T&T clinch Ecuador friendly in Guayaquil; still mulling over playing Sept WCQ in Couva

The Soca Warriors will resume preparations for September’s vital 2018 World Cup qualifying matches with a trip to Guayaquil for friendly international action on 26 July.

Ecuador are ranked 31st in the world by FIFA—almost 50 places above Trinidad and Tobago, who are at 78. However, both teams are expected to be under-strength since the match does not fall within the FIFA international match window.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago playmaker Kevin Molino (left) celebrates his goal against Costa Rica with teammate Joevin Jones during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the National Stadium in San José on 13 June 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

The Warriors host Honduras on 1 September before travelling to Panama City to face Panama four days later. And if his side is to have any chance of advancing to the Russia World Cup, coach Dennis Lawrence needs to engineer wins in both games.

Honduras and Panama are both participating in the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament at present. Honduras have so far recorded a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica and a goalless draw against French Guiana and need a result in their final group match against Canada on Friday to qualify for the knock-out stage.

Panama drew their opening group fixture with the United States and should seal their place in the next round with a win over Nicaragua today, with a game to spare.

Trinidad and Tobago failed to qualify for the Gold Cup after an extra-time loss away to Martinique under coach Stephen Hart and home losses against Suriname and Haiti—also in extra time—under his successor, Tom Saintfiet.

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) will hope that the affair in Guayaquil, which is at sea level, and a possible contest against an unnamed “Spanish-speaking country” can help compensate for  the gap in the level of activity between the Warriors and their future qualifying opponents.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence (left) passes on instructions to Aubrey David (right) and Curtis Gonzales during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Costa Rica at the National Stadium in San José on 13 June 2017.
Costa Rica won 2-1.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

Lawrence said the trip should be a good test for his squad, which will comprise largely locally-based players.

“The game versus Ecuador is another step in our preparation for the upcoming World Cup qualifying match against Honduras,” Lawrence told TTFA Media. “The game is against a good South American opposition and I expect it to be good for us.

“It will give us an opportunity to assess those players who are selected and provides us valuable game time in a period when some of our other Concacaf opponents are also involved in international matches.”

Trinidad and Tobago and Ecuador have never met at senior level although both nations drew 1-1 at Under-23 level in the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara.

At present, Ecuador, lying sixth in the South American qualifying table and two points below a FIFA Play-off berth, are preparing for competitive matches away to Brazil on 31 August and at home to Peru on 5 September.

The TTFA has gone quiet on a potential friendly clash with Sierra Leone which, according to the Sierra Leone FA general secretary Chris Kamara, was likely to happen “on a FIFA calendar date between 28 August and 5 September 2017.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Sheldon Bateau arrives at San José for 2018 World Cup qualifying action on 13 June 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

TTFA president David John-Williams confirmed that the two football bodies were in talks.

“We are in preliminary negotiations for two friendlies in August, that [Sierra Leone game] being one of them,” John-Williams told Wired868, via What’sApp. “Timing could be an issue based on our [World Cup qualifier] on September 1.”

However, the affair appears to have been scrapped as it would almost certainly have involved trips to and from London within three days of the Honduras qualifier in Trinidad.

Another gamble that the TTFA is actively considering is shifting the vital September qualifier from the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain to the football body’s new headquarters at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.

The Port-of-Spain venue seats 23,000 patrons while the Couva stadium holds just 10,000. However, there were roughly 10,000 fans at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Friday 24 March when the Warriors edged Panama 1-0 for their only win of the Hex so far.

If the spectator interest does not improve, shifting the qualifier to Couva could generate a better game-day atmosphere when the Trinidad and Tobago team kicks off against Honduras.

Photo: A Soca Warriors fan enjoys the action between Trinidad and Tobago and Panama at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on 27 March 2015.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

However, the TTFA will be risking losing almost half the potential revenue for one of their two remaining home qualifiers as the Ato Boldon Stadium can be notoriously difficult to reach for fans who have to travel to the ground.

Remarkably, Trinidad and Tobago have never beaten Honduras in a World Cup qualifier on home soil in three attempts. The two-island republic drew goalless with their Central American guests in 1988 and 1-1 in 2009 under coaches Everald “Gally” Cummings and Francisco Maturana respectively.

Lawrence wore the captain’s armband for that contest against Honduras in Port-of-Spain in 2009 while goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams, full-back Carlos Edwards, forward Kenwyne Jones and midfielder Khaleem Hyland all featured.

Hyland, who came off the bench, scored a late equaliser to ensure a share of the spoils that night.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Khaleem Hyland (centre) roars during Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action in Guatemala City on 13 November 2015.
Hyland scored in a 2-1 win for the “Soca Warriors.”
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
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  1. To couva? Hmmm. Will have to reach any 7pm kick off @ 2pm. Traffic to get in would be a scene and a half.

  2. TTFA will be mad to to play that game at Ato Boldon. It would have tooooooo much traffic.

  3. That’s s great move.Centerialize some.of the games ,because we have stadiums all over the country.now .Why only play in. Town ?

  4. Why the hell would we play a wcq in Couva????

  5. How can the editor allow these calumnies?tsk..tsk..

  6. Did someone just call the ABS a ” poorly maintained s*******tho****e?

  7. The football untied front against Couva….hmmmm..Wait til Rudi Indarsingh hears of this..

  8. Also… there are plenty alternative routes to Couva aside from the highway… Arima and East/West Corridor men: Pass through St Helena ➡️ Longdenville➡️Brasso-Caparo Road➡️Gran Couva➡️Cross the Highway

  9. This shouldn’t be news we HAVE to get good practice games and we HAVE to use home advantage in choosing our venues. These are parts of a plan. The TTFA/F are sadly poor for these reasons which I vented extensively on earlier blogs. Worse our poor showing in regional football has left us out of the best opportunity we would have had in preparing for this level of the game in the currently taking place Gold Cup in the US…teams like Martinique and Haiti, Panama, Jamaica, Canada, USA, Mexico, Costa Rica etc are represented. We failed to qualify for our best opportunity to gain advantage. What better opportunity to try strategies and identify strengths and weaknesses from opposition. Instead we deliberating about these issues.

  10. Not a problem to play some friendlies all over the country but this screams convenience to DJW and his crew . This is not a football decision . To be honest I hope Dennis has a little more balls than this and puts his foot down . World Cup qualifier – HCS . End of story

    • I suspect there’s long term plans to have the Couva stadium be the primary stadium for the all national football team matches. If they can make the above mention changes to that stadium I’ll be all for having it as the primary stadium for national team matches. It’ll be a bit more challenging to convert the HCS to a football specific venue.

    • 100% agreed and I’ve always said this . Especially with the new TTFA HQ there and the surrounding sporting complex with the Aquatics and Cycling .

      If they can put up at least a 20,000 seater football specific stadium without a running track in that area then by all means . But while it is a 8k , Savannah grass , poorly maintained shithole as it currently is then all WCQ should be played at the HCS .

    • The Ato Boldon Stadium belongs to the Government. The TTFA’s own headquarters has not started construction yet. That will also be in Couva.
      The TTFA is staying at the Ato Boldon Stadium on a lease arrangement. But they cannot convert that into a football specific ground.

    • I can see the day where the government will allocate responsibility to manage these costly facilities to various sporting organizations, including the TTFA.

  11. So Cheyenne..playing devils advocate. What about peeps from Mayaro, Cedros?

  12. It’s called the TTFA president and his crew too lazy to drive their ass to POS . They going to make people drive in that nasty traffic from town to Couva .

  13. Personally I feel if they are concerned about attendances, why not drop the prices instead?
    Couva is a legitimate option but not the best bet in my opinion.

  14. Good to know that we going to play a real team as a warm up game. Not knowing the Couva field and ground quite well, Is there a particular advantage to playing in Couva?

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