Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence said his squad will reconvene on 14 August to prepare for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama on 1 and 5 September respectively.
It means, almost certainly, that the Soca Warriors have failed to land an Emancipation Day friendly against African opposition and even a mid-August clash with El Salvador now seems unlikely.
Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams told Wired868 on 13 July that the local football body was working on a clash with an unnamed African nation for 1 August at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
The significance of the date was that the Warriors would be playing home and away games within a week—in a scenario that would closely replicate World Cup qualifying conditions.
Former head coach Stephen Hart often spoke about the importance of such dress rehearsals, which allow the team to mirror competitive situations and test players and staff on dealing with everything from game recovery and energy conservation to travel logistics.
Trinidad and Tobago lost 1-3 to Ecuador in Guayaquil on 26 July and, while a return game on 30 July should have been perfect, a 1 August clash would still have been useful.
However, Lawrence suggested that, as things stand, nothing is on the cards for the Warriors.
“The idea now is that we will try to start on 14 August,” Lawrence told the TTFA Media. “We have between now and then where the players will go back to their clubs and continue to play and they will be assessed. We will come together on the 14th and make sure we put together the best squad for the game against Honduras on 1st September.”
John-Williams had previously pencilled in a home affair against El Salvador on 18 August too. But there was no mention of that proposed friendly match from the Trinidad and Tobago coach either.
Honduras and Panama each played four competitive games at the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup earlier this month with both nations bowing out at the quarterfinal stage.
In contrast, Lawrence had just the one friendly game in Guayaquil with his squad. But the Warriors coach said he was pleased with the test provided by the South American nation, which is sixth in the 10-team CONMEBOL standings at present.
“I thought we competed and we tried to do the right things,” said Lawrence. “We had some moments where we made some critical errors at critical points in the game. But these types of games are what the boys need in preparation for the Honduras game.
“[…] In general, it was good exercise for the boys but a disappointing result.”
The Warriors coach confessed that, although both teams were tied at a goal each at halftime, the two-island republic could not match their hosts after the break.
“First half, I was generally pleased with the effort and the way we applied ourselves,” said Lawrence. “I think [in the] second half we were just totally outplayed if I were to be honest; we gave away the ball very, very easily.
“Ecuador dominated the second half. We had a bit of resilience at times but then the third goal was a bit disappointing as we couldn’t manage to see out the game and if we lost 2-1 it looks a lot better than 3-1.”
Lawrence was glad to give defender Carlyle Mitchell some game time after his lengthy injury-forced lay-off while forward Keron Clarke and defender Kevon Villaroel made their international debuts on the day.
The Warriors coach suggested that their involvement meant a deeper pool for the national side.
“When you get the opportunity to give people the chance to compete for places in your World Cup squad, you need to use it,” said Lawrence. “It was an experience for the debutants. I think it is another level to what they are used to but I thought they gave their best effort. Hopefully it will give them an idea of what they need to try and get their levels up to.
“The preparation is for Honduras and, looking back at the game, we learnt a lot about a lot of players—[and] whether or not they are ready to push and vie for a spot in the team to play Honduras.”