Attacking midfielder Kevin Molino ended Trinidad and Tobago’s seven-match goal drought tonight but it was not enough to get a win as the Soca Warriors settled for a 1-1 draw with Guyana at the Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas.
Head coach Dennis Lawrence has now overseen eight successive games without a win—a run that includes six losses and seven matches without scoring. Tonight’s result meant the twin island republic finished bottom of Group D behind the United States, Panama and, on goal difference, Guyana.
There was another moment of farce for the Warriors as two players, left back Mekeil Williams and central midfielder Kevan George, started the match with different shirts to their teammates. In both cases, the players did not have numbers on the front of their shirts—an error that was exacerbated by the enormous size of their numbering.
The wardrobe malfunction was picked up by the Fox Sports match commentators and Concacaf ordered the players to change kit at halftime.
Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana both wore outfits provided by obscure New York-based sport apparel company, Capelli Sport, for the Gold Cup. The two Caribbean Football Union (CFU) nations, who had no chance of progressing in the tournament before kick off today, will now turn their attentions to the Concacaf Nations League, which starts on 6 September.
The Warriors travel to Martinique for their opening assignment while the ‘Golden Jaguars’ face Aruba away.
Undoubtedly, Guyana—ranked 177th in the world by FIFA—would have enjoyed this evening’s result more. And it could have been even better for the mainland underdogs who opened the scoring through Neil Danns in the 53rd minute and might have grabbed a late winner from the same player but for a successful defensive recovery from opposing right back Aubrey David.
Both coaches promised changes for their final outing, albeit for different reasons. Guyana head coach Michael Johnson wanted to allow his substitutes to sample the tournament atmosphere and made seven alterations to his starting team, including a debut for 25-year-old Toronto-born goalkeeper Quillan Roberts.
Lawrence made six changes to his own first team—as a response to Saturday’s disastrous 6-0 loss to USA—although his own Canada-born goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh was not one of them.
Police FC goalkeeper Adrian Foncette, who was between the uprights two years ago when the Warriors shocked USA 2-1 in World Cup qualifying, replaced Marvin Phillip while Carlyle Mitchell, Mekeil Williams, Jomal Williams, Kevin Molino and Shahdon Winchester started in place of Alvin Jones, Neveal Hackshaw, Nathan Lewis, Khaleem Hyland and Cordell Cato respectively.
Hyland and Lewis were both ruled out entirely due to injury.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, due to the lack of competitive incentive and the flurry of changes, the match was largely forgettable for both sides.
At least, Levi Garcia—finally returned to his favoured position on the right flank—and Williams (J) enjoyed the relative freedom afforded by the Guyanese defence. Roberts needed two fine saves to keep out the pair as Trinidad and Tobago matched their tally of three shots on target from their first two matches within the first half hour this evening.
But it might have felt like deja vu for the Warriors when Guyana went ahead, eight minutes after the resumption. Danns stepped inside David from the left flank and, with no cover offered by Mitchell, he crashed a cracking effort into the far corner to spark jubilant celebrations on the Guyanese touchline.
This time, Trinidad and Tobago found an answer though. Garcia sent a lofted pass to Molino who ghosted behind the opposing defence and rounded the hesitant Roberts to prod home in the 79th minute.
The Warriors, largely disjointed again, never really like grabbing a winner and may have breathed a sigh of relief when Danns delayed his shot, after a twisting run, and allowed David to snuff out the danger.
It meant Lawrence had picked up his first Gold Cup point as a head coach. Too little, too late for this competition, though, as Trinidad and Tobago finished 14th from 16 participating teams—ahead of only Cuba and Nicaragua.
From the eight Caribbean nations at the 2019 Gold Cup: Haiti, Jamaica and Curaçao qualified for the knock out rounds, Bermuda and Martinique won a match each, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago left with one point apiece, and Cuba lost all three matches.
Over 1,400 fans have signed an online petition demanding that John-Williams resign in the face of the poor results while Lawrence has also come in for stick. However, the TTFA president, who showed off his controversial Home of Football to US Embassy officials yesterday, brushed aside their Gold Cup showings and reiterated his support for Lawrence.
“That’s football,” John-Williams told the Trinidad Guardian. “When we knocked the US out of the World Cup it was the same thing that happened—a public outcry. In all the Gold Cups we would have participated in, we have reached the semifinal once and the quarterfinal once; so we have never really had a good history in the Gold Cup.”
Ironically, John-Williams was wrong on both counts. First, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) president Sunil Gulati and head coach Bruce Arena resigned within a week of their loss to Trinidad and Tobago in 2017—and the USSF stormed back to clobber T&T 6-0 in their next meeting.
Secondly, after getting to the 2000 Gold Cup semifinals under then coach Bertille St Clair, Trinidad and Tobago were quarterfinalists in 2013 and 2015 during Stephen Hart’s tenure. John-Williams sacked him and the Warriors have not won a single Gold Cup match since.
Regardless, John-Williams absolved himself and Lawrence, a former Everton FC assistant coach, of any blame for the results.
“At the end of the day, he does not have to put the ball behind the net and neither do I,” said the TTFA president. “I think we played relatively well against the US for 65 minutes and it went all downhill after we conceded the second goal. […] Football is about moments and that moment when Levi Garcia missed that opportunity—we’re not crucifying him for it—but it would have been a different ball game.
“So in T&T, there will be that outcry for that defeat but we cannot hang our heads and say die, but we have got to move on. [Lawrence] is a professional and well-trained coach, who […] has coached at the highest level and I have a lot of faith in Dennis.”
And John-Williams, who previously described the Men’s National Senior Team as his ‘flagship team’ advised fans to pay attention to their Boys’ National Under-15 Team instead.
“Under this administration, we have deliberately said that we are going to build from the ground up,” he told the Guardian. “I have said it, from the first day of my tenure, but I will close by saying watch our Under-15s play Mexico, Venezuela and Panama come July.
“I think it will be something interesting for the public to see where we have been channelling our energies.”
Notably, the TTFA has neglected its Girls National Under-15 Team. While the Boys Team, which is led by his longstanding W Connection head coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier, are scheduled to play close to a dozen international games by August, their female counterparts have not played a single international—despite being in training for two years.
For the senior Soca Warriors, it is back to drawing board as they disband tomorrow before returning to action in September to face Martinique.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-3-3): 22.Adrian Foncette (GK); 2.Aubrey David, 12.Carlyle Mitchell, 5.Daneil Cyrus (captain), 17.Mekeil Williams, 19.Kevan George, 23.Leston Paul, 10.Kevin Molino, 11.Levi Garcia (7.Cordell Cato 87), 9.Shahdon Winchester (18.Lester Peltier 68), 20.Jomal Williams (3.Joevin Jones 77).
Unused substitutes: 1.Marvin Phillip (GK), 21.Greg Ranjitsingh (GK), 4.Neveal Hackshaw, 6.Duane Muckette, 14.Akeem Humphrey, 15.Curtis Gonzales, 16.Alvin Jones.
Unavailable: 8.Khaleem Hyland, 13.Nathan Lewis.
Head coach: Dennis Lawrence
Guyana: 22.Quilan Roberts (GK); 15.Terence Vancooten, 8.Samuel Cox (captain), 6.Ronanyne Marsh-Brown, 3.Kadell Daniel; 23.Anthony Jeffrey (11.Callum Harriott 46), 4.Elliot Bonds, 7.Keanu Marsh-Brown, 16.Neil Danns; 9.Sheldon Holder (10.Emery Welshman 72), 12.Pernell Schultz (21.Brendon Beresford 46).
Unused substitutes: 1.Akel Clarke (GK), 18.Alex Murray (GK), 2.Kevin Layne, 5.Jordan Dover, 13.Liam Gordon, 14.Daniel Wilson, 17.Torell Ondaan, 19.Stephen Duke-McKenna, 20.Matthew Briggs.
Coach: Michael Johnson