Trinidad and Tobago are already in do or die territory at the Concacaf Gold Cup, as they began their campaign with a disappointing 2-0 loss to Panama at the Allianz Field in Minnesota.
Two second half items by midfielders Armando Cooper and Edgar Barcenas settled a scrappy affair in Group D. The Central American nation can now qualify for the knockout round on Saturday with a win over debutantes, Guyana.
For Trinidad and Tobago, they must repeat their shock triumph over United States during the 2018 World Cup qualifying series—this time, on enemy territory to boot—or be eliminated with a game to spare.
The Soca Warriors started tonight’s affair on the back of five successive matches without a win or a goal. Panama coach Julio Dely Valdes might have been envious. ‘Los Canaleros’ were 14 matches without a win before kick off.
Incidentally, Panama’s last win came against Trinidad and Tobago in Couva on 17 April 2018 and Dely Valdes might have been grateful at the sight of the red, white and black kit.
The opening 45 minutes was forgettable with neither team getting a shot on target and the Warriors, despite coach Dennis Lawrence’s claim of improvement on the ball, incapable of keeping possession in opposition territory.
In fact, Trinidad and Tobago could barely keep the ball at their own end of the field, even against a half-hearted press by the Central American team. And it was a turnover that lead to the opening goal, as Cooper ran on to a Gabriel Torres pass and rounded Warriors goalkeeper Marvin Phillip to score in the 53rd minute, with the game’s first shot on target.
Lawrence introduced Joevin Jones from off the bench—he was surprisingly kept as back-up for Jomal Williams and Nathan Lewis—and his first run almost led to an equaliser with a raking left side cross in the 68th minute, which caused a rare touch of panic in the opposing defence.
Yet, in a cruel twist of irony, Panama scored immediately after, against the run of play. Torres stepped inside from the left flank and his firm shot was fended away by Phillip who was up quickly to save from Barcenas as well. But the Central FC custodian could not keep out the third attempt from point blank range, as Barcenas squeezed the ball past him to double Panama’s lead.
By then, Lawrence had also replaced midfield hardman Kevan George with the smoother Leston Paul, which gave the Warriors another passing outlet and improved the tempo of their play.
And, in the 86th minute, Panama goalkeeper Luis Mejia finally had something to do as he raced off his line to fist away the ball from opposing playmaker Kevin Molino.
However, after 90 minutes plus three minutes of stoppage, Trinidad and Tobago had not registered a single shot on goal with Molino and Levi Garcia, who played upfront, often isolated and unsupported. It would take a miraculous turnaround for this lacklustre bunch to trouble the United States on Saturday.
But it has happened before.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-2-3-1): 1.Marvin Phillip (GK); 16.Alvin Jones, 5.Daneil Cyrus, 2.Aubrey David, 17.Mekeil Williams; 19.Kevan George (23.Leston Paul 65), 8.Khaleem Hyland (captain); 13.Nathan Lewis (7.Cordell Cato 82), 10.Kevin Molino, 20.Jomal Williams (3.Joevin Jones 65); 11.Levi Garcia.
Unused substitutes: 21.Greg Ranjitsingh (GK), 22.Adrian Foncette (GK), 4.Neveal Hackshaw, 6.Duane Muckette, 9.Shahdon Winchester, 12.Carlyle Mitchell, 14.Akeem Humphrey, 15.Curtis Gonzales, 18.Lester Peltier.
Head coach: Dennis Lawrence
Panama (4-4-2): 1.Luis Mejia (GK); 23.Michael Murillo, 3.Harold Cummings, 5.Roman Torres (captain), 15.Eric Davis, 4.Fidel Escobar, 19.Albert Quintero (21.Omar Browne 88), 10.Edgar Barcenas, 11.Armando Cooper, 17.Jose Fajardo (20.Ernesto Walker 78), 9.Gabriel Torres (18.Abdiel Arroyo 84);
Unused substitutes: 12.Jose Calderon (GK), 22.Orlando Mosquera (GK), 2.Francisco Palacios, 6.Kevin Galvan, 7.Jose Rodriguez, 8.Marcos Sanchez, 13.Adolfo Machado, 14.Valentin Pimentel, 16.Rolando Blackburn.
Head coach: Julio Dely Valdes