Wired868 reports from the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship in Jamaica:
As far as bizarre plot twists go, Trinidad and Tobago’s opening 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship fixture against Jamaica last night was probably right up there with “The Sixth Sense.”
Did Trinidad and Tobago’s emphatic first half performance mean the United States would be quaking in its boots? Or did our disappointing fade away for the final 30 minutes suggest the young “Soca Warriors” lack the fitness to succeed in a tournament that entails five group matches in 12 days?
Was it down to bad luck? Or bad finishing? Or bad match preparation?
Whatever you call it, the final result read “Trinidad and Tobago 2, Jamaica 2” and the Warriors finished Match Day One tied with four of the six Group A teams on one point.
“I am very disappointed,” Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 coach Derek King told Wired868. “It is important that you win your first game. But it is finished and we still have a point so we have to build on it.”
But everyone in Kingston knew the Warriors could have done much better than that.
Panama, the Group A favourites, kicked off the CONCACAF tournament yesterday with a 4-0 romp over an outclassed Aruba at Kingston’s National Stadium while the fancied United States were surprised by a late Guatemala goal in a dour 1-1 draw.
There was nothing dull about the day’s closing clash between the two Caribbean rivals, particularly if you were wearing red.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Ambassador to Jamaica, Dr Iva Gloudon, was present and strode out to meet the young men before kickoff but there was little sight of a cheering section for the Warriors at “The Office.”
In truth, tensions between the two nations have been exacerbated recently with many Jamaicans openly upset about the welcome they receive from customs officials at the Piarco International Airport. And, as always, National Security Minister Gary Griffith tends not to help when his lips start moving.
But King’s men were clearly not on a diplomatic mission.
From as early as the 23rd minute, some Jamaicans were heading for the exits. Others vowed to slink away from the National Stadium at halftime.
The Warriors were up 2-0 and the Jamaicans looked as vulnerable as pets on a highway. This was adding insult to injury. Having supposedly violated the spirit of Caricom by snubbing “Yardies” at Piarco, Trinidad and Tobago was now turning Jamaicans out of Kingston as well!
“I could not have asked for a better start,” said King. “We went and pressed the football, we possessed the football, we scored our chances. It could have easily been 5-0 (in the) first half…”
There was some agitation on the social media, before kick off, when Wired868 revealed a starting line-up that did not include dynamic 17-year-old Shiva Boys HC winger Levi Garcia.
“It was between Levi and Aikim Andrews (for a starting flank position opposite Akeem Garcia) and Aikim has been wonderful in our last two practice games,” said King. “So at the end of the day, I told them all of the players are starting players on the team and who trains well and performs well in training will play.”
With a broad smile, King assured reporters that they would see Levi soon. But who can be sure after such an impressive display of wing football from the Warriors?
Garcia (A) and Andrews both left the schools’ game to represent W Connection last September and, overall, the Pro League might have felt pretty good about the school versus club argument as a third Connection player, right back and team captain Shannon Gomez, plus North East Stars midfielder Neveal Hackshaw and St Ann’s Rangers striker Kadeem Corbin all excelled in the first hour.
The game was just 48 seconds old when the Warriors created their first chance after sustained pressure as Jamaica goalkeeper Nicholas Nelson scampered to fend away a Garcia (A) volley off an Andrews cross.
Jamaica’s crowd favourite, Cardel Benbow, rose local spirits with a twisting run past Gomez before delivering a useful cross, in the second minute, that Daniel Roberts failed to capitalise on.
But, in the sixth minute, the Office was stunned as Gomez knocked a wayward clearance from Nelson into Andrews’ path; and the winger responded with a dipping effort from outside the box over the stranded goalkeeper.
The Warriors were buzzing and the “Reggae Boyz” could not get out of their half of the field.
“I saw (Jamaica) play and they like to build from behind,” said King. “So our key was to hold a line and, as they played to the side, to press; and it worked wonderfully.”
Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore accused his players of not being mentally ready for the game yesterday as they were overawed in the first half. But even partisan supporters were drooling at the Warriors’ play.
In the tenth minute, Duane Muckette plucked an overhit pass from Kevon Goddard out of the sky with one touch before releasing Garcia (A) with an exquisite, cushioned volley off the outside of his right boot. The Jamaican crowd failed to stop itself from spontaneous “oohs” in response.
Two minutes later, the Warriors thought they had scored again but Gomez’s finish was ruled out for offside. There was no questioning the legitimacy of Corbin’s strike in the 15th minute, though, which followed another brilliant Gomez overlap.
Crosses were flying into the Jamaica penalty area from all angles while Jamaica left back Isamania Cohen, terrified at just the sight of Andrews, conceding possession on three successive occasions by the 23rd minute. Fearing the worse, there was a small exodus of half-hearted fans.
Whitmore swapped his attacking flankers as the more robust Junior Flemmings paid closer attention to Gomez. But the Boyz still could not find a way past the robust T&T midfield trio of Muckette, Goddard and Hackshaw.
At halftime, another sprinkling of Jamaican supporters left quietly. But the Boyz were far from finished. It is not for nothing that the supposed danger of a two goal lead is one of football’s most enduring clichés.
Whitmore made two halftime changes, including 18-year-old Jamaica sensation Michael Seaton, while a third substitution soon followed. It was all or nothing time for the coach.
Meanwhile, the Warriors demonstrated a notable dip in intensity in the second half. True, they should have extended their lead in the 58th minute when Muckette shot wide after good approach-work from Corbin and Andrews.
But, had Muckette scored, the visitors would have merely exploiting an unforced error. The Warriors had gone into “public-servants-on-a-Friday-afternoon” mode by now.
A quick free kick from down Trinidad and Tobago’s left flank exposed napping full back Jesus Perez and Jamaica substitute Donja Smith, Seaton’s replacement, scored with a close range header in the 67th minute.
King introduced debutante Ricardo John in the 74th minute in an effort to get his team pressing from on top again. John chased willingly too but enough of his teammates did not join him while, when the Warriors had possession, the Virginia Tech schoolboy was not as adept as Corbin in losing his markers.
The absence of good, pre-tournament practice matches meant King had never seen John play an international before yesterday while the striker was not acquainted with this level before the competitive action started.
The Jamaica team was buzzing now. Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Johan Welch made a fine stop low to his right to keep out Benbow in the 74rd minute while, a minute later, a stunning left footed volley from Flemmings flew inches wide.
King replaced Goddard with Humphreys in the 77th minute. And, a minute later, Mitchell was on for the spent Muckette.
Andrews could barely hold on to the ball now; but the Warriors had no changes left. Of the starting eleven, only Hackshaw and Garcia (A) looked to have much puff left.
In the 84th minute, Martieon Watson clattered Roberts in the Trinidad and Tobago penalty area but Mexican referee Fernando Guerrero allowed a supposed advantage as the ball rolled to Flemmings. And, once more, Flemmings shot wide.
Welch had to make another a reflex save for the Warriors while Hackshaw tried to run down the clock by the corner flag. The imperious nature of Trinidad and Tobago’s first half hour seemed a distant memory now.
Three minutes into Guerrero’s four minutes of stoppage time, Perez lunged at another Jamaican substitute Khali Stewart on top of his own penalty box. And, this time, Flemmings made no mistake as he thrashed him a beautiful free kick.
“I wouldn’t say it was down to fitness,” said King. “At the end of the day, we are playing the host nation and they had the crowd support that helped them get back in the game. We should have had a little more patience in our play and managed the second half better.
“We kept trying to hustle the football. That was our downfall in the second half.”
So was the glass half-empty or half-full? Are the Warriors moving forward or backwards?
It will be better to tell against Aruba from 4 pm (TT time) on Sunday afternoon.
Trinidad and Tobago needs three points and some goals will be nice as well. There is the chance that King would use a more offensive line-up for that fixture with Levi and Mitchell coming back into contention.
The coaching staff at least got the big changes right in the starting team against Jamaica. Or did they?
Things get hazy pretty quickly after a lukewarm result.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-2-3-1): 1.Johan Welch (GK); 2.Shannon Gomez (captain), 3.Martieon Watson, 13.Brendon Creed, 4.Jesus Perez; 18.Kevon Goddard (17.Akeem Humphrey 77), 8.Neveal Hackshaw; 15.Aikim Andrews, 6.Duane Muckette (10.Jabari Mitchell 78), 7.Akeem Garcia; 9.Kadeem Corbin (16.Ricardo John 71).
Unused substitutes: 20.Javon Sample (GK), 5.Leland Archer, 11.Levi Garcia, 12.Kishun Seecharan, 14.Matthew Woo Ling, 19.Maurice Ford.
Coach: Derek King
Jamaica (4-2-2-2): 1.Nicholas Nelson (GK); 12.Roberto Johnson, 3.Jevaun Waugh, 7.Malcolm Stewart, 20.Isamnia Cohen (2.Khalil Stewart 61); 11.I’ishmalle Currie (5.Allando Brown 46), 17.Shaquille Dyer; 10.Junior Flemmings, 19.Cardel Benbow; 8.Daniel Roberts, 9.Michael Seaton (15.Donja Smith 46).
Unused substitutes: 13.Dane Chambers (GK), 4.Rennico Clarke, 6.Martin Davis, 14.John Levee, 16.Shamar Nicholson, 18.Joel Cunningham,
Coach: Theodore Whitmore
CONCACAF Under-20 Championship
(Fri Jan 9)
Jamaica 2 (Donja Smith 67, Junior Flemmings 90+3), Trinidad and Tobago 2 (Aikim Andrews 6, Kadeem Corbin 15)
United States 1 (Cameron Carter-Vickers), Guatemala 1 (Jose Ruiz)
Panama 4 (Ismael Diaz De Leon 19, 50, Ervin Zorilla 30, Edson Samms 36), Aruba 0
Upcoming Fixtures (TT times)
(Sunday January 11)
Trinidad & Tobago vs Aruba, 4 pm, National Stadium, Kingston;
Panama vs USA, 6.30 pm, National Stadium, Kingston;
Jamaica vs Guatemala, 9 pm, National Stadium, Kingston.