The Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team reverted to type tonight with a largely sterile showing away to Ecuador in a 3-0 friendly international defeat to the solid South American nation.
Coach Dennis Lawrence could point to the effort and defensive organisation of the Soca Warriors as encouraging signs while two of three goals conceded by the visitors could be chalked down to individual errors.
However, the Trinidad and Tobago offensive line was timid to the point of being non-existent. The only shot registered by the Warriors over the 90 minutes came from left back Mekeil Williams in the 66th minute—Ecuador had 14 shots—and it was no more than catching practice for Ecuador custodian Johan Padilla.
Padilla, incidentally, was making only his second international outing for Ecuador while his back four had a combined eight caps between them. The Warriors’ inability to put any pressure on their fresh-faced opponents, even for a spell, was a bucket of cold water to Lawrence’s suggestion that they would take momentum from their record 15-0 win over Anguilla on Sunday.
Anguilla are ranked 209th from 209 member associations. Ecuador are a far healthier 63rd on in the FIFA rankings—tied with the Warriors’ next opponent, Honduras.
Lawrence needs a vastly improved showing on the offensive end in Honduras on Sunday. Trinidad and Tobago are bottom of their Concacaf Nations League group and need a win in San Pedro Sula to avoid being relegated to the Concacaf second tier and missing out on automatic qualification to the 2021 Gold Cup tournament.
Martinique held Honduras 1-1 in Fort-de-France tonight to isolate Trinidad and Tobago at the bottom of the group. Honduras have six points, Martinique have three and T&T have two. However, an inferior goal difference means that Trinidad and Tobago would stay last with anything short of a victory this weekend.
The Warriors have already failed to book a spot in the Concacaf Hex for the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying series.
Lawrence said he would use tonight’s outing to prepare for the Honduras test—with the Anguilla romp seeming to have no purpose but to end his team’s 14 match winless streak. But there were a few surprises in the starting team with Nicklas Frenderup in goal, Carlyle Mitchell used ahead of Sheldon Bateau in central defence and Aaron Lester, Nathan Lewis, Andre Fortune Jr and Ross Russell Jr in his five-man midfield.
Lawrence’s faith in his Pro League players—Mitchell, Lester, Russell Jr and Lewis—would be more stirring if the calibre of the local competition was not his default excuse for poor performances, despite often choosing to leave out Europe and North America-based players to use locals.
The Warriors’ first setback came in the 22nd minute; and it was a big one. Captain and Saudi Arabia-based midfielder Khaleem Hyland went down in some discomfort and was replaced by Ataulla Guerra.
Lawrence would certainly hope to have the services of the bullish Hyland in hostile Honduras.
Frenderup had to stretch to keep out an attempted lob by Michael Estrada in the 26th minute after a stray pass by Fortune Jr created a counter-attack opportunity for the hosts.
Three minutes later, Ecuador had their first goal. Estrada spun away from Cyrus and drove into the Trinidad and Tobago penalty box before pulling the ball to create a simple chance for Alan Franco. It was a debut goal for the 21-year-old Franco, who was winning his fourth international cap.
The 28-year-old Cyrus, incidentally, has 89 international caps.
Estrada had a golden opportunity to make it 2-0 in the 36th minute but was denied by Frenderup’s legs, after the Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper created the opening in the first place with a poor clearance. But, at halftime, the 1-0 scoreline seemed a fair return.
The Warriors, who curiously travelled without MLS-based attacking midfielder Kevin Molino, were impotent in attack though.
Lawrence used Ryan Telfer, Jomoul Francois and Matthew Woo Ling off the bench in the second half but it was always likely that 30-year-old Ecuadorian substitute Enner Valencia—who had 29 goals from 52 appearances at kick off—would be the most effective change.
Valencia barely broke a sweat to add two goals to his CV. His first, in the 69th minute, came from the penalty spot after Trinidad and Tobago left back Mekeil Williams inadvertently blocked an Angel Mena cross with his hand. And a poor pass at the back by Mitchell was relayed by winger Marcos Caicedo to Valencia for another simple finish in the 84th minute.
Lester, a holding midfielder for Defence Force, had a decent showing for the Warriors while Alvin Jones and Williams were not overawed in either full back position. Trinidad and Tobago were generally defensively organised too.
But Lawrence must add quite a bit of ‘oomph’ to those pluses if the Warriors are to trouble Honduras this weekend.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-2-3-1): 22.Nicklas Frenderup (GK); 16.Alvin Jones, 5.Daneil Cyrus (vice-captain) (4.Sheldon Bateau 46), 12.Carlyle Mitchell, 17.Mekeil Williams; 8.Khaleem Hyland (captain) (9.Ataulla Guerra 22), 23.Aaron Lester; 7.Nathan Lewis (11.Ryan Telfer 62), 15.Andre Fortune (19.Matthew Woo Ling 79), 3.Ross Russell Jr; 14.Daniel Carr (9.Jomoul Francois 60).
Unused substitutes: 1.Marvin Phillip (GK), 21.Glenroy Samuel (GK), Aubrey David, 6.Keston Julien, 2.Kevon Goddard, Duane Muckette, Aikim Andrews, Jomal Williams, 10.Marcus Joseph, Rundell Winchester.
Coach: Dennis Lawrence
Ecuador (4-2-3-1): 1.Johan Padilla (GK); 23.Bryan Carabali, 2.Félix Torres, 14.Xavier Arreaga (6.Moises Corozo 73), 3.Diego Palacios; 8.Jhegson Mendez, 21.Alan Franco (24.Jordan Sierra 57); 5.Renato Ibarra (9.Joao Rojas 66), 10.Angel Mena (27 Cabeza 75), 7.Romario Ibarra (11.Marcos Caicedo 43); 19.Michael Estrada (13.Enner Valencia 57).
Unused substitutes: 12.Jorge Pinos, 17.Andrés Lopez, 4.Gustavo Cortez, 20.Gonzalo Plata, 15.José Cifuentes, 22.Brian Heras, 26.Leonel Quiñonez,
Coach: Jorge Célico