Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Terry Fenwick spent the last week discussing starting his era at the helm with a bang. This could not have been what he had in mind.
In 113 years as an international football nation, the twin island republic’s largest ever defeat came at the Azteca Stadium on 8 October 2000, when they were mowed down 7-0 by Mexico. Fenwick matched it in his first day on the job tonight, as the Soca Warriors were routed 7-0 by the United States at the Exploria Stadium in Orlando.
Major League Soccer (MLS) stand-out Joevin Jones referred to the clash as ‘a suicide mission’ last week and it didn’t take long before everyone else appreciated the gravity of the mismatch.
The game was just one minute and 43 seconds old when winger Jonathan Lewis put the hosts ahead with a close ranged finish, after buildup play that involved marauding left back Sam Vines and forward Jesús Ferreira. It did not get better from there for the visitors.
USA doubled their advantage in the ninth minute with Vines benefitting from a dozing referee’s assistant to cross for a volleyed Ferreira finish. And, by halftime, the hosts were four goals clear and the match was long over as a contest.
Winger Paul Arriola got a double in the 22nd and 42nd minutes, assisted on each occasion by Ferreira.
Arriola scored twice in his last match against the Warriors too, when USA won 6-0 at the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup. But, to put the two games in context, Dennis Lawrence’s team did not concede their first goal until the 39th minute and trailed by a solitary item at the break.
At the Gold Cup, Trinidad and Tobago and USA were full strength; tonight, both fielded second string teams. It is no surprise that the North Americans have more strength in depth than their Caribbean counterparts.
But does the difference extend beyond that?
Fenwick invited early pressure on himself by making much of high scoring friendlies against local makeshift teams, while there were raised eyebrows at his 24-man squad selected for the American trip.
At kickoff, eyebrows shot higher still as he named Josiah Trimmingham as team captain—on his second full cap—ahead of the likes of goalkeeper Adrian Foncette and right back Alvin Jones, while the Warriors played with a high defensive press but little else to check the offensive flow of their hosts.
On the ball, Trinidad and Tobago barely strung a handful of passes together and, at halftime, they managed just 99 passes with an accuracy rate of 57 percent—as opposed to 328 passes at a 91 percent accuracy rate by USA. The Americans had nine shots on target by then, while the Warriors had no shots and a solitary corner to show on the offensive end.
The introduction of Michel Poon-Angeron and Duane Muckette improved things somewhat, as finally Trinidad and Tobago had players able to get on the ball and deal with the tempo of their opponents.
By full time, the count read: 586 passes at 90 percent accuracy by USA, and 226 passes at 65 percent accuracy by T&T.
Safe to say then that Fenwick’s decision to start Jones (A) in central midfield alongside 18-year-old Atlanta United Academy player Ajani Fortune did not reap dividends.
Trimmingham, who looked overweight, was never going to last the game—and didn’t. And Jamal Jack struggled at left back, just as he did when former coach Stephen Hart tried him there in a friendly against Panama on 27 March 2015. That, incidentally, was the last time any T&T coach felt the versatile journeyman was good enough to play at international level.
On the positive side, Foncette made more than a handful of fine saves and could not be faulted for a single item. And central defender Leland Archer did about as well as he could in a wide-open backline and did not deserve to make his debut in such a farcical affair.
Centre forward Ryan Telfer was involved in the Warriors’ only threatening offensive moves and won a penalty in the 65th minute when he surprised opposing substitute Andrés Perea with a clever flick over his head, that prompted a rash challenge.
It summed up Trinidad and Tobago’s night when Jones’ (A) spot kick was comfortably saved by debutant USA goalkeeper Matt Turner, who dived low to his right.
After 26 international appearances, Jones’ (A) only goal remains the outstanding strike on 10 October 2017 that condemned USA to a crippling World Cup qualifying defeat.
Trinidad and Tobago did not hold the USA’s respect for long after that, as Lawrence’s troops lost their next meeting 6-0.
USA bettered that score tonight, as defender Miles Robinson scored with a close range header in the 52nd minute, Lewis cut in off the left flank to arrow the sixth into the far corner, and Ferreira got the seventh in the 62nd minute—with Jack AWOL at left back.
USA coach Gregg Berhalter made four changes in the 64th minute and his replacements were unable to add to the score, as they finished one goal shy of their all-time record 8-0 win, which came at the expense of Barbados on 15 June 2008.
The Fox Sport 1 commentators explained to listeners why the USA players should not celebrate with too much gusto at the closing whistle. Presumably then, Berhalter will not take to Facebook to coo about the result—as would his opposing number.
It was a chastening debut for Fenwick. Next up, the Warriors are expected to host Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines in February before they face Guyana in their opening Qatar World Cup qualifier on 25 March.
The combative Englishman will do well to have put this game behind him and his players by then.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-3-3): 22.Adrian Foncette (GK); 3.Federico Pena (15.Neveal Hackshaw 59), 5.Leland Archer, 4.Josiah Trimmingham (captain) (2.Justin Garcia 59), 12.Jamal Jack (6.Noah Powder 82); 18.Ajani Fortune (10.Duane Muckette 58), 16.Alvin Jones, 8.Andre Fortune Jr (13.Michel Poon-Angeron 58); 17.Sean Bonval (14.Matthew Woo Ling 56), 7.Ryan Telfer, 11.Jabari Mitchell.
Unused substitutes: 1.Marvin Phillip (GK), 9.Brent Sam, 19.Jesse Williams, 20.Hashim Arcia, 21.Gary Griffith III, 23.Jonathan Jimenez.
Coach: Terry Fenwick
United States (4-3-3): 1.Matt Turner (GK); 2.Aaron Herrera (25.Tanner Tessmann 78), 12.Miles Robinson, 3.Aaron Long (captain), 4.Sam Vines (21.George Bello 64); 10.Kellyn Acosta, 6.Jackson Yueill (15.Cristian Roldan 64), 17.Sebastian Lletget (8.Andrés Perea 46); 7.Paul Arriola (19.Daryl Dike 65), 9.Jesús Ferreira (11.Chris Mueller 64), 14.Jonathan Lewis.
Unused substitutes: 24.Matt Freese (GK), 5.Walker Zimmerman, 16.Kyle Duncan, 20.Benji Michel, 22.Mauricio Pineda.
Coach: Gregg Berhalter
Referee: Hector Martinez (El Salvador)
International Friendly result
USA 7 (Jonathan Lewis 2, 55, Jesús Ferreira 9, 62, Paul Arriola 22, 42, Miles Robinson 52), Trinidad and Tobago 0 in Orlando.