“Dennis Lawrence is the head coach and of course I stand here and take all responsibility for 13 games without a victory,” said Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence. “But we must always remember it’s Trinidad and Tobago that went 13 games without a victory—not Dennis Lawrence.”
Lawrence was defiant last night as he shared the blame around in the wake of Thursday’s 2-0 Concacaf Nations League loss to Honduras in Port of Spain and the team’s now record breaking winless streak.
It is now the first time in the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association’s 111 year history that the Soca Warriors have not been able to muster a win in 13 matches, with the most recent defeat certainly seeing them miss out on the Hex qualifying series for the 2020 Qatar World Cup.
It’s another painful, yet unsurprising blow to Trinidad and Tobago football which has slipped further into the doldrums within recent times. Two days prior to the Men’s Team latest loss, the Senior Women’s Warriors were knocked out of Olympic Qualifiers finishing behind St Kitts and Nevis and Dominican Republic.
However, Lawrence insisted that it’s time for the players to accept some criticism for the team’s failings, which saw T&T slip 16 spots in the FIFA rankings from 84 to 100 since he took charge.
“Players need to start taking responsibility for their own performance at times,” Lawrence told the media. “I will always be the one to stand here and defend them when I think they need defending [but last night], as I said before, an individual error [led to] the first goal in my opinion—and that’s a senior player and they can do better than that.
“And that’s why I’m saying that we need to assess that if we keep making the same errors over and over, then maybe learning is not taking place.”
Lawrence admitted his frustration with the team’s performances with the Warriors now bottom of Group C and in danger of relegation to Concacaf’s second division.
“It means that you need to make a couple changes,” said Lawrence. “I think some of the players [last night], you expected a bit more [than these] under-par performances. But the only way I know how to deal with things like that is to work even harder.
“Trinidad and Tobago in my opinion, we always have quality. Sometimes I question our mentality because quality, I think a lot of us are born with that. We have the gift of good touch and the ability to dribble past people.
“But I think sometimes in certain situations, when it gets a bit tough and it comes down to that one v one individual duel—like we faced tonight when we went one nil down—those are the moments that we question. And I wonder whether we have it in our tank.”
The under-fire head coach introduced a few new players for the Nations League campaign with notable debuts by Ryan Telfer and Daniel Carr but the core of his team largely remained the same throughout his tenure.
Prior to kick off against Honduras, he said he would try to gain an advantage by not publicly announcing his squad. Yet his line-up and tactics on the night felt all too familiar. Lawrence put the result down to poor decision-making by his players.
“I’m really disappointed in the manner in how we lost a game 2-0, because looking back on the a game overall, I thought did very well, competed well, we managed the ball well,” said the Warriors head coach. “There was nothing in the game and then one incident where we gave away a very, very soft goal from in my opinion—a very poor individual defensive decision.
“We’re then chasing the game. Then we got a red card, then another red card…”
Trinidad and Tobago were already behind 1-0 when winger Levi Garcia was sent off for a second bookable offence. However, Lawrence felt Guatemalan referee Mario Escobar had too much influence on the game.
“I didn’t think any keeper was under massive pressure or anything like that—then all of a sudden the game explodes with seven bookings and two red cards [and] we lose the game 2-0,” said Lawrence. “It’s a disappointing feeling. I’m the head coach, I will take responsibility for it and the only thing I will do is continue to work very hard to try and ensure we try and change these numbers.”
Trinidad and Tobago have a chance to snap their winless streak on Monday 14 October when they face Venezuela in Caracas. However, Lawrence said he is likely to use a weakened and more youthful team against the South Americans.
“You have to take risks in this game,” said Lawrence. “We got young players like [Andre] Fortune and [Keston Julien] and we need to find out now at what level they are at. […] So they are going to be going to Venezuela [and] given the opportunity.
“The reason why [the younger players] were called up to the National Senior Team [is that] we looked at them and thought they could add value to the squad. Some of them, we are a little bit on the fence whether or not they are the finished product but we need to find out. So we are going to find out in Venezuela.
“That was one of the reasons that we brought 27 players in the camp. Because we already made the agreement before that some of the boys involved in this game, were not going to be involved in the Venezuela game.”
Two players who will not travel to Venezuela are the Major League Soccer (MLS) duo of Kevin Molino and Joevin Jones—who was an unused substitute against Honduras—who will be allowed to return to their employers as they prepare for the play-offs.
Venezuela are currently ranked 26th in the world and have five wins, six draws and two losses in their last 13 games. Even without their full compliment of players, they should offer a stern test to the Warriors.
Lawrence insisted that the Warriors are doing their best in trying circumstances.
“Sometimes people ask, what is the reason [for the poor results] then when you give the reason, it then becomes an excuse,” he said. “We are miles away in terms of our facilities [and] in terms of our structure for football; we are a million miles away. But then, you are still asked to deliver the same quality as these people.
“And we trying our best at the moment but it’s just not good enough. I’ll be totally honest with you, the best is just not good enough. And we need to find a way to fix that.”