The Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team return to Port of Spain tonight for a crucial 2019 Concacaf Nations League outing against Martinique from 9pm at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. At stake is a place at the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup and the Concacaf Hex for the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying series.
The Soca Warriors are ranked 101st in the world by FIFA and 11th in Concacaf and chances are slim that coach Dennis Lawrence can get his troops among the top six nations in the confederation by next June.
Almost certainly, the Warriors will be marooned with Concacaf’s second tier and would need to win that as well as a Concacaf and FIFA play off to get to the Qatar World Cup. More realistic is an automatic place at the next Gold Cup. For that the Warriors have to avoid finishing bottom of a three-nation group that also includes Honduras.
Trinidad and Tobago captain Sheldon Bateau let slip the Warriors’ current ambitions when he said they were happy to leave Fort-de-France with a 1-1 draw against Martinique, after a Joevin Jones penalty pulled the visitors level.
“We had a plan not to lose the game and I think we got the job done,” said the Belgium-based central defender, during the post-game press conference. “I think we could have done a bit better offensively and defensively but in the end that’s how it goes sometimes. Happy with the result.”
Bateau talked before the game about the need for the Warriors to take responsibility for their own performances and Lawrence commended the effort from his players during the contest. Canada-based debutant Ryan Telfer gave a promising showing on the flank while star MLS midfielder Kevin Molino was a handful in possession. But ultimately, it rarely looked like enough for a win.
During Friday’s draw, Lawrence beat his own previous winless mark of nine straight matches. He now has the third and fourth longest run of games without a win in the 100-plus years of Trinidad and Tobago football.
Roderick Warner had six draws and six defeats in 12 successive matches as coach in 1985 while coaches Claude ‘River Vine’ Maurice and Ken Henry shared seven defeats and five draws between them in a dozen straight fixtures between 1969 and 1971.
Lawrence’s last 10 outings as coach yielded returns of three draws and seven defeats, which eclipsed his run of nine winless matches and seven straight losses in 2016—a run that Alvin Jones ended in sensational fashion, as his thunderbolt helped Trinidad and Tobago to an unlikely 2-1 win over the United States in Couva on 10 October 2017.
Since that famous triumph in their final Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier, Trinidad and Tobago have won just twice, against Guadeloupe and the United Arab Emirates, from 16 games. It is a run the Warriors must end tonight—in their first match at the Hasely Crawford Stadium since their 2-1 friendly loss to Jamaica on 24 August 2017—for the sake of the Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying campaigns.
Goalkeepers: Adrian Foncette (Police FC), Marvin Phillip (FC Santa Rosa), Glenroy Samuel (Terminix La Horquetta Rangers);
Defenders: Sheldon Bateau (KV Mechelen—Belgium), Daneil Cyrus (Mohun Bagan—India), Aubrey David (Deportivo Saprissa—Costa Rica), Alvin Jones (OKC Energy FC—USA), Keston Julien (AS Trencin—Slovakia), Carlyle Mitchell (San Juan Jabloteh), Ross Russell (Terminix La Horquetta Rangers);
Midfielders: Kevan George (Charlotte Independence—USA), Andre Fortune Jr (North Carolina FC—USA), Judah Garcia, Nathaniel Garcia (both Deportivo PF), Leston Paul (Memphis 901 FC—USA);
Attacking midfielders: Levi Garcia (Beitar Jerusalem FC—Jerusalem), Joevin Jones (Seattle Sounders—USA), Kevin Molino (Minnesota FC—USA), Jomal Williams (Isidro Metapan—El Salvador);
Forward: Daniel Carr (Apollon Limassol—Cyprus), Marcus Joseph (Gokulam Kerala FC—India), Jameel Perry (Police FC), Ryan Telfer (York9 FC—Canada).