By 10pm tonight, the Russia 2018 World Cup dreams of either Trinidad and Tobago or Honduras are likely to lie in ruins at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. The two nations are bottom and second from bottom respectively in the CONCACAF Hex standings and in dire need of three points to stay relevant.
Neither will be at full strength. Honduras are without Spanish Segunda División midfielder Bryan Acosta from Tenerife as well as goalkeeper Donis Escobar and half of their four-man defence, Bryan Beckeles and Ever Alvarado, who are all suspended.
But Trinidad and Tobago coach Dennis Lawrence is short of a few offensive tools with which to exploit those absences.
Team captain and giant Atlanta United centre-forward Kenwyne Jones has not returned to full fitness after a knee injury suffered on international duty in June while AZ Alkmaar winger Levi Garcia was declared “[not] mentally prepared”—despite playing two Eredivisie matches since his recent return from injury—and nippy Sacramento Republic forward Trevin Caesar could not get a flight home in time owing to Hurricane Harvey disruptions.
Three months ago, just minutes before kick-off against Costa Rica, then Defence Force striker Jamille Boatswain learned that he would make his first international start after Jones pulled up lame in the pre-match warm-up.
Tonight, Boatswain, who now plays professionally in Costa Rica with Alajuelense, knows well in advance of the start that he has the responsibility of leading the Soca Warriors’ offence in a pivotal World Cup qualifying contest.
“I know how important this game is and I think—as a team and a nation—we understand what we need to do,” Boatswain told the TTFA Media. “We need the fans there supporting us and, the players, we have to put in our best performance of the campaign. I think once we play as a team and leave everything out there on the field, then we can pull off a win.”
It would take at least 12 points to snare fourth place and a FIFA World Cup play-off against Asia’s fifth-placed nation, which looks likely to be Australia.
Trinidad and Tobago have three points at present and one of their four remaining matches is away to Mexico at the dreaded Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. So, Lawrence’s troops’ most realistic chance of gathering the required nine points lies in wins at home to Honduras and the United States and away to Panama.
Honduras have five points but, apart from the Warriors, they face CONCACAF’s top three with games at home to the United States and Mexico and away to Costa Rica. They need at least seven points from those four outings.
Unsurprisingly, the Central American nation sees tonight’s fixture as critical to their qualifying chances.
“We’re going to give everything in this match,” said Honduras’ Colombia-born coach Jorge Luis Pinto. “We have to win.”
In the nine meetings between the two nations in this millennium, Trinidad and Tobago have won just two with two draws and five losses. The Warriors’ last triumph was at the 2013 Gold Cup when Kevin Molino and Jones (K) both scored in a 2-0 win—but Honduras had already qualified for the next round by then and rested most of their first team players.
Trinidad and Tobago’s only other win over Honduras in this millennium came with a freakish 1-0 smash-and-grab in San Pedro Sula just days after the untimely death of national attacker Mickey Trotman in 2001.
The Warriors went down to 10-men early in that affair and were bombarded throughout; yet they somehow emerged with a result, thanks to a goal from Trotman’s best friend, Stern John, who is now an assistant coach.
Tonight, Trinidad and Tobago must dig deep once more against an athletic, industrious team that left them shell-shocked in their most recent meeting last November, which ended in a 3-1 win for Honduras.
“There’s no other option but for us to win the match,” said Lawrence. “Pressure or not, I think we have to be efficient in everything we do, in how we start the game, how we manage it and how we finish.
“We’ve had a good few days of preparations and we’ll be looking to put that into play come Friday night. The both teams have a lot at stake in this game. Obviously we do not expect them to make it easy for us by any means but we must be prepared to give it our all and try to take three points from this match.”
Trinidad and Tobago’s last World Cup qualifying loss to Honduras eventually led to the sacking of then head coach Stephen Hart. A win tonight would ensure that Lawrence—in his first job as a head coach—and his squad can continue dreaming of the ultimate prize.
(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);
Goalkeepers: Luis Lopez (Real Espana), Ricardo Canales (Vida);
Defenders: Maynor Figueroa (Dallas), Henry Figueroa, Felix Crisanto (both Motagua), Carlos Sanchez (Honduras Progreso), Jhonny Palacios (Olimpia), Emilio Izaguirre (Al-Fayha—Saudia Arabia), Jhonny Leveron (Marathon);
Midfielders: Jorge Claros (Real Espana), Alexander Lopez (Olimpia), Alfredo Mejia (Xanthi—Greece), Oliver Morazan, Esdras Padilla (both Juticalpa), Sergio Pena (Real Sociedad), Carlos Discua (Motagua), Boniek García (Houston Dynamo—USA), Juan Delgado (Honduras Progreso);
Forwards: Anthony Lozano (Barcelona B—Spain), Rony Martinez (Baoding Yingli Yitong—China), Alberth Elis, Romnell Quioto (both Houston Dynamo—USA), Carlo Costly (Olimpia), Ovidio Lanza (Juticalpa), Eddie Hernandez (Motagua).