. Hector Herrera then added a third from a free kick which Foncette should have done better with.

The recovery from Mexico demonstrated their ability to switch gears when they really needed to; and they did so with devastating effect.

I have seen enough to believe there is some promise in Foncette and it will be an interesting battle between him and Samuel. I have told them both that goalkeeping is about concentration and consistency. I have never seen Ranjitsingh play but I’m sure that, having tasted the international atmosphere, he will be driven to compete for the number one jersey.

The build-up to the United States game was dominated by the American team’s displeasure with the playing surface. There were farcical scenes of American players being piggy-backed through some ankle-deep water.

Photo: Some United States footballers get a piggy back ride to the field at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 9 October 2017.

The USA’s very public pre-occupation with the playing surface and the size of the stadium was very unprofessional and caused them to lose focus. They were coming straight from hammering Panama 4-0 and I’m absolutely certain they took us for granted.

It proved to be a fatal misjudgement for them.

We took the lead rather fortuitously as American defender Omar Gonzalez sliced his clearance over Tim Howard. The second goal from Alvin Jones, taken from considerable distance, should also leave Howard disappointed about being beaten from that range and angle—but take nothing away from the strike; it was tremendously hit.

The imperious Christian Pulisic pulled a goal back for the Americans and tried to inspire his lacklustre teammates but to no avail. This boy is only 18 and he is a real talent. The Americans have a gem on their hands but this is an ordinary American team. They’re very arrogant and my former teammate Shaka Hislop summed them up brilliantly.

I have read on social media that we played so well. I’d say that we did okay. This game was a dead rubber for us with absolutely no pressure to win or even get a result. It’s the perfect game to give a young player a chance as it’s competitive but without undue pressure.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago right back Alvin Jones (second from left) celebrates with teammates after his stunning goal against the United States during 2018 World Cup qualifying action in Couva on 10 October 2017.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Luis Acosta)

I need to make this perfectly clear: the result against USA does absolutely nothing to change my view about how poor we are as a team, as the stats and table do not lie. I am still trying to figure out what our style is. What is our game plan?

Former coach Stephen Hart had a clear philosophy. He wanted his team to try to play and attack. The problem Stephen had was that we just don’t have the players to do that well. We lack genuine quality in the right areas.

I’m not sure what Dennis Lawrence’s philosophy is. All I can say is that we conceded nearly two goals per game during this campaign so the first port of call should surely be to make sure we are very hard to beat. Teams score on us so easily that it’s a joke.

We also scored only seven goals in 10 matches, so that tells me we are either not creating enough chances or  cannot take our chances. We are terribly deficient in both areas.

I have watched these games over and over and I’m not sure if these players were really drilled enough on having a good defensive shape. At this moment, we cannot compete on a technical level with the best in CONCACAF.

Photo: Panama forward Abdiel Arroyo (left) squeezes his shot past Trinidad and Tobago defender Carlyle Mitchell (right) for his team’s third and final goal during their 2018 World Cup qualifier in Panama City, on 5 September 2017.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Bienvenido Velasco)

We cannot possess the ball better than them—except for when we played Costa Rica at home (under Hart) when we had marginally more possession. We are not compact enough when we don’t have the ball and, as far as I’m concerned, we have played many games by guess; not by design.

So where do we go from here?

One thing is certain: the Americans would ensure they qualify for the next World Cup. They would devise a comprehensive plan to ensure they are back among the top three teams in concacaf.

Mexico, Costa Rica and now Panama are going to the World Cup so their football will be in a confident place. Honduras are in the FIFA Play Off and may very well qualify as well. They also had a fantastic Olympic campaign in 2016, so they have a talented group coming through.

Jamaica are steadily improving and Haiti are such an athletic team. We better pray Haiti don’t get proper funding because Haitian football will really kick off then.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Dennis Lawrence (centre) makes a point to midfielder Hashim Arcia (left) during international friendly action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on 24 August 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

And what are we going to do? Should Dennis remain in the job? Can the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) get its finger out and really begin to lead and plan effectively?

On the one hand, I want to give Dennis the benefit of the doubt. But on the other hand, I haven’t seen enough evidence of some basics being done in the games he has overseen. I always say to give a manager a chance to implement his methods and philosophy. But, if I’m honest, Dennis is very lucky he hasn’t been sacked. He has lost a lot of football matches and football is a result-oriented business.

He is a young manager so hopefully he would’ve learned valuable lessons.

In 2005, Leo Beenhakker made us difficult to beat so that always gave us a chance to nick games. We always stayed in the game. He had a clear plan which ultimately worked. He assessed the situation when he came in and executed to near perfection.

There is also too much indiscipline within Lawrence’s squad—too many suspensions and all that rubbish. Some of them should be ashamed of their amateur attitudes.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Marvin Phillip makes a point to referee Sherwin Johnson of Guyana during international friendly action against Jamaica at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on 24 August 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

These players shouldn’t be let off lightly as they are not learning quickly enough through the experience of playing international football.

We are also crying out for a goal scorer, so the various academies need to get to work. We need another Stern John.

Kenwyne Jones has never been a prolific goalscorer so, with that in mind, I never expected him to score many goals during this campaign. I expected Hart and Lawrence to utilise his strengths much better.

Kenwyne is six foot two and weighs maybe 85-90kg. That’s a nightmare for any defender, more so some of these CONCACAF defenders. Beenhakker managed to get the best out of Kenwyne. I could remember seeing Leo having numerous chats with him, motivating and reminding him of how much potential he had. Wim Rijsbergen used to do the same.

I just think our coaches failed in not getting enough from him. It’s unfortunate as I think he should still play a part in the future. I always said that Kenwyne was not the issue when they were calls for him to be dropped.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago forward and captain Kenwyne Jones (left) beats Guatemala defender Christian Jimenez to the ball during Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on Friday 2 September 2016.
Both teams played to a 2-2 draw.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

We can all see the glaring issues which we have had—it’s not Kenwyne’s fault we lacked discipline, were technically average and tactically poor. It’s not his fault we defended like dodos.

And that takes me to our goalkeeping, which has to improve as well. It’s not consistent enough. Lawrence made a change which makes me wonder if he suddenly didn’t rate Jan-Michael and Marvin Phillip or if he thinks Foncette, Samuel and Ranjitsingh are a better bet. The latter three are in prime position to fight for that coveted number one spot.

As for the TTFA, they are historically inept and continue to fit that description right now. David John-Williams makes baffling decisions and the next TTFA elections will be huge. A leader needs to step forward.

Private businesses and various potential sponsors continue to shun the TTFA and we have to ask why. Trinidad and Tobago’s football is in desperate need of financial assistance. We need a lot of money to get programmes going but, most importantly, we need the right individual to lead us into the next campaign.

Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (centre), media officer Shaun Fuentes (left) and new Soca Warriors coach Dennis Lawrence at the TTFA headquarters on 30 January 2017.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/TTFA)

We need strong youth teams and qualifying for the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cup and the 2020 Olympics must be a priority.

I’m sure that most would agree that we can slip further into the abyss if huge improvements are not made.

Our current ranking of 99th in the world can easily turn into number 120th if we are not careful. If this is not the signal to get serious, I don’t know what is.

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About Kelvin 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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  1. Time to move on with fresh blood with new talent and new ideas.

  2. I must say the team performed better with kenwyn Jones not on the field.

  3. Jack you are really a jack ass, thanks to Dennis that we now start to look like a team. I think he and sol should be kept to start the rebuilding process. If we keep changing coaches we will continue to lost stability and confidence in our team.

  4. foncette(29), ranjitsingh(24), hodge(23),bateau (26),alvin jones (23), joevin jones (26), leston paul (27),kevan george (27), kevin molino (27), levi garcia(19!!!), nathan lewis (27), hyland(28) shannon gomez (21) naveal hackshaw (19) jomal williams (23) . here are a list of names that can be in the set up for the next campaign. A lot of experience PLUS youth. mind u these are just names that came to mind. who know who else coachman will have his eyes on. As stated before our biggest worry right now should be whether Mr. David John Williams puts things in place for this group to rebuild and come ready for the next campaign. with this bunch we can consider ourselves blessed IF THINGS GO AS WE WISH !

  5. To be honest I saw a difference although we lost most games,it wouldn’t happen overnight so Dennis Lawrence deserve a chance

  6. I think he will be the best coach we have. Don’t forget we don’t really have any word class players. Re Yorke and Lattapy and Lawrence

  7. a white european will get the job donefor the next wc

  8. I think he will be the best coach we have

  9. Another thing we need in our football is more positive analysis and encouragement from past players. It’s very disappointing to read this from Kelvin Jack…rather than focus on the way forward, here we hv a depressing account from someone who should instead be eager to advise on way up and not talk about Beenhaker days long gone. I ur d only person didn’t see progress in d last 2 games, something is wrong with either ur eyes or ur tv. We need less ppl like u (and hopefully there are not many like u) over the next 4 years to help T&T football rise again

  10. Hannibal Najjar

    I hear the cries of the nation. Indeed we have nothing to shout about and as Kelvin said, the HEX did tell a lie. I describe the season for DL and the team as with, the sight of an opened, plain, unprepared, undressed, hot-dog bread – a win against Panama in his first game and, a win against USA in his last game, BUT no meat in-between.
    Lots of work to do. Lots of focus on the young ones of this group and those on their tail shirts.
    What’s on the agenda next, Lasana?

  11. Don’t know why we spend so much time and money on local football and a fraction on our athletic programs. Which one brings us world-wide recognition?

  12. after reading all the comments let me add my thoughts.. This campaign was crumbled after the USA game and pre copa america when the players were NOT PAID ! which led to a strike before the copa where the players said they would not play. this of course traces back to the administration NOT Doing their job. after this they sacked HART the worst part of it all. it did no justice for the players who had his respect. everything went downhill from here. while i agree that Dennis has done his best i know he could have done better. However let us not forget we were BLATANTLY robbed vs mexico at home and threw aaway a couple games well due to lack of concentration and not necessarily being outplayed. lastly if we look at the squad we will see a lot of players are 26 and below. and the couple that are 28 and above need to WANT to stay fit to be around to share their experience for the next campaign. the likes of Garcia, bateau, jjones,george,paul,cato,lewis,molino,hodge are all expected to still be around next campaign with their age. these are guys who have the experience of a campaign under their belt and with added experience things look bright for the next campaign. the biggest problem here moving forward is trust in the TTFA and John Williams. lets wait and see

  13. I think Hart was a brilliant coach he did great in the Concacaf Gold Cup however, i have a question… in the last few games he coached the team did the players respect Hart? Considering Molino and Joevin going the boat party and Molino going again in a separate instance and the horrible performance vs Honduras in Honduras.

  14. To me Latapy should of had that job.

  15. Travis Mulraine i too have lived through trinidad and tobago football. i have seen black coaches and white coaches.. some were good and some were poor. there are a handful of local coaches good enouhh to coach internationally. a lot of the local coaches appear arrogant and unwilling to learn.. many local coaches are not authoritative enough. Of course I concur when you say it’s harder for a black man to become a manager in England.. it’s a major issue here but I believe many black coaches got a good chance on Trinidad and failed. Travis.. beenhakker was seriously good.. very knowledgeable.. have you ever thought that Dwight Yorke stopped the breaking camp etc because he realised time was running out on his career and he actually matured? Dwight and I had some differences but that man is a good pro., and was a really good captain., I respected the man for his leadership during our campaign..

  16. The problem begins OFF the field, as a country, as supporters, as administration and as players, WE need to GROW UP…T&T has the potential and talent, but we also have indiscipline, egos, politics and immaturity, ON the field, is not the problem, I thought when S.Hart first came the team played constructive, then “politics” intervened, now we have D.Lawrence, true his run isn’t impressive, but to beat USA, is huge, Yes, its one victory, but it’s a significant victory in the mindset, a barrier that somehow needed breaking down, just look at people’s re-action and behaviour , like we qualified or we won the world cup, now thats history and DL’s team did that. How much time or “wins”, decides the fate of a coach..?? We have enough to fix and changing DL is not one of them now, WE ARE STILL TO GROW , and so is he as a coach..give them some time, his heart is there, he was a player, he scored the qualifying goal, and he is TRINI….. Fix “OFF the field”, take away the distractions, the compromises. Discipline and Egos is T&T football biggest problem, when all of T&T is behind the team, their every needs met..then ON field will grow and rise to the level and brand WE know T&T is capable of reaching.

  17. Worst executive major changes needed

  18. So true poor results and we must be distracted with that one win .

  19. Yes I agree totally kello that the fact was that time was catching up with him , and totally agree most Trinidad coaches are soft including my brother Jamaal which I did mention defending his ability against what Malik thinks . And I know Beenhaaker must be good skin color alone can’t get you the Netherlands and
    Real Madrid jobs.

  20. The article is well written with facts. Many hate to hear the truth. Dennis Lawrence was inexperienced for the job as Manager of a Workd Cup Team,plain and simple. The head of the TTFA lacks vision and leadership so too are the other members of the executive. The appointment of Anton Corneal as Technical director is another step in the wrong,What is his international and track record. We another Leo Beenkker or the man himself. Corporate T&T and other citizens won’t help fund the TTFA until the association gets its house in order.

  21. As one usa commentator said its time to rid the team of the players over 27yrs and bring in younger who can carry us to the next level

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