The Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team’s barren run continued this evening in Caracas as the Soca Warriors lost 2-0 to Venezuela in an international football friendly. The host team got the business done early with ex-England Premier League star Salomón Rondón and flanker Darwin Machís notching a goal apiece within the opening 15 minutes.
There was the odd sight of goal by the Warriors as forward Marcus Joseph and attacking midfielder Ataulla Guerra had half-chances. But Trinidad and Tobago never put sustained pressure on the hosts and the second half played out like a training exercise for Venezuela.
Trinidad and Tobago head coach Dennis Lawrence could point out that Venezuela were near full strength while he travelled without Kevin Molino, Ryan Telfer, Khaleem Hyland, Marvin Phillip and Daneil Cyrus. Nevertheless, Lawrence is now 14 games without a win as coach. Trinidad and Tobago’s previous worst run of results was 12 winless games in the mid-1980s.
The Warriors return to action on 17 November 2019 when they travel to Honduras for Concacaf Nations League action. Should they lose or draw there, Trinidad and Tobago would be in danger of going a calendar year without a win for the first team in the TTFA’s 111-year history.
This evening, Lawrence promised to give some of his younger players the chance to stake their claim in the first team. It is debatable whether his starting team reflected that.
Slovakia-based full back Keston Julien got the nod at left back for his first start under Lawrence—despite travelling with the team for close to two years—while Aikim Andrews started at right wing. However, his other alterations in the first team were goalkeeper Adrian Foncette, defender Aubrey David, midfielders Kevan George, Neveal Hackshaw and Guerra and Joseph upfront, who could hardly be considered ‘fresh blood’.
In their wake, attacker Akeem Garcia, midfielders Duane Muckette and Andre Fortune, goalkeeper Glenroy Samuel, full back Ross Russell Jr and defensive midfielder Aaron Lester started on the bench.
After just 11 minutes, Trinidad and Tobago were down as Venezuela right back Ronald Hernández created havoc in the visiting defence with an inverted overlap—a move now made popular by coach Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. The Warriors back four dropped narrow to cover the threat and Hernandez slipped wide to Machís, whose low cross inside the six yard box fell fortuitously for Rondon to score his 27th international goal from 79 matches.
If Foncette might have done better on the first goal, he was clearly culpable on Venezuela’s second, as Machís cut in off the left flank and beat him with a speculative drive that bounced right in front of the goalkeeper. Still, Machís had far too much room to line up a shot and only Lawrence would know if the challenge should have come from stand-in captain Sheldon Bateau or George.
Venezuela had a few half-chances but rarely penetrated the Trinidad and Tobago defence thereafter. Lawrence could claim his team showed improved defensive organisation. Or Venezuela coach Rudamel Dudamel might counter that they merely took their feet off the pedal with the job effectively done.
An Andrews cross in first half stoppage time caused a rare bit of panic by the Venezuela defence while Guerra was just wide with a right footer from 25 yards. But there was little else to report for either side.
Lawrence’s substitutions were curious again. After giving Garcia (A) 28 minutes at centre forward against Honduras, he used him for 25 minutes on the flank in Caracas. Guerra played for roughly eight minutes as a false nine before forward Daniel Carr came on for the last nine minutes.
Perhaps Lawrence was considering his options for next month’s clash away to Honduras with a heavy loss almost certain to see Trinidad and Tobago relegated from the Concacaf top tier. Julien did little wrong at left back while Hackshaw gave a decent showing in central midfield and Andrews did not look out of place.
Still, there is little in the win column to suggest that the 2006 World Cup hero knows how to use the individuals at his disposal to get results for the Warriors at present.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-2-3-1): 22.Adrian Foncette (GK); 16.Alvin Jones, 2.Aubrey David, 4.Sheldon Bateau, 6.Keston Julien; 19.Kevan George, 15.Neveal Hackshaw; 18.Aikim Andrews (5.Ross Russell Jr 79), 9.Ataulla Guerra (14.Daniel Carr 81), 11.Levi Garcia (20.Akeem Garcia 65); 10.Marcus Joseph (7.Andre Fortune 73).
Unused substitutes: 21.Glenroy Samuel (GK), 17.Mekeil Williams, 8.Aaron Lester, 13. Duane Muckette, 23.Leston Paul.
Head coach: Dennis Lawrence
Venezuela (4-1-4-1): 1.Wuilker Faríñez (GK) (22.Rafael Romo (GK) 46); 20.Ronald Hernández (14.Gabriel Benitez 46), 24.Yordan Osorio, 3.Mikel Villanueva, 21.Rolf Feltscher; 5.Júnior Moreno; 15.Jhon Murillo (10.Jefferson Savarino 73), 17.Rómulo Otero (11.Juan Pablo Añor 65), 8.Tomás Rincon, 7.Darwin Machís (18.Yeferson Soteldo 46); 23.Salomón Rondón (9.Andrés Ponce 77).
Unused substitutes: 2.Wilker Ángel, 4.Jhon Chancellor, 6.Yangel Herrera, 13.Renzo Zambrano, 19.Fernando Aristeguieta.
Head coach: Rudamel Dudamel