Thu, Jun

THE result in Mexico was not unexpected.

Playing the Mexicans in their own backyard is as difficult, in my humble opinion, as facing Brazil or Germany at home, so Leo and the boys could take much heart from the 0-2 loss.

Not bad when one considers that Mexico beat world champions Brazil 1-0 in a group match in the Confederations Cup Tournament in Germany last week.

If we had to lose, better it had been one goal.

But we can’t change the result.

To silence the passionate Mexican crowd took some doing, and until that second Mexico goal in the last five minutes of regulation time, the Soca Warriors were still in the game and making the opposition bench sweat with every spirited counter attack; alas, it was not to be, and the chance to pull off that miraculous victory or the against-the-odds draw against the Central American football giant slipped away.

Five down ... and five to go!

Four points from five games -- three of those five being home games -- has placed the Warriors in an unenviable position.

But, putting aside the statistical result of the game, there is much for Leo and the Warriors to be bullish about, after all it is not every day we see a Caribbean team facing the Mexican fire and coming out of the contest with a better reputation than the one the team went into the game with.

A group of friends and I had journeyed into Port of Spain for a lime at one of those watering holes on the Boulevard; the girls were left to do the talking as the guys downed fistful after fistful of the golden lager, eyes glued to the television set.

What a terrific pace the game was played at; that, in itself, was a stern test of our capability and capacity to play the game at this level, and we came out of it very, very well.

Mexico threw everything at us, like Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns back in the 80s when Tommy gave his best, and only the very best could resist his assault.

Sugar Ray Leonard did.

Mexico can fall, I am convinced, and the Warriors will probably have to pull off “the knockout” when the teams meet in TnT come November. With only two home games in the second round, the Warriors are going to need those six points from visiting Guatemala and Mexico. It is as simple as that.

Leo must be thinking the same thing, having seen what we achieved in Monterrey, the Dutch coach must be fancying his chances against Guatemala and Mexico at home, and in this mood, it is quite possible for us to deny the Americans victory in the US as Jamaica did in the previous round.

For starters, we should be playing better than Jamaica when the teams do meet in August to start the second round of the CONCACAF series.

The tactics away to the US, Costa Rica and Panama, must be different to the tactics when playing at home, and if we can hold the pattern we did against Mexico, those three teams will not have it easy getting the wins they need.

It may be even possible for the Warriors to win one of those away matches.

Leo’s confidence is obviously infectious and it is working wonders for the team.

It is even spilling out into the living rooms of out football faithful; I see that Richard and Alvin think that seven points will get us to see the sights of Berlin, Munich, Cologne, Hanover and Kiel.

Seven points, easy to say, but believe me, sports fans, hard to get.

It reminds me of this terrific girl I knew in Arima back in the 80s, try as I did to get her to bond with me, the lady would not wilt to my masculine savvy and I had to accept defeat.

Difficult, difficult girl, she was, but so beautiful in life, so real, so unlike the common fare of today, until finally, she did wilt, and paid for it with her life, thinking, I suppose, like most women would, that love would protect them.

One slip is all it takes.

Likewise, Mexico and Guatemala just have to make one little slip, and that isn’t unrealistic, given the sort of tight game the Warriors are playing at the moment.

It should be an interesting couple of months ahead of us, and hopefully Leo can continue the rate of improvement we have seen so far in the team.

There is more exposure to come in the Gold Cup and a lot of room for improvement in the interim.

This is still a very tough assignment; the only comfort is that each of the other three teams -- Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Panama, in the fight for third place behind Mexico and the US have to face the same hurdles.

The return of Clayton Ince and Shaka Hislop for the second round will also add a crucial element of experience needed at this level.

Kelvin Jack did a pretty decent job for the games against Panama and Mexico, but coming down the stretch, experience will be the difference between points and nada.

Experience has certainly worked for us with Leo.

Real Madrid, Holland ... that’s enough pedigree right there for one lifetime.
And because of the value of experience, I am going to try and meet the Dutchman myself because I am having a few problems myself; hell, it seems to me Leo can fix anything.

And if I can get him to help me out of my dilemma, and “fix” my team for me, I may be able to encourage him to open Russell’s door so that the three of us -- Leo, Russell, and me -- could sit and puff some of those Cuban cigars and talk of things there are for hire.

There is a saying among the Xhosa tribesmen of South Africa, that for every problem, there is a story with the key to solve it, or something like that.

Sorry, it’s been five years since I visited South Africa, I can’t be expected to remember everything.

Maybe, Leo could recruit me, the storyteller, and grandson of Felix Ortiz, the straightest dude I ever knew, to rewrite the ending for him.

In my November climax, of course, the Warriors are tied at 1-1 with Mexico with 20 minutes left, and the prodigal son enters the fray, the team desperately needing those three points to secure a place in Germany, and Russell picks up the ball between the midfield and Stern and Dwight and begins dancing like he has never danced before, the legs no longer those of a 36-year-old, but the occasion making him a man half his age, driven by desire, driven by the covenant, that there is still, and never will be, any substitute for experience...

Yes, Leo, you can do it.