Lawrence urges public to back T&T; explains Levi and Caesar absences and Sol’s role

“We’ve lost too many games; we need to start changing the results.”

Trinidad and Tobago head coach Dennis Lawrence knows that tomorrow’s crucial 2018 World Cup qualifier against Honduras at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva is a make-or-break encounter for his team. But as the Soca Warriors prepare for the epic battle, he is not allowing himself or his men to think break.

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)

Lawrence is only too well aware that the team has already suffered numerous setbacks and he believes that the power of positive thinking will work to put an end to the negatives.

“We intend to try and put that right on Friday,” he told the assembled media yesterday. “It’s a must-win. We need to start getting the results. We’ve had a couple issues and what has happened in the US has affected us.”

The ill winds of Hurricane Harvey, which left the US Gulf Coast under many inches of water, have indeed blown the National Senior Team no good. According to Lawrence, delays and cancellations of flights in and out of the US have robbed many members of the squad of critical training time as well as, in some cases, spots on the team altogether.

“Trevin Caesar was unable to make a flight because of the hurricane,” Lawrence said. “Some of the boys had delays and had to arrive at later dates and later times. It is a bit of a hindrance.”

Caesar’s last international appearance came during the brief tenure of short-lived ex-coach Tom Saintfiet in a 4-3 loss to Haiti in the Caribbean Cup in January. With six goals in 20 matches for United States third division team Sacramento Republic, Caesar was expected to provide cut and thrust in an attacking unit that has proven to be uninspired in front of goal in qualifying so far.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago forward Trevin Caesar (right) takes the ball around St Vincent and the Grenadines goalkeeper Lemus Christopher during Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain on 29 March 2016.
Trinidad and Tobago won 6-0.
(Courtesy: Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

Caesar thus joins captain Kenwyne Jones, who will also be watching the clash from afar as Lawrence ruled him out because of injury.

“Kenwyne Jones has been injured since the Costa Rica incident,” Lawrence announced. “He is being rehabilitated at his football club Atlanta and has not been involved in competitive football so at this moment in time he is unavailable.”

Their absences leave Lawrence with just Willis Plaza and Jamille Boatswain to choose from on top. Neither is in a rich vein of form at present.

Boatswain is yet to start for new Costa Rican employers, Alajuelense, while he did not even make their match day squad last weekend. And the Times of India reported that Plaza was booed by his own supporters, earlier this month, after a couple of underwhelming performances for East Bengal.

The Warriors will not have the services of Holland-based winger Levi Garcia either, who was excluded from the final provisional squad. Lawrence explained that the young attacker was simply not in the right frame of mind to be selected at this time.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Levi Garcia (right) leaves St Vincent and the Grenadines defender Shawn Benjamin for dead during Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain on 29 March 2016.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

“Levi was originally selected in the provisional squad,” Lawrence told the media. “He then reached out to me with a few concerns—he was now coming off of an injury and is in the last year of his contract with his club and it was a bit of a concern to him with coming and being fully fit and being part of it.

“I felt like if he wasn’t mentally prepared to be here [and so] I had to make that adjustment.”

The good news for the coaching staff and the T&T fans is that ace attacker Joevin Jones is available and fully fit. Recently, in the lead-up to the 24 July friendly against Jamaica, which the visitors won 2-1, Jones was the centre of national attention after he allegedly left his Seattle Sounders club without permission.

Lawrence said he had not had the club’s permission to use the player in that game and he was unwilling to chance it. For tomorrow’s do-or-die encounter against the Hondurans, however, there is no issue about Jones’ availability.

Whoever the final who take the field tomorrow, the lanky head coach stressed, the really important thing is that all the players are fit and firing and that the T&T public comes out and drives them on with vocal support.

“The boys need the support,” Lawrence emphasised. “[We moved] to a smaller stadium to try and generate some sort of atmosphere. The thinking behind it is that, If we put a small crowd in a small stadium, it gives us a better atmosphere.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Joevin Jones controls the ball during Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action against St Vincent and the Grenadines at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain on 29 March 2016.
(Courtesy: Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

“What we are looking for,” the optimistic former national defender continued, “is marginal gains, any gain that we can get to put Honduras under a bit of pressure.”

Lawrence also sought to explain what assistant coach Sol Campbell, a former Arsenal and England stand-out, brings to the team despite joining the Warriors just seven days prior to a match.

“[Sol] has been used very wisely in terms of what he has to offer,” he commented. “I think our defenders are going to learn very quickly off of him and, in general, Sol is here to give us that immediate impact that we are looking for.”

Following the coach’s pleas for support, TTFA Communications Director Shaun Fuentes revealed that the Ato Boldon Stadium’s seating capacity will be increased to just under 11,000 for tomorrow’s clash. The stadium is built to seat just under 10,000 patrons.

Tickets, priced at $350 (covered) and $200 (uncovered), are available at all NLCB Lotto locations and additional parking will be available at the nearby National Cricket Centre.

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)

(Trinidad and Tobago squad)

Goalkeepers: Jan Michael Williams (Juticalpa FC—Honduras), Adrian Foncette (Police FC), Marvin Phillip (Point Fortin Civic Centre);

Defenders: Aubrey David (PS Khemi—Finland), Alvin Jones (W Connection), Mekeil Williams (Colorado Rapids—USA), Carlyle Mitchell (East Bengal—India), Radanfah Abu Bakr (Sūduva Marijampolė—Lithuania), Sheldon Bateau (FC Kairat—Kazakhstan), Daneil Cyrus (Juticalpa FC—Honduras), Triston Hodge (W Connection), Kevon Villaroel (North East Stars);

Midfielders: Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Leston Paul (CD Pasaquina—El Salvador), Khaleem Hyland (Al-Faisaly Harmah—Saudi Arabia), Kevan George (Jacksonville Armada—USA), Hughtun Hector (W Connection);

Attacking midfielders: Joevin Jones (Seattle Sounders—USA), Kevin Molino (Minnesota United—USA), Cordell Cato (San Jose Earthquakes—USA), Jomal Williams (Murciélagos FC—Mexico), Nathan Lewis (San Juan Jabloteh), Tyrone Charles (Club Sando);

Forwards: Jamille Boatswain (Alajuelense—Costa Rica), Willis Plaza (East Bengal—India).

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  1. Jessel Evans, here’s the word on Levi.

  2. I would like a more detailed explanation of Caesar’s absence. How come he was unable to make his flight, but Houston-based Honduran players like Romell Quioto and Alberth Ellis were able to make it?

  3. Y Marcus Joseph not on dat squad….football jail fer denis lawrance an dem wee

  4. What you want people to support a lost cause….you mad yes…

  5. A matter of fact time to start spending meh dead men presidents on our players eh because I need to get very high once again and you know Dion Sosa that once the goals are being scored it is a done deal so the “Goal scoring Challenge” is on, and not only scoring goals eh, the Soca Worries also must win the rest of their games. Them really good yes.

  6. So your spending like .00000000.0001 dollars later

  7. All I know that it is on,plenty monies for goals eh, since the corrupted TTFA haven’t paid our players their well earned match fees eh, $1000 per goal or assist and I done talk. Them really good yes.

  8. As someone called upon to perform duties in other countries. It is the only occasion that I remain quiet, especially when the discussion is about the performance of our football team.

  9. I hear people talk about oh we missing Levi Garcia but the few opportunities he has gotten to play in the hex he hasn’t done much..i like Levi just he has to step up and he has age on his side.

  10. So you leave out Shahdon Winchester and Hashim Arcia, don’t even Nicholas Dillon a chance but u select Willis Plaza who is yet to prove himself? Are u also telling me that within the last few weeks there was no striker from the Pro League that u could have earmarked for the team? Something doesn’t sound right.

  11. Wtf take off kenwyne jones an put on chucky then ill pay ma money

  12. When they get serious then I will support

  13. Them fellas have to start playing football an stop watching dey shoes every time dey make a run…

  14. We removed a Coach who we fell out of Love with, but had a structure and a core group of players and replaced him with a Coach we are in love with, but is trying to develop a system and is till searching for players…we are redefining the definition of insanity…as a Nation!

  15. If they really wanted people to come out and support, they should drop the price of the tickets.

  16. There will always be supporters for T&T Soca Warriors. The favor, however, must be returned to increase the fan base. The favor being sound convincing wins.

  17. Why to watch them play like they in a fete match

  18. What I want to see is we play with fire and urgency. Too often we see these lackadaisical performances that don’t inspire the fans.

  19. Lol – Seems like Sol has found a creative way to do a Caribbean vacation all expense paid – every few months.

  20. Dennis I bad in the Ato Boldon way you telling you r self red while and black all the way

  21. So basically Sol’s role is like that of an impact sub?

  22. Lawrence practicing for a life in politics after this little stint as national coach ends or what?

    Did Levi say he wasn’t mentally ready to come and run his young ass off for his country, or did the coach decide that he wasn’t mentally ready?

    • Levi has made a good decision. Coachman hasn’t been using the young brother much the last few matches, so it seems to make sense for him to stay with his club to ensure he gets an extension to his contract. If coachman were to tell the brother I’m gonna start you in these next couple games – I’m sure he would be on the first flight out.

    • Taking these comments regarding Levi with a grain of salt.

    • Levi’s choice might have been logical but I do feel a bit hurt to hear a player “wasn’t mentally ready” for our most important game of the campaign so far.
      I would like to imagine that any footballer with a T&T passport would do anything to be in the squad for this match. 🙁

    • Lasana what is he fighting to come for to play if he lucky 20 mins

    • Lasana Liburd See Lasana that’s my thing!

      Now I am in totally agreement if he made the decision for “his-career” reasons, I get that totally! But give people a straight sound-bite and just say, “Levi decided that having just come back from injury, he decided to stay at his club.”…or words to the effect??

    • Dion Sosa Not to be that guy eh Dion, but if he could come off the bench — with he fresh speedy self — and score one goal every ten minutes for the twenty minutes he on the field…ent you go take them two goals?

    • Maybe he didn’t want to make it look like players were abandoning him or didn’t want to play for him. Or maybe he felt this response would protect Levi more. I’m not sure.

    • But Dion Sosa making the thing sound and look different ah wonder if I’m reading between the lines properly

    • Make de 20 minutes count and get more! Lol. I understand the feeling but my heart says you turn up with no guarantees to play for your country in a game like this.

    • What I am saying is my opinion not Levi that’s how I view it

    • Lasana Liburd Right! Can’t help but say this…yuh feel if Pulisic didn’t get as big as he has and Bruce or Klinnsman did call him for a crucial WC Qualifier? I will leave that hypothetical right there.

      Maybe Boatswain might make we forget about Levi!

    • Tony I doubt that he not even playing for his club

    • Levi was phenomenal at HS football pretty good with the U20 but untested at senior level prior to moving to Europe. He spent half a semester in Holland before he was called to the MNT against a CFU opponent and everyone felt he would be our new Steve David.
      In a conversation with a co-worker who was also his HS coach prior to Levi’s departure my advice was they he gives himself 2 or 3 full seasons in the Eredivisie before he returns home to play. I loved his energy, exuberance, pace and talent but felt he needed the time grow and mature as a professional before he can truly impact the game at senior level in the region.
      Unfortunately for him, he plays in the same position as the equally talented Joevin Jones.
      When he gets the opportunities he has to relegate Joevin to wing back and stake his claim in that left midfield position.

    • Kester Lendor I’m on a vacay headed to NYC for Labor Day and had two early beers with lunch in Baltimore…so I’ll reserve my comments on the “hater” aspect of your comment for when I’m sober?

      Suffice it to say…dude when you have the talent of a Levi and Joevin available….umm, you find a way to make them co-exist? Are you kidding me?? Is TnT we talking bout not Argentina!

      Eff it i’ma say it now…of course he “needs the time to grow and mature as a professional”. Come nah man don’t be stating the obvious to we as though is some big revelation, that’s why we need to maximize the training and playing time he getting as the TnT player that playing for the “biggest” pro club currently, Seattle Sounders notwithstanding?

      Respectfully submitted.

    • Dion Sosa Come nah Dion we is not rookie in this thing, he come on in the 28th (!!!) minute over the weekend for AZ Alkmaar man! So that’s why this is confusing to me? See what I’m saying bredda…AZ see him fit enough to bring him on THAT early…but is ah set ah politician-speak from we national team coach, bout “mentally ready”?

      Now yuh see why I’m having an issue?

    • Tony Sinclair ur level or irrationality is reason for you to avoid alcohol altogether partner.
      Exactly what my discourse can remotely constitute hater status?

    • Tony I was referring to boatswain

    • When I said he was not even playing for his club

    • Dion Sosa Oopsy!! Mea Culpa! But yeah I hear ya, at this point is keeping we fingers crossed and hoping for the best?

    • Kester Lendor Oh gosh cut yuh boy some slack nah, ah only drinking cause I’m on a mini vacay…once ah go back in meh hole is teetoler status?

      Lemme address the “hater” issues when ah sober up in a few days??

    • Kester Lendor I don’t think if Levi plays in a full strength ?? XI that joevin has to be relegated to left back presuming the team plays a back 4

      The warriors is not Seattle Sounders & Joevin is versatile enough to play on the right or centrally

      Mekeil Williams would play at left back

    • I believe that Levi and Joevin can play on either side of a centre forward and playmaker, as happened a few times under Hart. The problem is Levi didn’t do enough to make that position his own in offence and certainly not in defence. And we ended up using Cato there to tie down an end.
      The spot in the first XI has always been there for Levi to claim. He just has to make it his own. Cato has been steady. You know what you get from him, which is hard running and hustle.

    • Tony ultimately the coach/staff will decide if the player is mentally ready or not.
      Whether or not it is the sincere reason for Levi’s exclusion

    • Personally, I prefer Aubrey Dsvid at left back but the coach hasn’t used him much. He is more balanced from an overlap perspective and having played in Spanish countries, he is accustomed to the style and speed of play. Additionally, it would help having someone to interpret the language, particularly on set pieces which we have become quite susceptible to.

    • Aubrey grew and became a solid LB for us in my opinion too Brian.
      Hart used him there with good success. But I think many are a bit baffled at DL style and selection policies thus far.
      I won’t criticise hime but I’m just confused

  23. Strong Mid Field for T&T…
    3-1 for the home side…best case
    1-1…worst case…

  24. Damn rough loss on Ceasar – trying to be positive but hard to see where goals are going to come from now

    Tactically try to convert Joevin & Molino into strikers maybe ?

  25. ….my mother used to say: “If you have nothing good to say—hush”

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