Trinidad and Tobago's Men's Olympic footballers had their first training session in California on Wednesday evening from 6:30pm at the Home Depot Center training pitch number 3 after arriving from Fort Lauderdale at 1pm (4pm T&T Time) ahead of their opening final round CONCACAF Olympic qualifier against Mexico on Friday.
Head coach Angus Eve and his men checked in at the Marriot Torrance and had a surprise visit from ex-LA Galaxy midfielder Chris Birchall who was in LA for the club's MLS Ring presentation ceremony following their MLS title winning season last year. Birchall met with members of the team and wished them well ahead of their qualifying series.
"It's a pity I'm going back to London today because I would have definitely liked seeing them play. It's a great stadium to play in at Home Depot and it's a fantastic opportunity for the boys. I was in town for the Ring ceremony and I walked into our former manager Bruce Aanensen in the elevator last night... it was a pleasant surprise," Birchall told TTFF Media.
"I'd definitely like to see them do well and come to London for the Olympics later this year."
The Mexican team is also staying at the Marriot as well as MLS club DC United for an earlier MLS league fixture. Nick De Leon, son of former T&T great Leroy De Leon is also with the team and was expected to hold talks with Eve over his international future.
De Leon had been invited to join the team for the Olympic qualifiers but insufficient time didn't allow for him to be part of the current squad.
Orlando City midfielder Kevin Molino made the six-hour flight from Fort Lauderdale with the rest of the squad and is eager to take the pitch on Friday.
“It’s game time again for us and I’m always ready to play for Trinidad and Tobago. We’ve come a long way and prepared for this tournament and now it’s getting closer to kick off time.
I think we will be in with a good chance here. Once we can hold our own like we did in the Pan-Am Games then we could certainly get some good results here and progress in the tournament,” Molino said.
Scores of Mexican journalists also covered the team's arrival at Los Angeles International Airport and the Marriot Hotel.
The T&T team will train on Thursday morning at 10am at Home Depot before Friday's clash with the Mexicans at 830pm (11:30pm T&T time).
Mexican coach: T&T not to be taken lightly.
Mexico’s head coach Luis Fernando Tena has no intentions of taking Trinidad and Tobago lightly when both team clash in their CONCACAF Olympic qualifier on Friday night at 8:30pm (11:30 pm T&T time) at the Home Depot Center, California.
Mexico defeated Senegal 2-1 in San Francisco on Saturday n their final warm up clash and Tena still sees room for improvement. And while most media houses, particularly those in the US, have been rating T&T as the weakest team in the competition, Tena remembers the 1-1 draw in Guadalajara last October.
“They’re a very organized team, they (T&T) have a lot of speed,” he told reporters.
Tena, also the assistant coach of Mexico’s senior team, believes defending champions Honduras can be a dangerous team in the competition.
“They have time working together. It is a team that’s strong, the same thing as Panama – that they have a long time working together. Costa Rica and Trinidad as well,” the former Club America coach said.
“We still have work to do,” he explained after the win over Senegal. “I think the team has a nice line in the front, we’re still dominating the game a little bit, but we’re trying to understand that we have a good position, we have a good roster, we have depth in our roster and we’re looking to learn how to attack the rivals.”
T&T head coach Angus Eve has warned his players about any level of complacency as while they respect the Mexicans, they may be fooled into believing that because of the 1-1 result in Guadalajara, the result will easily be as positive on Friday.
“They are coming at us even harder than before,” Eve told TTFF Media. “And I’ve made it clear to the players that they will be playing in their backyard. There will be a huge Mexican presence in the Stadium and we’ve got to be switched on for 95 plus minutes.”
Orlando City midfielder Kevin Molino joined the T&T Team prior to their flight to California at 10am on Wednesday while Polish-based defender Mekeil Williams is scheduled to meet the team at the Marriot Torrance Hotel, Fashion Way, California. The T&T team is scheduled to arrive there around 4pm T&T Time.
“We are focused on the task at hand. I think we’ve been together long enough and we’ve played some matches that required a level of concentration such as in the Pan American Games so we know what need to do,” skipper Sheldon Bateau told TTFF Media.
“We’re down to the final squad and every player knows his role and responsibility.”