Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team coach Dennis Lawrence is aiming for more creativity in the final third of the field away to Japan tomorrow morning as the Soca Warriors enter their penultimate fixture before the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup.
The Warriors meet Japan from 6.30am tomorrow at the Toyota Stadium in Aichi and Lawrence gave some insight into his philosophy before the exhibition match.
“What I’ve tried to do over the time since I took over [is] to see if we can keep a little more possession of the ball and become a more possession-based football team that will allow us to stay in games a lot longer,” Lawrence told the Japanese media. “We still have the same talent [as the 2006 World Cup team]. We will always have skilful, quick players that would allow us to be an exciting group. We just want to try and manage the ball a lot better.
“[We want] to be a bit more composed in games, home and away, and I think we’ve done that in the last two years. Now we just need to be a bit more creative in front of goal, which we hope to display tomorrow; but the idea is try and become a possession based team.”
At present, Trinidad and Tobago are on a three-game losing streak after successive losses to Thailand, Iran and Wales. It is unlikely to get easier tomorrow against a Japan team ranked 26th in the world by FIFA, which is 67 places higher than the Warriors.
Leicester City forward Shinji Okazaki will spearhead the attack of the ‘Blue Samarai’ and his international career tally stands at a notable 50 goals from 116 appearances.
Lawrence, who traveled without the MLS duo of Joevin Jones and Kevin Molino who were unavailable for varying reasons, credited the strength of the host team, who made it to the knockout stage of the Russia 2018 World Cup.
“They are technically very good players [and] I think they are a very aggressive group and work together as a unit which […] makes them very, very difficult to compete against,” said Lawrence. “Our expectations are to go in and compete. We need to withstand the aggressiveness of the Japanese team. They are on the front foot and they want to be in your faces so we need to match that and we need to now be brave and show our quality by keeping possession of the ball when the pressure is on.
“Then at the same time we need to maintain a very good defensive structure which is important… We are expecting it will be a very, very stern test for us because we have full respect for Japan. We are fully aware of how good this Japan team can be and the quality that they got.
“We are here in preparation for the Gold Cup and will use the opportunity to get something out of it to take into our first game against Panama on the 18th.”
Warriors midfielder Kevan George, a US second tier player with Charlotte Independence, concurred.
“This is probably the most important match for us ahead of the Gold Cup,” George told the TTFA Media. “We have to make the progress little by little, working on certain tactical aspects of the game that we need to implement going into our first game. They will be a very strong opponent so I believe this game will be very important for us.
“While we want to win every game, we need to think about the bigger picture and sharpen up on our game going into the first match against Panama. The main thing for me is to focus mentally, physically and even emotionally.”
Lawrence’s 19-man team assembled in Aichi on Monday night. Following tomorrow’s contest, their next stop is Los Angeles on 10 June to face Canada in their final warm-up affair before the Gold Cup.
(Trinidad and Tobago squad to face Japan)
Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip (Central FC), Adrian Foncette (Police FC);
Defenders: Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Carlyle Mitchell (Terminix La Horquetta Rangers), Mekeil Williams (OKC Energy FC—USA), Alvin Jones (OKC Energy FC—USA), Daneil Cyrus (Al Orobah FC—Saudi Arabia);
Midfielders: Khaleem Hyland (Al-Faisaly FC—Saudi Arabia), Judah Garcia (Unattached), Kevan George (Charlotte Independence), Akeem Humphrey (Club Sando), Leston Paul (Memphis 901 FC), Duane Muckette (Memphis 901 FC—USA), Neveal Hackshaw (Indy Eleven FC—USA);
Attacking midfielders: Nathan Lewis (Lansing Ignite—USA), Jomal Wiliams (W Connection FC), Lester Peltier (Al-Orobah FC—Saudi Arabia), Levi Garcia (Ironi Kiryat Shmona—Israel);
Forward: Shahdon Winchester (W Connection).