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D-Day in San José: Warriors must show mettle against Costa Rica or say adios to 2018 World Cup

If the boys in red, black and white strip are ready to do any and everything for the flag, then now is the time to show it.

If the Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team do not leave Costa Rica with a point tonight, when they battle the host nation from 10pm (TT time) in San José, qualification for the Russia 2018 World Cup will only be a mathematical possibility.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago captain and forward Kenwyne Jones (centre) offers advice to midfielder Khaleem Hyland during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against the United States in Colorado on 8 June 2017.
USA won 2-0.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

Barring an unlikely meltdown by either Panama or the United States, the Soca Warriors will need 13 points to finish fourth and so keep alive for another two matches the World Cup dream of securing the FIFA play-off berth, But, should they fail to pick something up away to Costa Rica, captain Kenwyne Jones and his troops will be forced to pull off wins against Panama, Honduras and the United States in the second round and—and this is the clincher—leave the Azteca Stadium unbeaten.

Mexico City is such a formidable arena and requires such meticulous planning that United States coach Bruce Arena made a secret pact with Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs in January 2017, which allowed him over two weeks to acclimatise for the fixture at high altitude.

Even then, Arena needed some good fortune as the June date meant the major European leagues were closed and he was allowed extra time with the likes of Christian Pulisic and DeAndre Yedlin.

Despite all those advantages and that happenstance, the United States had to settle for a solitary point against Mexico.

In stark contrast, Trinidad and Tobago coach Dennis Lawrence will have at best four or five days with his own players before they head to Mexico City in October. Good luck with that.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence (far right) and his coaching staff prepare for kick off against the United States during the 2018 World Cup qualifying series on 8 June 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

It is San José or the highway for the Warriors.

“We don’t expect any favours or any easy moments because we have always found ourselves in a position where we have to pull ourselves out from difficult situations,” said Kenwyne, “and it’s no different at the moment. We have to make it right for ourselves.

“History shows that we never get anything when we play here. But history is the past and we have to focus on pulling out everything for a chance of taking away at least a point from here. But winning is the main thing, of course.”

Trinidad and Tobago have never won a World Cup qualifier in Costa Rica while their last point there was more than 30 years ago on 28 April 1985. That day, Nevick De Noon scored the vital goal in a 1-1 draw for the two-island republic while Kelvin Jones—the father of current players Joevin and Alvin Jones—played the full 90 minutes.

It is worth noting that the tie came four days after Trinidad and Tobago lost 3-0 to the “Ticos” at the same venue. Then Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) general secretary Jack Warner agreed, at the time, to play his nation’s entire qualifying campaign on hostile territory.

The difference between the two results in San José arguably gives further evidence of the benefits of acclimatisation to the testing conditions, nearly 4,000 feet above sea level.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team defender Curtis Gonzales (right) tackles flanker Joevin Jones (left) during a training session in San José on 12 June 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

In that regard at least, the current Warriors outfit are better equipped than any Trinidad and Tobago team that headed to Costa Rica before. Their outing against the United States, after all, was played over 1,000 feet higher than the San José venue.

But question marks remain over other areas of this team’s make-up—not least their belief, attitude and personality.

Would winger Cordell Cato really have abandoned the team camp without a second look if he really believed that he might be sharing the field with the likes of Argentina’s Lionel Messi or Brazil’s Neymar in a year’s time?

Would others have been as flippant about team rules if they felt Trinidad and Tobago were on the verge of history?

Trinidad and Tobago are on their third coach in eight months and none of these managers can honestly claim to be totally satisfied with the application of even half their squad, let alone the full contingent.

After tonight, though, it should not be the Warriors coach who is looking through his email for a dreaded invitation to Ruby Tuesday’s from his employers; it should be the players.

There is no shame in failing to qualify for the World Cup—not for a team with the limited resources and player pool like Trinidad and Tobago. The disgrace is in lacking the self-discipline and self-worth to put everything into what is already a reward of competing at a level that 98 percent of the squad will only see on television.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence (centre) tries to pass on instructions to (from right) Alvin Jones, Leston Paul and Khaleem Hyland during a training session in San José on 12 June 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

In truth, it is a shame that Stephen Hart is not here to lead the rebuilding process after all he accomplished with the Warriors in three years at the helm. But Lawrence has done little wrong so far and deserves the chance to continue.

It would be a mistake to sacrifice know-how and select the squad for the rest of the campaign based on the players’ date of birth. Trinidad and Tobago does not have a reservoir of talent deep enough for such wholesale changes. Besides, mediocre performances at national youth level in recent years do not suggest there is a golden generation in the wings just yet.

But what the Warriors can do without are the players who lack the stomach for the fight and are not committed to the team and the cause.

Tonight, Trinidad and Tobago enter the lion’s den; the real Warriors will relish that challenge.

Whatever cute tactical alterations Lawrence comes up with it on the backboard, they will count for nought unless at least six Warriors win their individual battles with the Costa Rican players facing them. There is no room for excuses.

Go hard or go home. It is now or never.

Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team say a prayer at practice in San José on 12 June 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

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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131 comments

  1. How the place get quiet so after that goal

  2. somebody inbox me a bootleg link nah

  3. “There is no shame in not qualifying for the World Cup…the disgrace is in lacking self-discipline and self-worth…”

  4. No Carlos Edwards as well,interesting

  5. Were there injuries reported since last game?

  6. I’m struggling to see the balance? Curtis in central midfield alongside Arcia? Nathan Lewis starts again in an even more intimidating arena?
    I’d be surprised for sure.

  7. Man Michael in goal threw me off..

  8. Nah man. I don’t believe that’s really the XI.

  9. No that’s the starting line up

  10. Or is that who you’d like to see?

  11. Lol. You trying to confuse us with that team sheet?

  12. Some guy call kendall lewis…???

  13. Dem is die hard mediocrity Soca Worries supporters so never hut up your head about them nah. Them really good yes hahaha

  14. Earl Mango Pierre a guy here get personal with me bc i criticise KJ and the team, dem good yes

  15. And Mr Bound not to score and the Soca Worries better don’t stick later tonight eh Them really good yes hahaha

  16. Hoping to finish 4th is a dumb gamble as the 5th team in sa will be difficult to beat in fact it is considered a 5th spot for sa

  17. Kendell Lewis and Trini Don that was an interesting exchange. I think it really advanced our chances of a win tonight and a consistent set of performances going forward

  18. A brilliant assessment of the National senior team it’s long overdue that somebody who the powers to be might listen to and understand that their is no quick fix to building a proper National football program What the TFA need is some new personnel who can bring very innovative thoughts to the table and come up with a plan to build a proper football program got T&T

  19. Not “Los Ticos”… “Los Weakos”

  20. If allyuh only knew de assness de players does have to deal wit….including and especially with other players

  21. We must go all out, start both Kenwyn and Boatswain as the striking duo, levi Garcia and Joevin Jones on both wings. If Hyland plays it can’t be more than a half because that’s all he has in him. Bocaud should definitely get time in this match and we should stick with 3 at the back

  22. When KJ, who is Bound to start and Bound to throw away, is your star striker on your national team, your NOT serious about life….talk done….you NOT qualifying for WC

  23. Total support for our team……..Win, lose or draw………We fighting hard. Good luck to the guys…….110% Warrior!!

  24. Well we not staying down we getting of the floor come guys lets go three points give it your all

  25. That’s what happens when you do handle your own business you have to depend on someone else to handle it for you.

  26. We have nothing to lose so we should go all out for the remaining games. 4th place up for grabs and we could surely get that…and probably even sneak into 3rd

  27. Jose Altadore and Sheldon Bateau were in a 50 50. Altadore drop his shoulder on Bateau, Bateau hit the ground like a basket ball and bounce right back up while Altadore’s recovery was like a beach ball.This is an example of our clear advantage within concacaf. Migthy Mexico respected us enought to insert 2 big men. At this stage 75% of our tactics should invovle speed, size and atletism. We should not forfiet our gifts and talents to match opponents “toe to toe”.

  28. Maybe it’s coincidental, but the mentality and attitude of our team started dipping at the time that DJW was “elected” President of TTFA. Since then, it seems to have gotten worse over time.

  29. In all my travels especially to central American countries I’ve noticed other countries have more respect and appreciation for our team than our own people do. Our own people are disgusting and filled with hate when it come to our own sports teams. I’ve taken 4 uber drives while here in Costa Rica and although each driver struggled to communicate to me in broken spanglish and sign language, each one of them respect T&T, fearing our little country concerned that CR could lose this “must win” match (which btw isn’t a must win for them)- and that’s just the drivers. Media personnel I’ve met who speak English clearly is the same story but even better spoken. Every single person ive had a conversation about the upcoming gane all said Aubrey David Is a fantastic young talented player. He is highly respected over here (most people in trini who call themselves supportes never even heard of him).

    We trinis don’t realize we are SUPPORTERS first. We must SUPPORT. if you support you child in a sport he/she is pretty good at but may be not the absolute best, would you tell him/her they are shit etc? ABSOLUTELY NOT. You sorround your child with positive reinforcement. Our brand or football is limited to our pool of available players. We have the smallest pool of players in the hexagon to choose from. We are the smallest nation to ever qualify. Our brand of football isn’t the prettiest or most efficient but it’s what we got and it ent too bad. When we do good we should feel proud and celebrate and when the result isn’t in our favor we should still feel proud and we should dust our selves off and try again instead of shutting down. The Golden Jaguars fans have more faith and respect for their squad than the general soca warrior fan.

    True there are some irresponsible actions taken by some of our players in the past and it will probably happen in the future. What, you don’t think there was ever any indiscipline actions taken by other players on other teams? We just don’t hear about it as much. Let the coach do his job and discipline the player(s). Sure, have a say and opinion on Facebook and pretend to be a saint from behind your desk. But do it in a supportive way. These young men playing for our country have firstly dedicated their lives to the game and to representing us in countries near and far. If u ever get the chance to speak with any of them off the field toull realise they are human beings just like you and me. but our average supporter just showers the team in hate and disrespect on the world wide web and in the streets of POS. I could go on and on about how the majority of Trinidadian sports fans including many here on this forum are just full of shit. But I’m busy doing my part to support the Trinidad & Tobago Football Association in the best way I can. If they take 4 games to qualify or 20 more years, I will still support in the best way i can. Most Of you, if the team does take 4 more games, we’ll be seeing you jumping up and down, waiving flags… disgusting hypocrites.

    • Allan that’s great perspective but I think it misses several major points. (1) Yes we have the smallest pool in the hex but that never stopped us from performing better in the past (2) as citizens we are free to critique and that does not mean we don’t care or support – there’s no one on this link who wants us to lose. We simply want more and better and we are right to demand that

      The point that’s missed is that our major frustration is with the administration of football. Most people on these posts are smart enough to recognize that, the results we are getting in the field have to do with the dysfunctional TTFA and this affects our preparation – physically, tactically and mentally.

      If people were not emotionally connected they won’t offer critique. I’ve not seen any ill intended comments here – just citizens wanting more. Even the great Usain Bolt was heavily criticized in Jamaica after his first Olympics.

    • Great points Mr. Harry. I agree with the frustration towards the administration and how you explain the emotional connection the smart people on these forums have. But ill intended comments directed towards the team and its players unjustifiably does exist not only in this thread but all across wired868 and the rest of the web. look a few comments up and you’ll see a photo with some gangster looking men with big stones in their hands apparently ready to buss way Kenwyne’s head (a lil humor mean here..lol) or when we see “trini supporters” predictions “MEX 5 TRI 0”.

      We’ve always had the same number of players to chose from, but the region’s football has also evolved. We are currently in the top 6 and we are the underdogs, not solely because of the administration, but because of the talent of the team. But we still have a chance; we’re not dead and out… Jamaican’s supporting Jamaica 2022 better than Trinis supporting T&T 2018…

      The Administration, yes, can and must do better. For sure, I personally have my struggles with it. But come game day, my mind is on the squad- on the task at hand and not about the “disgruntled parents”.

      There are ways to deal with our frustrations. To be honest I don;t know the answer to “how best to affect change”, but I don’t believe the correct way is blasting on social media forums that have no impact.

    • All change begins with agitation. Social media is simply another forum. You also said the the region’s football has evolved. Has ours? If not, why? If yes, has it kept pace with the region? Is this only about size? What are the plans of the governing body to take us to the next level? Answer these questions and you get a view of people’s frustration.

    • I love these questions… they are perfect for our administrators to do an evaluation on themselves… I do highly respect your views, opinions, and input Mr. Harry. How do we go forward?

    • First thing going forward – ‘don’t call me Mr Harry’ we know each other too long and you know better. Lol

    • I can only say what I would do if I was the president of the TTFA. I won’t write that here though.

    • What ever rum you is drinking change the brand nah Allan V. Crane and the only reason other countries are great supporters for their players is because the players are treated like real professional players eh compared to our players in our sweet country and when the corrupted Jack Warner and his cronies the TTFA stops exploiting our players and our local coaches and the beautiful sport only then the support that you is speaking about will always be there man . Them really good yes

    • Lol. I only drink Stag. That’s a real ignorant thing to say about players being treated like professionals on other teams alone. Have you been around Honduras team? What about Guyana? How do you know how professional other team are treated compared to us? While I’ll agree to some extent, that’s not the issue I’m referring about. I’m calling on fans to support. I just came back from a walk down the street. 1 in every 5 ppl here are wearing a Costa Rica Jersey. In trini 1 in 20 ppl wear a t&t supporters Jersey in the stands during a game and the stadium is 50% full- the rest wear Liverpool or AC Milan. Earl Mango Pierre stop drinking rum. Lol.

    • Just imagine that our players in our sweet country is only getting $3000 monies to play professional football eh, while my police and soldiers are getting $10,000 or more eh the $3000 monies should be in US dollars and I bet you that you will see a better level of our footballers eh. Them really good yes steeupppsss

    • I agree pay them more but what that have to do with how you Earl Mango Pierre show your support?

    • I will always support our Soca Worries and you and plenty others knows that but I will continue pounding, peconging and satire until they take it to the next level eh especially the corrupted Jack Warner and his cronies TTFA. Them really good yes hahaha

    • Yes man Earl Mango Pierre. Respect to the satire and pecong. Our culture needs that. Not so much the banwagonist of other tt supporters how ever. I’ll end with a “T&T, we need ah WIN!”

    • Well said mate. Best post this year! Don’t lose your passion!

    • People what time is the game TT time?

    • Well the Soca Worries will definitely start to win when Mr Bound not to score finally hangs up his boots eh Allan V. Crane.. Them really good yes

    • Allan bro, as a bredrin who knows what it is to take weekend after weekend of whole day hot sun to shoot an event with less than 1,000 “fans” in the stands and then turn around and see 200 “fans” bad talk an athlete and they didnt even have the courtesy to buy a ticket…
      Keep doing what yuh do bro. Make that Canon TALK! BOOM!

  30. Hoping for the best 🙂 But if I were a betting person….sad to say – the odds are against us. However I will also say, nothing is impossible – depends on the team and their ability to believe in something higher than themselves and to act on that…

  31. We accept too much indiscipline and mediocrity, that is why we are where we are in football, cricket, track and politics.

  32. I met this fella in the mall yesterday and he said that even his 10 yr old daughter doesn’t understand why Mr Bound not to score is on the field becuase he is always interupting the flow of the game and cannot even score a goal eh, like the coaches have cobwebs in their eyes or what eh, he better buss up the opponents net and prove us wrong today eh Them really good yes.hahahahaha

  33. Taye I will be wrapped around a Les bleus flag

  34. Oh Gosh man Dennis Allen leh we pound them nah man, they might eventually cah not take the pecong and start to win nah man. Them really good yes. hahhahaha

  35. yuh know what does kill me?
    allll ah these haters go wrap rong wid ah flag in Moscow like ah Patraj roti if we make it tru the Hex.
    come nah man…build ah vibes. show some faith. channel the positive vibes win lose or draw

  36. Why do you think ah does always call them our “Soca Worries” eh, they all need to watch at the movie 300 and understand what real warriors are steeuuppss. Them really good yes.

  37. Will the real Trini supporters stand up, it is not only when we win that we need a hand that claps to tell us we did good, but also when we fall we need a hand to pick us up,to make us know you care. I SUPPORT OUR Trini Teams in the Good Time and in the not so good times. Do you?

    • Earl Best

      Christopher, You failed to point out that one hand cyar clap. We need, as the story says, all hands on deck on the field and, as you say, all hands offering the maximum support possible off it.

      But somebody should have said that to DJW months ago. Alas…