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Lawrence warns Warriors of stern Mexico challenge; no resting on Panama laurels

The Trinidad and Tobago senior national men’s team will have to forget their Panama laurels and focus exclusively on what is required to beat “one of the world’s best football teams” tomorrow evening.

The Soca Warriors take on top-of-the-table Mexico tomorrow in a hyper-crucial 2018 World Cup qualifier at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. Yesterday, at the pre-match media conference held at the Stadium’s VIP Lounge, rookie head coach Dennis Lawrence showed clearly that he has no illusions about the enormous task facing his men.

Photo: Mexico’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez celebrates after scoring against Costa Rica during their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier football match in Mexico City on 24 March 2017. (Copyright AFP 2017/Alfredo Estrella)
Photo: Mexico’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez celebrates after scoring against Costa Rica during their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier football match in Mexico City on 24 March 2017.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Alfredo Estrella)

“What we did with Panama is fantastic,” he declared, “but it’s over and it’s gone. We now go into the Mexico game[…] My major concern [now] is that focus.”

Both teams are coming off recent victories. “El Tri” sauntered to a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica to seize top spot in the CONCACAF Hex table on the same evening that the Soca Warriors edged Panama 1-0.

That victory earned T&T their first points in the Hex but Lawrence is not about to let it go to his or his team’s head. He has, he said, continuously underlined the importance of getting his players to switch on—a more difficult task this time around than was the case with the Panama game.

“The main thing was […] the importance of keeping the focus and I tried to do that immediately after the Panama game,” said Lawrence. “When we look at the history, we always have this tendency that once we’ve done something good, we try and rest on our laurels a bit.”

The former Everton FC assistant coach seems confident his team has been buying into his philosophy. He said he asked them on Friday to fight for their country and, at the final whistle, believed they had done just that.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence (right) thanks midfielder Cordell Cato for his effort during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence (right) thanks midfielder Cordell Cato for his effort during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

He is asking for more of the same tomorrow against Mexico.

“What I’ve tried to do is to focus them on what they can do,” he explained, “[and] what they did in the Panama game to allow them to believe in themselves.

“The idea is to be brave tomorrow and try to go toe-to-toe with Mexico and make sure we stay involved in the game. […] We can’t afford to allow Mexico to take total control of the game.”

Lawrence commented that he will not be solely basing his tactics on individuals as he believed that Mexico’s tactical flexibility means his team may find themselves up against a completely different set of players or a completely different formation come kick-off time.

“We need to make sure and focus on what we’re good at and try and pay more attention to that [and] make sure our structure is [right]… rather than focus too much on how good Mexico can be [with] their tactical flexibility.”

Flexibility or no flexibility, the North American juggernauts—whom Lawrence dubbed “one of the world’s best football teams”—have not lost to Trinidad and Tobago since October 2005 en route to T&T’s historic 2006 World Cup bow. However, recent outings provide room for optimism about a favourable outcome for Lawrence’s Warriors.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacking midfielder Keron Cummings (centre) celebrates his 2015 Gold Cup goal against Mexico with teammates (from right) Cordell Cato, Joevin Jones, Mekeil Williams and Aubrey David. (Courtesy MexSport/CONCACAF)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacking midfielder Keron Cummings (centre) celebrates his 2015 Gold Cup goal against Mexico with teammates (from right) Cordell Cato, Joevin Jones, Mekeil Williams and Aubrey David.
(Courtesy MexSport/CONCACAF)

In 2015, Trinidad and Tobago battled to consecutive 4-4 and 3-3 draws with the Mexicans. The first meeting, in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup group stage, was hailed by non-partisan viewers as the most exciting Gold Cup match of all time.

Mexico failed to take three points in their last two trips to Port of Spain either, as they drew 2-2 in 2009 and lost 2-1 in 2005.

Lawrence, who played in both of the two nations’ last World Cup qualifying meetings at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, urged his players to be positive.

“I would like to hope that, with our previous meetings with Mexico when we play in Trinidad [having] normally been tight fixtures, […] the guys take confidence in that,” he told the media. “We need to believe that we can compete.”

He did concede that injuries to some of Mexico’s senior players may provide a small boost to T&T’s chances. Mexico lost PSV midfielder Andres Guardado and LA Galaxy star Gio Dos Santos to injury prior to the March qualifiers while winger Jurgen Damm and influential veteran Rafa Márquez suffered injuries against Costa Rica and are reported to be unfit to take the field tomorrow.

Photo: Mexico international star Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez poses with ex-Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 Team star and Pro League legend Marvin Oliver at the Hyatt Hotel in Port of Spain on 27 March 2017. Oliver was at the Hyatt to catch up with Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osario, who coached the Trinidadian at the Staten Island Vipers in the United States from 1998 to 1999. (Courtesy Marvin Oliver)
Photo: Mexico international star Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez poses with ex-Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 Team star and Pro League legend Marvin Oliver at the Hyatt Hotel in Port of Spain on 27 March 2017.
Oliver was at the Hyatt to catch up with Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osario, who coached the Trinidadian at the Staten Island Vipers in the United States from 1998 to 1999.
(Courtesy Marvin Oliver)

“I would like to hope that [Mexico’s absent players] would be a benefit to us,” he told the assembled media. “But I’m expecting the replacements to be just as good. I’m expecting it to be a very, very tough team regardless,”

Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, who became his country’s joint all-time leading goal-scorer after his typically predatory goal against Costa Rica, was taken off with a “sore thigh.” He is, however, expected to be fit for the encounter.

The former Manchester United hitman will doubtless be hoping to leave Jared Borghetti alone on 46 goals and have the goal-scoring honour all to himself by the end of Tuesday’s match. Remarkably, it will be the first time that Hernández has ever played against Trinidad and Tobago.

With Panama goal-scorer and central midfielder Kevin Molino over his fatigue, Lawrence also has his hitman available. And since Sheldon Bateau served his one-match suspension and his defensive partner Radanfah Abu Bakr recovered from his stomach ailment, Lawrence has a full squad to choose from.

“Molino had a quicker recovery than the four weeks expected,” the coach revealed with a wry smile, a reference to the mind games he indulged in with the Mexican media at Friday’s post-Panama media conference.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevin Molino (foreground) takes the ball around Panama midfielder Amilcar Henriquez during their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain on 24 March 2017. (Copyright AFP 2017/Alva Viarruel)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevin Molino (foreground) takes the ball around Panama midfielder Amilcar Henriquez during their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain on 24 March 2017.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Alva Viarruel)

But he kept his cards very close to his chest when it came to revealing his starting line-up. He merely commented that, like all the other members of the full squad, Bateau is available for selection and that the starting XI will be made known on match day.

(T&T 26-Man Roster)

Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip (Morvant Caledonia United), Jan-Michael Williams (Central FC), Glenroy Samuel (Unattached);

Defenders: Carlos Edwards (Unattached), Alvin Jones, Tristan Hodge (W Connection), Aubrey David (PS Kemi—Finland), Daneil Cyrus (Unattached), Radanfah Abu Bakr (FK Sūduva—Lithuania), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Sheldon Bateau (KC Krylia Sovetov—Russia), Mekeil Williams (Colorado Rapids—USA);

Midfielders: Andre Boucaud (Dagenham & Redbridge—England), Khaleem Hyland (KV Westerlo—Belgium), Kevan George (Jacksonville Armada—USA), Hughtun Hector (W Connection), Leston Paul (Central FC);

Attacking midfielders: Cordell Cato (San Jose Earthquakes—USA), Nathan Lewis (San Juan Jabloteh), Hashim Arcia (Defence Force), Kevin Molino (Minnesota United—USA), Joevin Jones (Seattle Sounders—USA), Levi Garcia (AZ Alkmaar—Netherlands);

Forwards: Kenwyne Jones (Atlanta United FC—USA), Willis Plaza (East Bengal—India), Jamille Boatswain (Defence Force).

About Amiel Mohammed

Amiel Mohammed
Amiel Mohammed is a sports enthusiast and has worked in communications for Central FC and the Women's Premier League TT. He has also pioneered numerous projects geared towards creating opportunities for the differently abled such as the Differently-Abled Football Camp 2015 and Focus Football Coaching Academy.

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26 comments

  1. This teams is deadly so watch out

  2. Has the tv contract situation been resolved. Will the game be televised?

  3. I am so happy Rafa Marquez, and Gio Dos Santos not playing they are match winners.

  4. Just browsing various footy fan forms and I get a strong impression that Mexican fans really respect us as opponents. There is a lot of excitement and buzz in Mexico when El tri playing Treeneedad.

    • Yes. We have a good record here against Mexico. The CONCACAF team that beats us home and away is Costa Rica.
      The next toughest opponent here is the USA. Mexico probably rank third.
      The problem with Mexico is we have no chance whatsoever in Mexico City.

  5. And just imagine that the goalkeepers was given their monies eh, and one goalkeeper got $1500 and the other goalkeeper got $ 2500 and when asked about the reason why this was so, he was told that the one that got the $ 2500 is living further than him eh and this is the same madness that happened when this fella in Brooklyn asked me to come and help him to organize his team to play in the semi professional league in New Jersey, so I told him that the players that I will be dring to his team are players that are playing professionally in my sweet country so the fee will be $100 US per game and the ones who never played professionally or represented our sweet country is $ 75 US per game, well he agreed but on game day after winning our first game eh, he wanted to pay my players by the way they played the game $35 US for my goal keeper Adrian Foncette who represented his College at the time in the US along with his player that he also brought to the team who was very outstanding himself and some of the other players, so I said Mr Man that wasn’t the deal and after I gave him a lashing of my tongue he then said well go and see my wife and she will give me all the right monies to pay my players, well that was the first and last game and his team mashed up yes. I really doesn’t understand why these corrupted people/ TTFA people really likes to exploit our players and our Local Coaches like this eh, it seems that they really believe that nothing local is good eh, only foreign steeuuppss. Them really good yes.

  6. The struggle is all too real Gary..

  7. It must be those same three band Maxi taxis that the TTFA used back in 1989 in order to transport the Strike Squad team from Fyzabad to the HCS while my USA team used the 50 seater Air Contioned bus to transport them from the Radisson hotel to the HCS Them really good yes steeuuppsss.

  8. Trinidad and Tobago vz Mexico.
    so Mexico using a huge double Decker AC Bus.
    and TnT Pile into 3 Red band maxi… just saying…
    Observation from the national Stadium training sessions today.

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=187160758001439&set=pb.100001225493088.-2207520000.1490659593.&type=3&theater

  9. Preach the gospel, Pastor Tallest!!!!!!
    We in the congregation will follow you!

  10. U know their lineup? Javier playing?

  11. Good advice from the Coach.

  12. Will be watching on TV. Expecting a good battle.

  13. On Mexico’s last five visits to Port of Spain, we have two wins, two draws and one loss. And Mexico not at full-strength.
    I think we have a ray of sunlight there.

  14. Real test tomorrow to get any points. Let’s see how it goes.