With the goal clearly stated, Stephen Hart is priming Trinidad & Tobago to navigate an arduous CONCACAF qualifying campaign in order to obtain a treasured place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup table.
Four years removed from missing out on the six-team final round for Brazil 2014, the Soca Warriors will launch their Russian journey at Guatemala on November 13, before hosting the United States four days later.
“The objective is to get in the Hex,” Hart told CONCACAF.com, referring to what is the widely-known moniker for the final round of qualifying in CONCACAF. “If you do your business at home and hope to get some points on the road, you should be able to get in.”
After the failed qualifying attempt last time and before the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, the Trinidad & Tobago Football Association hired Hart, who had previously managed Canada.
For next week’s encounters, captain and forward Kenwyne Jones headlines a 22-man squad, which will train in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for four days, before traveling to Guatemala City.
“They (the Guatemalans) are very confident at home, we cannot be sloppy in our approach,” remarked Hart. “They have had tremendous success at home and we have to be cognizant of the fact that you are playing a team that at home has been difficult for anyone going in there.”
It won’t get any easier for the Trinidadians when the U.S. pays a visit to Hasely Crawford Stadium. Although the Americans are winless in five of their last six matches, including three straight losses, Hart isn’t letting those recent results dictate his approach to preparation.
“We will see a different United States team,” he expressed. “They will be a team that is completely different from what we have seen in the last few outings. However, we have to take advantage of the fact we are playing at home.”
Since taking charge of T&T more than two years ago, Hart has galvanized support from the local community with enterprising play and positive results, including two thrilling draws against Mexico during the last four months.
In the CONCACAF Gold Cup, Trinidad earned a Group C-clinching point thanks to Yohance Marshall’s goal late in stoppage time that made it 4-4. The sides then tied 3-3 in a neutral-site friendly on September 4.
Those impressive scorelines have inspired confidence heading into World Cup Qualifying, but Hart believes a measured, patient approach must be maintained.
“The main thing is not to panic with the opening two games because there is a huge break between these games in November and March,” the 55-year-old finished. “That’s the most important thing.”