Sun, Jul

Trinidad and Tobago’s United States duo Leslie Fitzpatrick and Marlon Rojas rejoined the “Warriors” camp on Monday morning with some timely support in their corner after learning that their staff members and teammates at Real Salt Lake were backing them to come through on top in Saturday’s crucial 2006 World Cup qualifier against Panama.

Both players went through their paces under the guidance of coach Leo Beenhakker at the Larry Gomes Stadium on Monday morning and then at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in the afternoon period.

Fitzpatrick and Rojas, who both made their senior international debuts last year were in the Salt Lake start team which lost 3-0 to Chicago Fire on Saturday but already scheduled to fly out to Port of Spain the next day, coach John Ellinger decided to take both players off midway through the second half in order to ensure they were injury free for the week of preparations with the “Warriors”.

“The result was a disappointing one and you always want to play a full game as well but I think it was a good gesture by the coach to take off both myself and Marlon because he know we would be having a big week ahead of us before the Panama game,” Fitzpatrick told TTFF Media after arriving home on Sunday night. Both he and Rojas played in the 4-0 win over Bermuda last Wednesday and jetted back to Salt Lake the following morning.

“The guys know that Panama gave the US a good run when the two teams played earlier in the campaign and I guess they know too that our team (T&T) needs to be at its best to get a positive result which is obviously a win on Saturday. Marlon has been working hard and we both intend to give it our all in whatever way to ensure that we pull this one off on the weekend,” Fitzpatrick added.

The Panamanians will arrive here later this week following their recent 1-1 draw with Venezuela and though losing on two occasions, one result being a 6-0 demolition in 2000 when Dwight Yorke netted a hattrick in his first game as skipper, the Central Americans are not to be taken lightly. Beenhakker knows this, saying “This game is crucial for us. Thoughe may surprise the United States or Mexico, we must be realistic and take our points where we can and doing it at home to Panama is one which we must capitalize on.  The main battle for us is with the lesser teams, and we have to win our home games in order to fight for that third or fourth spot.”

Much of their attacking hopes are expected to fall on Roberto "El Bombardero" Brown, who is their leading 2006 World Cup scorer with six goals along with  Julio Medina and José Luís "El Pistolero" Garcés. Engin Mitre and Alberto Blanco are the central men in the back line.  Most times they use the 4-4-2 system but can also switch to a 3-5-2.