United States Soccer Federation (USSF) press officer Michael Kammarman denied SPORTT claims that the visiting team were warned about the unsuitability of the Ato Boldon Stadium venue and offered an alternative venue before their training session this morning.
However, Kammarman stressed that USA wanted to put the war of words behind them and much preferred to settle any differences on the football ground.
United States need three points tomorrow—when they face the Soca Warriors from 8pm at Couva—to guarantee an automatic berth at the Russia 2018 World Cup, whereas Trinidad and Tobago have no chance of progressing.
However, tomorrow’s match unexpectedly became a hot topic in local quarters after the USSF and several visiting journalists tweeted images from the Ato Boldon Stadium, which showed the mondo track covered by ankle deep water with the corner flags also submerged.
Washington Post described it as “a moat” while US Soccer changed its tagline on a tweet from “Road to Russia” to “River to Russia.”
It brought an immediate response from the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA), which chose to remind its guest of the infamous “Snow Clásico”, two years ago, when USA hosted Costa Rica at Colorado during a snow storm.
SPORTT, via a release, went a step further by blaming United States coach Bruce Arena for showing up at the Couva venue at all.
“Team USA was booked for a one-hour session from 11:00am at the ABS and learned of the track situation en route to Couva,” stated SPORTT. “[…] Team USA took the field despite warnings from [facility manager Jeffrey] John about the unsuitability of the surface at the time and the impeding of preparation for Tuesday’s game.
“The session proceeded with the team coach accepting full responsibility for the players’ physical safety while at the venue.”
At the same time, SPORTT claimed: “the field was not affected in any way.”
Kammarman suggested that was not a totally accurate report.
“We weren’t aware that the pitch was affected by water until we got there,” Kammarman told Wired868. “We were not told not to train there. There was a discussion [about the conditions] but [although we were scheduled to have a one hour work out] we chose to have a light session because of the condition of the field.”
The USSF press officer insisted that the North American team meant no harm by the photos posted of the venue but were just keeping their fans abreast, as they continued their journey to Russia.
“We show pictures on the road all the time to give fans a feeling of what we meet [there],” he said. “We were not trying to take a shot at anybody, we were just showing the environment we were working with. No one is blaming anyone…
“Both the corners were under water and there was standing water on the pitch but, again, those things happen. It was explained to us that there was heavy rainfall and that was nobody’s fault.”
The travelling team, Kammarman insisted, will spend its time tonight trying to fine-tune their strategy for on the pitch rather than on the various social media platforms.
“I don’t think it was a distraction but clearly [the heavy rainfall] can have an impact on the way the match might look tomorrow night,” he said, “because you can’t play the same match on a field that is soggy and difficult. So the conditions will have an impact…
“The approach [from USA] is to win the game. If we win the game then there is no doubt about qualification for the World Cup. Anything else and [our World Cup qualifying campaign] can be affected by other results.”
CONCACAF’s top three nations qualify automatically for Russia and United States are third with 12 points at present. Panama and Honduras have 10 points each and host second place Costa Rica and group leaders Mexico respectively. The eventual fourth placed nation will enter a FIFA Play Off against the fifth placed team from the Asian Football Confederation.
Trinidad and Tobago, who are bottom of the Hex with three points, are the only team that have no chance of qualifying on the final match day. At present, the Warriors are on a seven match losing streak—a record for the National Senior Team—while head coach Dennis Lawrence has not managed a win in any of his last nine matches.
Editor’s Note: Click HERE to see ESPN’s counter-claim that the TTFA and SPORTT have released “fake news” over state of the Ato Boldon Stadium ground.