Lawrence disappointed with Guyana result but insists T&T are on right path to success

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Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team stand-in skipper Sheldon Bateau suggested that the Soca Warriors—who failed to even qualify for the 2017 Caribbean Cup semifinal stage—are in danger of being caught and surpassed by less fancied regional opposition.

Last night, Trinidad and Tobago were forced to come from behind for the second time in four days to hold Guyana 1-1 at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker Neil Benjamin Jr (left) delivers a low cross while Guyana defender Christopher Bourne (second from left) looks on during international friendly action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 14 November 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Guyana are ranked 165th in the world by FIFA while Grenada, who played to a 2-2 draw with the Warriors on Saturday, are 157th. In contrast, Trinidad and Tobago are 85th and have enjoyed an average ranking of 65th over the last two decades.

“These [Caribbean] teams are working and they are catching up; they are catching up with us,” said Bateau, at the post-game media conference. “I think what we saw tonight is what we have been saying [about the progress of these teams] for a while now.

“So we have some work to do as players and as an organisation; we have some work to do.”

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Trinidad and Tobago head coach Dennis Lawrence, who led his team to a stunning 2-1 World Cup qualifying win over the United States at this same venue last month, again looked for positives as he claimed his team showed a slight improvement from their weekend draw with Grenada.

This week, CONCACAF rivals USA and Panama battled to draws away to Portugal and Wales respectively while Costa Rica fell to a 1-0 defeat against Hungary. But although they are doing battle against markedly less illustrious competition, Lawrence suggested that the Warriors were taking the right steps to ensure their own upward movement.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Neveal Hackshaw (centre) tries to escape the attentions of Guyana midfielder Brandon Beresford (left) while Soca Warriors coach Dennis Lawrence looks on during international friendly action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 14 November 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

“My overall take is creep, walk, jump, that’s how I view it,” said Lawrence. “Sometimes you need to be realistic as well. We could have been in Costa Rica’s situation and play Spain and get hammered 5-0 because we are not ready for that. We can’t say we are ready for the likes of Spain, Brazil and Germany; we are not at that level yet…

“As we go along, then we could start elevating the level of the opposition because, if we play the wrong opposition, [we] can take ten steps back; we need to start going forward.”

Lawrence pointed out that the struggles of the Pro League at present were affecting the national team since the domestic competition served as a feeder for his squad.

On the night, it was not a universal view as interim Guyana head coach Wayne Dover was thrilled with the performance of his own Pro League player, Morvant Caledonia United forward Sheldon Holder, whose headed goal in the 19th minute put the visitors ahead against the run of play.

“We deliberately used [Sheldon Holder] in this game because he would know the conditions and he would know a few of the [Trinidad and Tobago] players,” said Dover, who showered praises on the work of former Guyana national coach and Caledonia co-founder Jamaal Shabazz. “So that was one of the strategies coming into this game and it proved effective seeing that he scored.”

Photo: Guyana forward Sheldon Holder (left) heads past Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Marvin Phillip (right) and defender Sheldon Bateau for the opening goal during international friendly action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 14 November 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Dover noted that Guyana’s football has been going through a rough “transitional period” since Shabazz’s departure and pleaded with the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) for more regional tournaments, which would allow Caribbean teams to gain experience from rubbing shoulders with their counterparts in the wider CONCACAF region.

Dover also spoke at length about the cost of flying within the region, which he thinks has often deterred Guyana from playing more friendly internationals outside the FIFA window.

He suggested that last night’s result should serve as a spur for the “Golden Jaguars” and evidence of their own potential. He identified the perceived weaknesses in the Warriors set-up.

“From the game against Grenada, we saw that [T&T] were vulnerable when they tried to transition,” said Dover, “and we knew once we could get to the stage where we could have a free run at goal, we could score and probably come away with a win.”

Lawrence was disturbed by the manner in which his team conceded and the fact that they were forced to play catch-up yet again.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Nathaniel Garcia (centre) is deep in thought as Guyana players celebrate behind him during international friendly action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 14 November 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

“We need to ensure that we concentrate [better] because we can’t be in a game for 90 minutes and have most of the possession,” said Lawrence, “and the first time the ball enters your box, you’re 1-0 down. And then from there we need to fight to come back again.

“But, as I said before, the mental strength that the boys and them showed was good because we continued to keep playing.”

Not for the first time, the Trinidad and Tobago team seemed to lack cutting edge in the middle of the park and often had recourse to long, diagonal balls while forward Jamille Boatswain and Neil Benjamin Jr both missed presentable chances.

AZ Alkmaar winger Levi Garcia created most of Trinidad and Tobago’s best scoring opportunities last night, despite not being at his fluent best. Garcia began in the ‘number 10’ role before returning to the flank for the second half. However, Lawrence stressed that Garcia’s starting position was not an indictment on the playmakers at his disposal.

“We have still got Hashim [Arcia] who came on and we have got [Kevin] Molino who was out [and] young [Duane] Muckette [at] North East Stars,” said Lawrence. “The idea was to try and utilise the players we had in order to get a result and Levi fit the bill.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker Levi Garcia (right) leaves Guyana captain Samuel Cox for dead during international friendly action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 14 November 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Lawrence claimed that the Warriors suffered against Grenada owing to their limited passing range in central midfield—Kevan George and Jared London both started in that encounter.

“I think we don’t have the player yet who is ready to make that killer pass […] ,” said the lanky coach, who hinted that he now knows the players in his squad who are ready for international football. “When you play opposition like Grenada and Guyana, who are going to be defensively solid, you will get a lot of possession in the middle of the park.

“We now need to find midfielders who are willing to hit diagonal passes, switch up the play and play that killer pass. But in terms of [our play against Guyana], we almost had to be perfect before we could score.”

The Warriors have been far from perfect in 2017, as they finished at the foot of the CONCACAF Hex table. Now, Lawrence expects his charges to get some rest, regroup and come out ready for battle once more in January.

“The players and them had the opportunity to sit and talk to [TTFA president David John-Williams] about certain things and the idea now is to put a lot of things correct off the pitch in terms of the scouting, the finances and training facilities,” said Lawrence, a former 2006 World Cup player. “Put these things in place so then the next time we come together as a group, we are ready to start and lift off from that platform.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Dennis Lawrence gestures to his players from the sidelines during international friendly action against Grenada at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 11 November 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Lawrence and the supporting Trinidad and Tobago public alike would like the sturdiest of platforms to build on for the future.

“I have enjoyed leading my country again, yes, but I haven’t enjoyed the results that have come with some of the games,” said Lawrence. “Obviously, all of us in this game want to be winners; we don’t want to be losers. But I have spoken to the group and we are now in the process of becoming winners…

“I don’t think we are ready yet to push and say we are gonna take over the world […]. The idea now is to enjoy this period and come back and do the work and start fighting them.”

The Soca Warriors, their fan base hopes, will be the ones landing the heavy uppercuts and jabs in 2018.

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About Roneil Walcott

Roneil Walcott
Roneil Walcott is an avid sports fan and freelance reporter with a BA in Mass Communication from COSTAATT. Roneil is a former Harvard and St Mary's College cricketer who once had lofty aspirations of bringing joy to sport fans with the West Indies team. Now, his mission is to keep them on the edge of their seats with sharp commentary from off the playing field.

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  1. On the bright side, Lawrence lasted longer than St. Feit and is better liked.

  2. Warning: Undefined variable $userid in /www/wired868_759/public/wp-content/plugins/user-photo/user-photo.php on line 114

    So what are the remaining 8 Commandments of Coaching Sean Powder so that Coach Dennis, Stern and the other bootleg Coaches in our sweet country will finally understand how to be winners . Them really good yes.

  3. I cant believe the somnamblistic nature of our national team…like they on some kinda drowsy cough syrup. ..the game lacked sense of urgency…cant find the superlatives to describe this lack lustre performance..whats all thos nonsense about creeping and walking …we have a big coaching problem..!!!

  4. Those two above from Tony Maxwell Hatt can be 2 of the 10 Commandments of Coaching

  5. There should never be a moment on the football field or on the track when an athlete doesn’t feel challenged both physically and intellectually.

  6. Teams that have been most successful are the ones that have demonstrated the greatest commitment to their athlete. Winning teams are the ones that have created the greatest sense of belonging with their players.

  7. I just want to point out how screwed up the MLS system is.

    Triston Hodge was deemed not worthy of sticking around in Toronto 2, yet he erased Paul Ariola which MLS made Designated Player.

  8. Their first plan should be for them to step down from holding any position in the TTFA and allow the real professional folks who have plenty vision and the correct stragegies moving forward and our sweet country will definitely rise again and be the power house that we once was in the Caribbean. Them really good yes.

    • But DJW not going anywhere any time soon! The most we could hope for is for us to go back to actually losing games and maybe DJW might take shame and fire him. These tied games not helping us get where we need to be!

  9. Hannibal Najjar

    When I last took the reins in 2002, I indicated the ominousness of our challenge when I shared with JAW, that our main goal, while it must be to get into the tier of top six and be a strong and constant presence there, we cannot ignore just how dead-even and in a few cases like Haiti, Cuba, and Jamaica, who might conceivably be, two-to-five percentage points better. Further, I pointed out that the other nations in the second and third tiers had crept up and in sufficient instances, were able to achieve victories over us and often attain draws. These lower nations are alongside and are causing us blur our focus on the tape at the finish line since some of these teams were at our shoulders.
    This is normal, since people improve incrementally until they have approached or are approaching the upper limits of their combined potentials. These include, pure performance, available resources, development and competition exposure, game and IQ education, holistic valuing, organizational efficiency, national and strong flag-waving support, and, financial wherewithal. T&T, I urged JAW, was at the near maxed-out point in most of these crucial areas either, that we have reached them or attained the best we could, given, the coalescing of organized support. We had and still have sufficient ability in the players that are now only to be harnessed individually and then, collectively. However, in all of the other areas, we were and are barely better than those on our heals and far behind those in front focus, top tier.
    My humble recommendation to DJW and DL is to consider the items mentioned – pure performance, available resources, development and competition exposure, game and IQ education, holistic valuing, organizational efficiency, national and strong flag-waving support, and, financial wherewithal – assess our status, and consider the tasks at hand to bring them into alignment if we truly want to realize our dreams and goals. The US have a great deal of these in place and look what happened to them this time around! Even with them in place, there is still no guaranty – prepare, and you ONLY increase your chances of succeeding; don’t, and you shall fail. The following was a thought that I shared in this WIRED medium (back in January 2016) and another elsewhere, and it reads – “I suggest that the US will top the group even though I am of the resolve that if there were going to be a WC that they would NOT qualify for, it can quite easily be this, 2018 WC – save the Women’s program, their character has weakened and they are not what they used to be. This long slide down is the sole responsibility of their self-consuming or more appropriately, narcissistic Head Coach………”.

  10. You are correct about having no strategy or plan.

  11. C’mon people this is all about football politics this have nothing to do with results or ability to manage and or coach! Apparently he’s towing d line which Hart waznt apparently prepared to do it! #lickbottomsydrome

  12. Tony Sinclair your are 1000% correct about the 8 Plus players Costa Rica and Panama have in MLS that going to Russia 2018. I will go a step further, Costa Rica have 6 players and Panama have 2 players in USL that have already been capped and could fight for a spots. Furthermore, New Zealand played Peru for a Russia 2018 spot with Deklan Wynee(VancouverWCFC2), Kip Colvey(formerly Reno 1868FC) and Bill Tuiloma(Portland Timbers2), all playing in the USL. These players not from MLS but America’s 2nd division in playoff for Russia 2018 yet WE have over a dozen players playing at that level not getting call ups. Dennis, his staff, the TD and TTFA are not serious and have no strategy nor plan.

  13. Whenever a top of the line coach is fired from coaching any country eh, another top of the line coach is always hired in order to be succesful and take us to the World Cup, especially if he has done so before with another country, you don’t hire no scout or rookie bootleg coaches who doesn’t have any stats or even a top of the line coaching lisence , ah wonder what kind of coaching lisence does Coach Dennis Lawrence and Coach Stern John have. Them really good yes.

  14. The role of the head coach begins with setting a standard of competence as a player and as a coach. Successful coaches realize that winning teams are not run by single individuals who dominate the scene and reduce the rest of the group to marionettes. Everyone must be competent and that is the coaches job. In 2006 they had no weak links. And the coach was competent. More importantly the head coach has to make it clear that he expects everyone to participate and volunteer his or her thoughts about the game … their impressions of the opponents … and ideas… it must be a full team effort. The goal is to create a communication channel that allows players information and ideas to get from the bottom to the top. It works … trust me… once you as a player feels that you are making contributing ideas …you will fight to the end for the coach.

  15. There are three major areas of concerns over the past decade. The first is our level of Fitness, our power of concentration and dedication to T&T. We need to address these issues will all urgency.

  16. By now Alyuh should know that Dennis Lawrence isn’t no coach, he is just a puppet that is carrying out his boss agendas, especially the selection of the team. Them really good yes steeuppss

  17. In coaching, I think differently . As a coach it is my ability to condition the athletes’ minds and to train them to think as a unit… while at the same time… making sure each athlete approaches his own game or race with total concentration.. intensity .. and skill. There should never be a moment on the football field or on the track when an athlete doesn’t feel challenged both physically and intellectually. DL is not capable of doing that or the players are not receiving the messages. Teams that have been most successful are the ones that have demonstrated the greatest commitment to their athlete. Winning teams are the ones that have created the greatest sense of belonging with their players. How can you do that when you don’t pay the players their wages? Dennis L must account for his ego. He has to drop or sidestep the ego barrier so that players can communicate without fear. The players have to be comfortable that they will not be ridiculed if their ideas are not directly in line with the coach as long as it is communicated in an objective manner. That is where the breakthrough comes. That is what it takes to build a successful, winning organization. Not the bullshit I see with coaches establishing a military style of coaching. Players don’t play for you or commit to your philosophy with that attitude. He is a rookie and needs to learn about building confidence.

  18. AHEM!!!!! Buh if the MLS is ah shit league in my second sweetest country as you say eh, how come your bootleg professional teams in our sweet country cannot even beat up their third string teams in the Concacaf club championships eh. You really good yes. hahahahaha

    • I was being sarcastic bredda…that’s why I used quotes…like I said, I have no time for “experts” who always bad-mouthing MLS, when — like you said — we can’t compete with MLS teams in the club competition…doh worry Mango yuh boy have ah lil clue?

    • Well as you and others know that the way ah does write eh, the English language wasn’t meh favorite subject eh, ah matter of fact no subject was meh favorite subject ah just want to play the football eh, so I apologize eh meh bredda. Blessings

  19. And speaking of Costa Rica!! Interesting to note that Costa Rica AND Panama each have 8 players in that “shitty” MLS!

    I respect everybody opinion…but doh come rong me talking bout MLS dis or MLS dat please!!

    I’ll take 8 ah we players playing in that “shit” league and we qualifying for every damn WC!

  20. I actually thought Nathaniel Garcia showed he is quite capable of hitting “that killer pass” and I was very impressed by his first full (?) international for T&T… What stood out for me was despite being the SHORTEST man on the pitch he routinely WON virtually EVERY headed ball he competed for you against Taller opposition!!! Tremendous raw talent and potential.

    • Yeah. Nathaniel has talent for sure. What I didn’t like was seeing my two central midfielders constantly dropping alongside their central defenders to hit long passes rather than trying to get closer to the attacking midfielders and create passing triangles and try to impose themselves.
      But it happened so often that I’m certain it was a tactic by Lawrence.

    • Agreed Las…I also thought the long ball was them playing to instructions… otherwise our National Coach would have got up and said something to the players.

  21. “We could have been in Costa Rica’s situation and play Spain and get hammered 5-0 because we are not ready for that”…..what situation is Costa rica in? Preparing for a world cup and playing a top team with a few months to iron things out before the big dance? Yes i would love to be in Costa Rica’s situation.

    • It was a very odd comparison to me too.

    • Apart from all the other nonsensical things advanced; you see that Costa Rica thing? That says it all! What the hell is this man talking about?? Costa Rica going Russia next year!!!

      So that mean my national team coach hear — or see? — Costa Rica get five and in his head he see ah parallel between that and us!?!? Oh eff man they make the effing quarter finals in effing Brasíl WC 2014!!!!

      This getting to ridiculous now man!! Steups!!

    • Oh gawd oh gawd trinisss …he just meant we coulda play ah team that outmatch us and hit we 5 …oh gawd oh gawdddd

    • We played Argentina three years ago and lost 3-0. So Malik, you’re saying that Dennis would think it better to play Guyana?

    • He has the same players available as Hart did then.

    • Lasana de man said we not ready to play those teams ….we scraped draws with Guyana and Grenada at home. How is that NOT a correct statement??

    • Well, you got me there Malik. Lol. The question is “why” are we no longer good enough to play better opposition though. But they certainly didn’t show that they were fit to play a top 100 team last week.

    • Like I going mad or what? Like we have ah bunch of players retire over the past few years or what? Like GC 2015 and a 4-4 tie with Mexico never happened or what???

      Yo! This coach moving like he inherited a Tonga team.

    • My point exactly. Who were we ready to play before DL took over? Have we progressed in any way?

    • Well according to my big eyes and FIFA’s ranking, umm we have not progressed in any way…but I’m sure the coach have an explanation for that too!!

    • Fatha I dunno but I was expecting a bit more from him willing to give him more time but things he did and some of your observations confirm to me that he might be the wrong choice. As a coach these are games to try new players so each player HAS to at least get a half per game. New goalies weren’t tried, potentially new players getting crap minutes be cause he was more concerned with the result than actually seeing how new players would cope. Beenhakker tried different players all the time in the friendlies didn’t care if we lost wanted to see how they perform for more than 10 or 15 minutes. The Grenada game pissed me off but when I see we down in the 19th minute to Guyana (no disrespect meant) at home. That was the final straw …..he not ready ….at all.
      What I’m seeing is the absense of a GAME PLAN…we no longer have players who can create things individually. If that not there … are done ….

  22. he cant win a game but he on d right track.well fuck me then

  23. We are like General motors..Most up to date plants but factory is poorly run…End result..? Detroit is no longer the Motor City it was,

  24. West Indian cricket leads, Trin football follows in ‘searching for and offering up positives” We are like g

  25. He’s getting more ridiculous every time he opens his mouth in public..steups

  26. We go play cedros nex…n mayb we might win.

  27. This man should be removed hart was fired for much less u can’t beat Grenada and Guyana

  28. Come T,&TFA enough is enough fire this failed coach is time

  29. Dennis sees the glass half full even when it’s only quarter full…

  30. He mention not having a player to make the killer pass but yet still he wouldn’t give Ataulla a look smh

  31. I does get tired of de talk yes, especially when it doh make no sense. Action is what I want. Demonstrable proof that we on an upward trajectory. Proof of proper scouting. Proof of players being compensated. Proof of a sound youth development plan being executed. Transparency in technical staff appointments. I doh care bout no Home of Football if it go be ah setta jokey people running it. Time for some ah dem dinosaurs to become extinct.

  32. What does he mean by “We have still got Hashim [Arcia] who came on and we have got [Kevin] Molino who was out [and] young [Duane] Muckette [at] North East Stars”? It’s not like Arcia and Muckette are proven players. Muckette doesn’t even start for North East Stars.

  33. How has he come to the conclusion that we are on the right path? What are the indicators? How are they being measured?

  34. Here we go again. So is it that every Coach that has to coach our national team must do what Lawrence is doing now? So TTFA isn’t taking any responsibility for the performance of the team?

    • well he meeting all d pres current objectives……gettin caps for substandard players from a substandard league, so dey could get contracts, den fail miserably because dey eh know man does sprint and make quick decisions in football these days….. so dey does be like deer in headlights for two months before dey contract discontinued…………….

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