Home / Volley / Global Football / Reach for the skies: USA host Soca Warriors in Colorado, 5,223 feet above sea level!

Reach for the skies: USA host Soca Warriors in Colorado, 5,223 feet above sea level!

Hold your breath. The Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team will have the additional pressure of altitude when they travel to face one of their most formidable opponents, the United States, in their next Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying match on 8 June 2017.

The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) announced today that it will host the Soca Warriors in Commerce City, Colorado at the home of Major League Soccer (MLS) team, Colorado Rapids. The venue is 5,223 feet above sea level.

Photo: United States forward Jozy Altidore (left) tries to escape from Trinidad and Tobago defender Carlyle Mitchell during FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the EverBank Field on 6 September 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Copyright Sam Greenwood/Getty Images/AFP)
Photo: United States forward Jozy Altidore (left) tries to escape from Trinidad and Tobago defender Carlyle Mitchell during FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the EverBank Field on 6 September 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida.
(Copyright Sam Greenwood/Getty Images/AFP)

Trinidad and Tobago defender Mekeil Williams should feel at home as he is in his second season at the Rapids. But for the rest of the squad—and, in particular, the home-based players who live at sea level—it could mean the customary issues of strength and stamina while playing at altitude, as a result of the reduction in oxygen pressure.

In 10 attempts spanning 52 years of World Cup qualifying football, Trinidad and Tobago have never managed a single point at altitude.

The Warriors lost all seven trips to San Jose and Cartago in Costa Rica—at 3,845 and 4,707 feet above sea level respectively—with 18 goals conceded and a solitary item scored  – by Jerren Nixon 21 years ago in 1996.

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There have been just three trips to the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, which is 7,350 feet above sea level, and those ended  in 7-0, 3-0 and 2-1 defeats. Winger Hayden Tinto scored Trinidad and Tobago’s lone goal in Mexico City in 2009.

It is not unusual for the USSF to try to gain maximum advantage from playing at home by taking visiting teams to the most uncomfortable city they can find. In this case, however, the “Yanks” might be looking beyond Trinidad and Tobago.

Photo: Mexico forward Javier Hernandez (right) tries unsuccessfully to evade a tackle from Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevan George during 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on 28 March 2017. (Copyright AFP 2017/Alfredo Estrella)
Photo: Mexico forward Javier Hernandez (right) tries unsuccessfully to evade a tackle from Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevan George during 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on 28 March 2017.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Alfredo Estrella)

On 11 June, the United States travel to face group leaders, Mexico, at the Azteca Stadium and coach Bruce Arena hopes to use Colorado to prepare his team for Mexico City, which is just over 2,000 feet higher than Commerce City.

The United States will prepare for the Warriors with a friendly in Utah—at 4,449 feet above sea level—as well as with a week-long training camp at altitude before their June qualifier.

It would make sense for Trinidad and Tobago head coach Dennis Lawrence to do likewise but he will obviously need the support of  the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA). However, those of his players who are in Eastern Europe, Asia and the MLS will still be in their domestic seasons and may not be released by their clubs.

Winger Levi Garcia, forward Willis Plaza and midfielders Khaleem Hyland and Andre Boucaud, as well as Pro League players like goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams, defenders Curtis Gonzales, Daneil Cyrus and Carlos Edwards and striker Jamille Boatswain should all be available, pending release by their club.

And, on the bright side, coming only three days earlier, the Colorado trip could mean that the Warriors are well acclimatised for their own excursion to San Jose, which is some 2,000 feet lower.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevin Molino weighs up his options 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 midfielder Kevin Molino weighs up his options during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Trinidad and Tobago’s last match at altitude went well enough as the Warriors held Mexico 3-3 in an international friendly at Salt Lake City, Utah on 4 September 2015, under then coach Stephen Hart.

The Warriors, who trail the fourth-placed USA outfit by one point at present, can feasibly be cut adrift if they fail to pick up a point in their next two matches.

As Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica and the United States all have home matches, the gap to fourth—and a FIFA Play-off contest against Asia’s fifth-placed team—could stretch to over four points if results go against the Warriors.

At present, the Asian representative looks likely to be either Australia or Uzbekistan.

Altitude or not, Trinidad and Tobago have not managed a point in the United States since Hutson Charles’ late equaliser in a 1-1 tie in California on 13 May 1989.

If captain Kenwyne Jones and company want to follow in the footsteps of the history-making 2006 Warriors, they might need to create their own history at altitude.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Joevin Jones (centre) terrorises United States players DeAndre Yedlin (right) and Michael Orozco during Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Joevin Jones (centre) terrorises United States players DeAndre Yedlin (right) and Michael Orozco during Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

The skipper’s namesake, Joevin Jones, vowed that the current national team will fight to the final whistle.

“We have six games to go and everything to play for,” Joevin told the TTFA Media. “Playing on the road in the next two games is going to be a challenge but I believe in the squad and the coaching staff.

“And I think once we can keep our heads together and continue working hard, then we can get some points on the road and set things up for our next set of games in Trinidad.”

The Women Soca Warriors might wonder what all the fuss is about, though. On 8 November 2014, the Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team managed a goalless draw in Quito, Ecuador, which is 9,350 feet above sea level—and comfortably 2,000 feet higher than the Azteca.

Sadly, the heroic result was wasted as the Women Warriors fell 1-0 to Ecuador in Port of Spain a month later to miss out on a maiden appearance at a senior FIFA Women’s World Cup.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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121 comments

  1. Hot sun should be our home advantage. This nugget is taken from Harry Redknapp’s autobiography on Kenwyne Jones…..”Later that summer we were playing Bournemouth in a pre-season friendly and he asked to come off.

    ‘What’s the problem, Kenwyne?’ I said. ‘It’s too hot,’ he said, shaking his head. ‘Kenwyne,’ I reminded him, as politely as I could in front of several thousand people. ‘You’re from Trinidad. This isn’t even a warm day for you.’

    He had all the tools — a great spring, good pace and power in the air — but he was laid-back to the point of semi-consciousness.

    He just looked like he would rather be on a beach somewhere.

  2. We cant play in hot sun we cant play at altitude…we cant play with each other!!!!!! I know I have seen it all!!!!!

  3. Soca Warriors is going give them a shocker In their own backyard. We should play them 12 noon in T&T???????

  4. I hope they also know that you don’t need to go to a high altitude to train to play there. There is gym equipment they can purchase to simulate it. #justsayin

  5. This makes sense for them, their next game is in Mexico at altitude.
    If you have the advantage why not use it, there’s no “friend ting” in this.

  6. USA too stink lol, we’ll STILL beat them. Come on T&T u guys can do it.

  7. WE ARE MAKING EXCUSED ALREADY??????

  8. Reza the thread for people who have given up on the team is in another thread …you should check that one out instead.

  9. We can make it with 9 points over the next 6 matches. This group already had plenty draws and it might continue. We can lose away to Mexico, USA and Costa Rica but then we have to win in Panama and beat USA and Honduras at home…tall order I know but not impossible based on what I saw at the Stadium last week. I was very impressed with the guys’ commitment and the fact that they never really gave up, granted it was against a sub-par Mexico, very different from the fun and attractive one that played so well and got robbed in 2014 by Robbing Robben…

  10. Altidore always bust n up we bag .TNT need a lot of technical practices

  11. People!!! We have a good coach ,with experience, he go make things happened.

  12. From experience, that altitude can really take a serious toll on you very early. Altitude sickness is quite common there, causing you to feel nauseous, breathless and weak. Serious athletes frequent Colorado in preparation for international competitions, particularly for the Olympics and I have always advocated for local athletes going there to train.

    That T&T vs USA game in Colorado (based on my observation of T&T’s current fitness level) will be over by the first half. T&T will need to increase their fitness level considerably in order to properly challenge the US for a win.

  13. And our return game against Mexico may also be at high altitude. Learn to play high, I guess! Lol

  14. While I am hopeful for a good result vs USA, we are surely swimming against the tide for qualification to the WC…
    We are at the bottom of the sea and it would take a Herculean effort by the team to get back.on stream…
    At best, Dennis Lawrence can use this experience as building blocks for the near future…

  15. No surprise!! That is America’s secret weapon when they think they will be beaten.

  16. When we playing them home it should be in the 1 o’ clock sun

  17. Now to 8th June is enough time to sharpen up…………will Corporate Trinidad and Tobago assist the team with a minimum 2 weeks acclimatization of the atmosphere…………….that 7-0 lost to Mexico must be discounted as it was a second string team that had already qualified for the last six………….and the results still is misleading to what played out … we looking good for Russia………at least I think so !!!

  18. We can play in 3 o’clock hot sun?

  19. We have a chance man. 1, attack with full force and surprise them. 2, who ever running the front line man mark MB everything comes through him. 3, follow CP everywhere. 4, follow JA everywhere. And leh go speedsters at their defense and WAHLAH.

  20. Have we ever beaten the US at altitude, sea level, or in between?

    • Lasana Liburd

      We beat the US team once in a WCQ in 2008. That was in Port of Spain. Sadly, it didn’t count for much. It was a semifinal group round match and both teams were already through to the Hex. And, once there, they beat us home and away,

  21. Smart tactic for 3 pts! After the 11 players, the 12th man…the environment is next. This was what they did Costa Rica 4 years ago…and no..it’s not a black & white camera.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_w6C3O17UuM

  22. Most of our players are gonna be just as familiar as the US because they play in the US as well ….

  23. When USA come Trinidad we should play them 3 o clock hot hot sun

  24. The US is accustomed to using their wide geographic spread to their advantage. Play flatlanders at altitude. Play warm weather people in the snow. Play sides with strong immigrant followings out in the boondocks.

  25. Trinidad must be the only country where the away team feels more at home than the home team we so nice and accommodating..

    • Costa Rican fan told me he remembers coming to Trinidad years ago and we Trinis were so friendly congratulating them when they won the match. That was about 10 years ago – as fans, we are just not as passionate about the outcome, it seems.

  26. USA could ketch it … low level or high level …we just need to prepare right and see them for the overated team that they are …

  27. Give them credit for thinking smart

  28. If our technical team is smart enough they would send the team up at least seven days prior to the game.

  29. Cory McCullough Kerry Singh WWGD

  30. That’s a great move by them we can’t fault them at all . What we need to do is make our country a fortress, I may be wrong but to me there are only a handful of passionate supporters of TNT football . I remember when Crouch pulled Sancho’s hair in the WC and reduced me to tears then about a year or two later England came to TNT and they were welcomed like kings. Two minutes of boos and then lime and talk back to the regular program.My thing is all the other countries make it hard when they have home field advantage and I think we should do a little more to make our opponents uncomfortable.

  31. That was expected. They know that the Soca Warriors is improving and do not want an upset.

  32. We better get out there early.

  33. its their right…home advantage

  34. Isn’t marijuana legal in Colorado? Trinidad away support might sell out their stadium … lolol.

  35. How do we create home advantage?? Play in the Savannah? What about the Brian Lara stadium or the Oval? They hate sandy grounds.

  36. That’s home advantage….can’t fault them there

  37. Well we could host the return game in the Savannah.

  38. yuh know they did that on purpose…

  39. Interesting that some of us see this as trickery. It’s simple strategy and commonsense. It’s called optimizing home field advantage.

  40. all man have to train with breathing resistance masks

  41. hahahahah Well they need to reinstate my corrupted uncle Jack Warner for that one to ever happen again. Them really good yes.

  42. If only we had people who have money to pass. All now so we playing in Florida or something. Where’s a good high rolling FIFA bigwig when you need him?

  43. Hmm i smell a road trip, even though it might be tough

  44. I don’t think the USA taking us on….they just looking to get as much altitude practice before they face Mexico. Meanwhile our guys should start training with those oxygen masks that athletes wear to strengthen their lungs.