Trinidad and Tobago suffered another humiliating defeat on the football field today as they were whipped 4-0 by Honduras in their final 2019-20 Concacaf Nations League group fixture at the Olimpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula.
The loss, which is their 10th of the calendar year from 15 outings for head coach Dennis Lawrence, means Trinidad and Tobago are relegated to the second tier of the Concacaf competition. And from 2020, the Soca Warriors will be brushing shoulders with nations like Montserrat, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas and the Cayman Islands.
At this rate, it is not unfeasible that Trinidad and Tobago might be playing regular competitive football against Anguilla by 2022.
Anguilla, of course, were nice enough to snap a 14 match winless streak by Lawrence’s charges last weekend. But the Warriors cannot face Anguilla—FIFA’s lowest ranked football nation—every week and it did not take long for T&T to come crashing back down to earth.
“We are going to try and win the football match which will guarantee our qualification for the Gold Cup,” said Lawrence, on the eve of the contest. “We’ve had our challenges but the important thing is we are here as a group and the players maintain that desire to pull off what it takes to keep moving us forward.
“[…] We have a task to take care of and we’ll approach it in the best possible manner to try and achieve what we need to.”
They were fighting words but Trinidad and Tobago were struggling long before kick off with injuries, shoddy management and unhappy players. And any lingering hope of a miraculous showing by the underdogs faded after just five minutes and were dead and buried after 20.
Trinidad and Tobago’s makeshift right back, Aikim Andrews, did not pay enough attention to his surroundings when he controlled the ball on his chest. And opposing winger Jonathan Toro Rubio pounced to steal possession and then beat Marvin Phillip with a stinging low drive at his near post.
Fifteen minutes later, Lawrence might have been staring daggers at his other flank as left back Ross Russell Jr went AWOL and Honduras right back Félix Crisanto tore down the wing and pulled the ball back for a simple finish by offensive midfielder, Brayan Moya.
Russell Jr spends most of his time bombing forward at Terminix La Horquetta Rangers while Andrews plays in midfield for the same Pro League club. Perhaps it might have helped if Lawrence gave playing time to the pair in those positions during friendlies against Anguilla and Ecuador last week. Instead, he used Alvin Jones and Mekeil Williams for all 180 minutes, despite the fact that they were both suspended for the Honduras trip.
If there is an unorthodox genius to Lawrence’s tactical decisions, there is little vindication of them in his win column.
Still, at least the Warriors were more threatening on the ball tonight with playmaker Ataulla Guerra and forward Marcus Joseph showing signs of a decent partnership, while Ryan Telfer galloped menacingly down the left flank and Jomal Williams and Andrews had their moments down the right.
But Lawrence’s unit would ultimately pay the price for going toe to toe with Honduras.
In the 44th minute, the visitors were lucky not to concede a penalty as defender Aubrey David blocked an Alberth Elis cross with his hand. But Lawrence barely had time to breathe a sigh of relief before Andrews conceded a spot kick on the other flank after tugging back Rubio.
Elis cooly stroked home the spot kick before going on all fours to celebrate with his trademark panther crawl.
It was 3-0 at the half and the Warriors were in danger of being ‘Anguilla-ed’.
Elis got his second and Honduras’ fourth within eight minutes of the restart as Sheldon Bateau conceded possession with a loose pass in Trinidad and Tobago’s defensive third and Rubio released the veteran winger to steer past Phillip again.
Lawrence responded by replacing Russell Jr with central defender Carlyle Mitchell as the Warriors switched from 4-2-3-1 to a 3-4-1-2 formation with Williams and Joseph on top, Guerra just behind and Telfer and Andrews on either flank. (Lawrence’s assistant coach, Stern John, was conspicuous by his absence from the bench tonight and it is uncertain whether the travel issues that vetoed five players also ruined the itinerary of the coaching staff.)
Honduras were slow to adjust and Trinidad and Tobago enjoyed their best period of the match at this stage. Only a tremendous low save by Honduran custodian Luis Lopez denied Joseph a fine consolation item too, as the attacker finally got an opportunity to show off his hammer of a left foot.
But even when Lawrence got it right, it found a way to go wrong. Within 15 minutes of coming on, Mitchell left the field on a stretcher and possibly with a concussion after coming out second best from an aerial collision with his own goalkeeper.
If Lawrence picks the winning lottery numbers, he would probably forget the ticket in his laundry.
Honduras did not manage another goal on the night. But of course they did not need to.
Gold Cup quarterfinalists twice in a row in 2013 and 2015, Trinidad and Tobago are struggling to qualify at all—despite the fact that, earlier this year, Concacaf increased the number of participating teams in the competition from 12 to 16. They will still have a final chance to attend the Concacaf showcase tournament next year, via a play off.
Mind you, Jamaica, Curaçao and Grenada have already qualified for the 2021 Gold Cup and St Vincent and the Grenadines look likely to join them soon.
Anguilla will not be going though. And, for now, neither are the Warriors.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-2-3-1): 1.Marvin Phillip (GK); 18.Aikim Andrews, 2.Aubrey David, 4.Sheldon Bateau (captain), 3.Ross Russell Jr (12.Carlyle Mitchell 55 [5.Daneil Cyrus 69]); 23.Aaron Lester, 8.Kevon Goddard; 20.Jomal Williams (16.Jomoul Francois 74), 9.Ataulla Guerra, 11.Ryan Telfer; 10.Marcus Joseph.
Unused substitutes: 21.Glenroy Samuel (GK), 7.Nathan Lewis, 19.Matthew Woo Ling, 17.Jerrel Britto.
Coach: Dennis Lawrence
Honduras (4-2-1-3): 22.Luis Lopez (GK), 2.Félix Crisanto, 15.Denil Maldonado, 3.Maynor Figueroa (captain), 5.Éver Alvarado; 8.Carlos Pineda, 10.Alexander López; 13.Brayan Moya (20.Edwin Rodríguez 86); 17.Alberth Elis, 11.Rubilio Castillo, 12.Jonathan Toro Rubio (16.Rigoberto Rivas 78).
Unused substitutes: 1.Harold Fonseca (GK), 18.Jose Zúñiga (GK), 4.Marcelo Santos, 6.Bryan Acosta, 7.Emilio Izaguirre, 9.Jorge Benguché, 14.Kevin Arriaga, 19.Juan Ramón Mejía, 21.Kevin López, 23.Edwin Solano.
Coach: Fabián Coito
Concacaf Nations League result
(Sunday 17 November 2019)
Honduras 4 (Jonathan Toro Rubio 5, Brayan Moya 20, Alberth Elis 45+1 pen, 53), Trinidad and Tobago 0 at San Pedro Sula.