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Lawrence: Our tactics worked against USA; individual errors and bad luck cost us

“It was our individual errors that cost us the game and the USA took advantage of it.”

That was Trinidad and Tobago head coach Dennis Lawrence’s blunt assessment of his team’s 2-0 loss to the USA at Dick’s Sporting Goods Stadium in Colorado last evening. The 2018 World Cup Qualifying match, the Warriors’ fifth, reminded supporters of a classic Clint Eastwood western as it saw them produce some good stuff along with some bad and some ugly.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago coach Dennis Lawrence talks to the media after his team’s 2-0 loss to USA in Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action at Commerce City on 8 June 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

After spending two weeks in training at the University of Colorado’s Prentup Field getting used to the special conditions spawned by Colorado’s 5,340 feet above sea level altitude, Lawrence was satisfied that the tactical plan he devised to counter the home side’s system worked—at least for the entire first half.

“We knew that [USA] were going to play a 4-4-2 diamond system,” Lawrence told the post-match media conference, “and felt up against [Jozy] Altidore and [Clint] Dempsey that solidity was needed at the back.”

For what was the biggest match of his brief coaching career so far, Lawrence opted for a 3-4-2-1 formation.

“Also, because of this, our aim was to get the get ball wide and cross before they could turn back into their formation.”

His team delivered although not as spectacularly as if Kenwyne Jones’ 32nd minute header off a Khaleem Hyland chip forward had been a couple of centimetres lower.  That was the “good.”

“We had a little joy with it, Kenwyne’s unfortunate header hitting the crossbar. And I think Nathan’s ‘goal’ was a very close call that went against us again.”

The “bad” was the bad luck that came when Nathan Lewis put the ball in the net in the 62nd minute but the goal was ruled offside. It came immediately after Christian Pulisic had opened the scoring for the USA, running on to an Altidore pass to slot home from close range.

Photo: United States attacker Christian Pulisic (right) celebrates after his opening goal against Trinidad and Tobago during Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action at Commerce City on 8 June 2017.
Pulisic scored twice as USA won 2-0.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

Lady Luck has not been good to Lawrence in the early part of his coaching career so far. In the fourth round game versus Mexico in March at the Hasely Crawford, Joevin Jones sent a left-footed screamer into the net from distance, only to have it disallowed for offside by the Jamaican referee. T&T eventually went down 0-1 in that crucial match-up.

Lawrence noted that he had given a lot of thought to the formation he should use but in order to deploy it he had to make some adjustments to the roles played by Jones (J) and Kevin Molino.

“I asked Kevin to play in a specific wider position tonight and he played it as best he can,” he explained. “Then, I brought him in the middle and he did well so I was totally pleased with his effort and commitment.

“Joevin came into the camp late and I always knew that him playing 90 minutes in these conditions as wing-back after playing for his club on Sunday would have been tricky. He gave it his all and I took him off when I felt he didn’t have much left in the tank.”

Lawrence did not say so clearly in words but unforeseen circumstances may also have affected his original plan. Lewis was probably not in the original plan but, with Levi Garcia ruled out through injury and Cordell Cato through his late suspension, he eventually got the nod as a starter.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Nathan Lewis controls the ball at an awkward height during Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action against the United States at Commerce City on 8 June 2017.
USA won 2-0.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

“Nathan didn’t let me down tonight,” Lawrence said. “He did well in the recent Caribbean Club Championship and, given the squad options, he came in.”

Overall, Lawrence was pleased with how his team had adapted to his plans. But he would not have been pleased with the “ugly.” The USA’s propensity for taking advantage of lapses is well known and Lawrence would almost certainly have stressed it over and over in the run-up to this game. Yet, both American goals came from two possession lapses in midfield, one by the national skipper Jones (K) and the other by the usually dependable Hyland.

“We want Khaleem to get on the ball,” Lawrence commented wryly, “but we don’t want him to give it away cheaply in the middle of the park. So except for that moment, my overall point of view he did what I asked him to do, just need to execute better in those moments in the future.”

The coach seemed to suggest that he felt generally good about his team with the next crucial Hex assignment scheduled for San José, Costa Rica, on Tuesday.

“The positive looking ahead to Costa Rica is that the boys understood what I wanted them to do,” he concluded, “so tactically that’s not what cost us the game—but giving away the ball twice.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder midfielder Kevan George (left) fouls United States midfielder Fabian Johnson (centre) during Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action at Commerce City on 8 June 2017.
USA won 2-0.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

USA coach Bruce Arena also commented on the T&T tactical approach.

“I didn’t expect Trinidad to play a back three,” he admitted, “and how high upfield the wingbacks and the defence were when they gained possession also caught me by surprise. So, yeah, although we won, I think they did a tremendous job and were well prepared for this game.

“They put our backline under pressure and deserve a lot of credit. Hopefully now, [Trinidad and Tobago] could start knocking off a few teams and ease the pressure on us.”

The Soca Warriors’ next chance to do so will be in Costa Rica next Tuesday on a venue where the two-island republic have never won and only once registered a point—32 years ago in the 1986 World Cup qualifying series.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago playmaker Kevin Molino (right) makes a pass under pressure from United States attacker Clint Dempsey during Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action at Commerce City on 8 June 2017.
USA won 2-0.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

About Colin Benjamin

Colin Benjamin is a former freelance writer for the Trinidad Newsday newspaper and Guyana Stabroek News.

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  1. Why is it that only Indian Trini’s saying such nasty things about the team and the coach. Damn!

    • Earl Best

      (1) How can you tell people’s race from reading stuff here?

      (2) Assuming that your idea is correct, why should Indians not say how they feel? What’s the obligation to say only unnice things?

      Boy, am I glad you’re not the minister of national security!

  2. Don’t fool yourself Dennis…… the fact remains that this team has real problems scoring and even more problems keeping a clean sheet! As such a 2-0 loss is no surprise….. keep it real!

  3. Yall need a new coach.somehow i dont feel he have d kinda experience….and d skillset of ah man like leo who carried this country to its first world cup.u feel dem players who probably played football with their own coach go have full respect for him in a such a way that they could learn from him….with trini mentality i dont think so……fire d coach…or get a made coach….n put him as an assistant or coach of a juniour team

  4. Then Lawrence needs to realize that Hyland only has one half in him at best, and Bocaud needs to be given playing time. We also need to go with two strikers from now on we have No choice it’s do or die. 3-4-1-2

  5. The first half was ours the team was playing ok but not good the defense was amazing but like in the dressing some fool gone and hype up the dam players to much and the couldn’t concentrate in the second half…..

  6. Your error as an individual was sticking with that washed up imitation forward you insist on playing !

  7. The chance that Kenwyn Jones should not have been missed. He is too experienced to missed that kind header to score.

  8. I think you all should find another sport maybe tennis

  9. Is better them send out one of the school intercol sides

  10. Lawrence yuh is a hero but d shit u talking yuh cud be d next tommy or learie

  11. The most disappointing thing for me was how little we got from Joevin in this formation.

  12. The team played well, it was just two small ball watching and not tracking your man make them goals score. Also sometimes too direct on attack

  13. They played with a plan to slow down the game, it was a mistake by hyland that affected us, encouraging, we matched America in a high altitude situation that they deliberately used against us

  14. He ent get fired yet hmmm strange

  15. No where near as good of performance as against Mexico. But that’s me watching on tv and not on the pitch. I could see a tactical approach but I couldn’t see who or how we were gonna score. Good luck with next game.

  16. That headline in the story, beat back Mr. Bean yes

  17. Rasta, we still have hopes in representing

  18. Too much veterans. ..this is a fete match team

  19. Nah the goal keeper was the best player eh the only goal that wasn’t his fault was the first goal that our defenders shouldn’t have allowed the # 10 to score . Them really good yes

  20. How poor T&T were last night KJ was our best player. Carlos Edwards should have had a run at the left back the amount of one on ones he had and choose to cross the ball instead of taking on his man.

  21. The losing coach said that his tactics worked….smh.

  22. Aubrey David and Boucaud should be starting and give Jamille a chance..

  23. In Australia just under 30,000 fans turned out to see them win a vital World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia.
    A day later, 96,000 fans turned out in Melbourne and shelled out big bucks to watch a friendly between Brazil and Argentina…
    Well, it’s not just Trinidad with the bandwagonism eh. Chris Tanner, what do you say? Lol.

  24. If Honduras get a point in Panama, it will help us big time though. That would mean we have to win our two home games over USA and Honduras and beat Panama on the road to finish fourth.
    That is at least plausible because have done all those things in the past before.
    If Panama defeats Honduras, we have to do all those things PLUS get a point in either Costa Rica or Mexico.
    That is mathematically possible but totally unrealistic.

  25. It’s astonishing to hear the excuses fir our loss kast night… “the altitude affected their play!” So only T&T was playing then? This is not the time for excuses. TTFA & the coaches knew 12 months ago we would be playing at higher altitude. Failing to plan and prepare is planning to fail. Simple as that.

  26. Put on a suit and tie and yuh is a coach. All dem players who force out the former coaches and staff are a set of shirt hungs ejo cyah make a 5th division side but feel dem real good. T&T should stick to netball.

  27. Encourage he say about what ..really he ha to be joking .

  28. All am saying is a total team worming wouldn’t hurt!

  29. Cyar agree with Lawrence on his assessment. Granted we acquitted ourselves reasonably well in the first half, but the US continually exploited our left flank in the second half, and we did nothing about it. Pulisic, Nagbe, and some other fella was always free in between Carlos and Mekeil. I think switching Carlos from the right side to left side made us more vulnerable, for whatever reason.

  30. Mel Lissa, T&T need a purge ….. dey does always play like dey need tuh shit!

  31. I think we should start doing what other teams do to us when they have a home and use our geographical advantage. We may not have high altitude stadiums but we could be starting games a little earlier around 5pm to give them a little taste of tropical sun. It would be just warm enough to throw of teams like the usa and cool enough for our team to handle. But strategic thinking is not one of strengths either.

  32. Hahahahaha The tactics worked alright so that my second sweetest country cudda win the game Them really good yes

  33. I eh read the article yet but ‘Our tactics worked against USA’?
    Is that an error? ( ah will read it when I return to find out)

  34. Well the first player that I will be dropping is Mr. Bound not to score eh Darron Davis if I was the coach of the Soca Worries but I will never ever bounce my head and ever take that job especially when the corrupted Jack Warner and his cronies TTFA continues to use and exploit our local coaches and our players steeuuppss. Them really good yes

  35. To me Edwards played the most constructive game for us, each time he had the ball you could ser him positioning himself to create opportunities for others, the others though seemed incapable positioning themselves to maximize these opportunities.

  36. hyland gave away the ball to much and we have not enough strikers we need to play two strikers and molino and joevin down the flanks

  37. What were our possession and pass percentages?
    At least twice I saw players beats themselves and lost the ball. Other times individuals penetrated deep into US territory and either delayed shooting or passing too long or had no one supporting.

    • We ended with about 48 percent possession which is decent for the away team. Almost strange considering we were away to USA.
      In fact that doesn’t auger well for USA at all. Either they were already thinking about Mexico and were distracted. Or they really are as mediocre as we think and have a rude surprise waiting in Mexico City.

    • The US played rell shit …. that’s why initially I expexted us to win, but when the US realized we weren’t gonna do anything it’s like they decided “Flick dat yes …. leh we buss T&T ass”.

  38. Mango you should go coach the team

  39. trinidad need to play more attaking football wat is the sence yuh playing defenceive football and yuh loosing best yuh try one game atleast with attack wat yuh have to lost its done mere impossibe to reach world cup already to much games done lost so try something new play two strikers boatswain and kenwayne on top is dat so hARD TO SEE

  40. For me this game & Lewis performance reinforced my long held belief that unfortunately- there a not much new players in pro league that can challenge the incumbents of this team, that essentially Hart put together.

    We got to give team credit for being able to adapt to this 3-4-3 & realistically if Cato & Levi was around it might have allowed us to play Joevin & Molino in more attacking positions

    USA gave Pulisic freedom – but we had to sacrifice the attacking threat of Joevin & Molino for understandable tactical reasons

    In an alternative universe if Bostock had committed to team already – his presence in midfield would have been perfect for this system

    So too the younger legs Sheanon Williams of Nick De Leon in the wing back role over Carlos

    • I believe they are not scouting as they should. We have a foreign base bias mentality and this has been so for ages. It takes a lot to do deep scouting and it is time consuming. We love a quick fix in our country. I won’t believe there aren’t any players to challenge these guys , you can’t tell me that there is no one better than Kenwyn , I won’t fall for that. They don’t give proper chances to other “no name” players, it’s a habit, it’s a mentality

    • Colin, if Levi was here then he would have played the more offensive role. I think it would be crazy to put Levi as a wingback while he is a wing forward for his club and do the reverse with Joevin.

    • Lasana Liburd Ye Levi instead of Lewis was only direct change i could have envisioned

      Cato for carlos maybe also

      And potentially instead of 3-4-3, playing more of a 3-4-2-1 where Molino at least could have played centrally

    • Curtis Charles Given all criticism Kenwyne still gets – if there was someone better than him from pro league – KJ would have been dropped a long time ago – but there isn’t and both Hart & now Lawrence knows this

    • Molino will do better than Kenwyn as a striker …we are not making any world cup . Wait and see all of a sudden someone is found for that striker position..they don’t want to take the chance with putting faith in someone else

    • I remember Hart played Guerra and Molino together on top once. And it looked very promising. But he only did it once.
      And Kenwyne was delivering then anyway. His form just took a big slide last year.

  41. Glad we finally decided to run ah back three, looked solid apart from the lapses that caused the goals….if we can eliminate errors and moments of LAZYNESS, lookin at u kenwin…in 343 d striker have to press d back line when he lose d ball, not stop playing, dat is a bad habit KJ have dat need to go

  42. To tell you the truth the team wasn’t that bad …my major concern is transition from defense to attack. It was to slow and then in the final third we were clueless. One problem being that Kenwyn is being caught in the midfield and unable to reach the box when the ball reaches the wingers , when the wingers reach the byline there is no central striker, so it forced Joevin to shoot from that imposibble angle. Winning the ball in midfield was good, both George and hyland worked well but when the ball is retrieved ,then there is no creative outlet in midfield. This will always result in the other team scoring on you because your attack relieves your defense of pressure . I don’t blame the defense because everyone makes mistakes here and there…just look at juve in the champions league final for example.

    • The transition looked really slow to me. Joevin was really subdued and I didn’t see us trying to use Nathan’s speed on the break–granted Nathan struggled anyway.
      Our counter attack rarely worked and that used to be our best quality. All the same, we were able to carve out opportunities. So it wasn’t all bad there either.

    • Our chances were really half chances which is not good enough. Clear cut chances were kenwyn’s header and Lewis disallowed goal. Other than that I can’t remember any clear cut chances

    • Fair enough. Molino got a header which was a half chance although he attacked the ball really well and really made it himself.
      There was a Molino cross too that was a half chance but Lewis couldn’t get on the end of it.

    • Yeah yeah …I think that lines man was really ridiculous with his call too. How the hell he could see Lewis offside when Kenwyn was totally blocking him and the ball never went to Kenwyn anyway. That offside was a really harsh decision , I believe the lines man call for Kenwyn and not Lewis , cause no way he could have seen Lewis , check it out again , I mean the man sleeve was offside

    • And the benefit of the doubt is supposed to go to the attacker! Remember Alexis Sanchez’s goal for Arsenal in the FA Cup final?
      That is onside but they’re trying to say Nathan was offside? Nah man.

    • Lasana Liburd Haven’t seen any clear replays but Lewis goal happened right in front of press box & a lot of people was shocked at offside call seeing it live

    • That’s right . That can never be offside . And like I said before Kenwyn was blocking Lewis , so that linesman can never see Lewis . This is the second mat h in a row we were robbed a goal.

  43. They played alright, where they continue coming up short is in the area of possession/ball control.
    You can’t win unless you score and you can’t score unles you have the ball. Too often T&T is content to allow their opponents to possess the ball while our side looks on like spectators, only looking like participants when providence delivers the ball to their feet, then they kind of scramble up the field toward the opposing goal with no apparent strategy in mind.

  44. Lasana Liburd the first goal definitely started when Hyland lost the ball. He He didn’t even try very hard to win it back. Joevin looked bun to me. We were going pretty well and I was hopeful for a draw in this game until the Hyland blunder. Then the guys just went kinda lax after a while. Seemed like no hunger to fight back. Even my 12yr old son was saying they moving lazy and not fighting back. Well for me I am supporting but it looks like 2022.

    • Well Joevin played for Seattle this week. So Dennis said he expected him to tire.
      I thought we could have pressed more too. Although some of that might be down to altitude. Might.

    • We did not play all that well. Yes, we tried to press them, it was just a matter of time we would lose our discipline due energy levels which would result in mistakes being made, so said so done. We rode our luck a lot but eventually it did not hold. We just close up shop in the second half trying not to embarrass ourselves with the scoreline. But we clearly are struggling at Altitude especially. Now, with all the energy we expend here, would show in San Jose, Costa Rica, Tuesday, with a comfortable scoreline for the Central Americans. I would be surprised if we get anything out of that game. Highly Unlikely!

    • Costa Rica are better than USA. That was always going to be our harder game. Also while we are travelling–probably economy and with stopovers–Costa Rica will be home, rested and raring to go as they have two successive home matches.

    • I heard on the comments that the US team had anchored in Colorado ONE week before the game..
      It looked like the T&T ran short of gas 20 minutes before the end..
      Brilliant goal keeping by Williams..
      Jones power header hitting the bar in the 33rd..
      Lewis goal ruled off side..can’t recall the time..
      No luck at ALL…
      Cannot seem to.get the ball at the back.of.the net..

    • Reza, the USA team was in Utah before which is high enough.

  45. You win some you lose some ,it’s called sport.

  46. His choice is a tatical blunder also .

  47. Not scoring the goals the same like how my second sweetest country does do it eh, and he is calling it bad luck . Them really good yes.

    • I wondered about that myself. He made it sound like scoring off your opponents errors is unusual.

    • Maybe he should finally stand up for the rights of our players with respect to always getting their bonuses and monies on time so that they will always give all of their hearts and soul for him to really succeed when representing our sweet country it always worked for me when I use to do my thing back in the days eh Them really good yes

  48. They played and lost? Shocking!!!!! *going to feed my unicorn*