Thu, Jun

Yorke sees win over US as morale booster for T&T.

Former Trinidad and Tobago captain Dwight Yorke has offered complimentary words to Dennis Lawrence and the members of the National Team for Tuesday’s 2-1 victory over the United States.

But he has made his feelings clear that there is a still a lot more work to be done to take the team forward into future campaigns starting with Qatar 2022. The captain of the 2006 World Cup team spoke following the news of T&T’s win which pushed the team to six points but left them at the bottom of the six-team Concacaf qualifying table.

“I think it’s a good morale boosting victory for Dennis (Lawrence) and the entire squad and good to see the miserable losing streak has finally ended. We felt a lot of pain as as players and as a nation in 1989 and they (USA) will have a similar feeling now. However, that’s all there should be to it. There’s nothing more to celebrate really because we have the brunt of the work to do from here. We’ve got to strip ourselves down as a footballing nation and see where we go from here if we really want to get anywhere as footballing nation. At the end of the day we finished bottom of the table and it’s not something I am proud to speak about or like to hear people say to me,” Yorke said.

“I read somewhere where we have gone two years with 19 losses in 29 matches, more than any other country in that period and that is a record that must be addressed as we go ahead”

“To celebrate the demise of the United States is not something we should be focusing on because that’s how things are done out there. What we should really be doing is just quietly accepting that we got a victory and looking to see where we go from here,” added the former Manchester United man who is now based in Dubai as a coach and is a member of FIFA’s Football Development committee.

“I heard there were about 3,000 persons at the game last night and when you compare that to the fact that there were 35,000 and more to see the game in 1989 and another ten thousand who couldn’t get in, then that tells you the state of our game at the moment and we’ve got to work on that. There’s no sense ranting about anything if the country at large is not supporting the football.

“And to me, just blowing up because we knocked the United States out of the World Cup is not enough. They have suffered a tremendous loss in billions of dollars by not going to Russia and I can tell you, they will do whatever it takes to get themselves up again. We must do the same because we have a lot more fixing to do than them and it has to start sooner than later,” Yorke said.


Fox Projects Up to $20 Million in Lost World Cup Ad Sales
By Lucas Shaw, Eben Novy-Williams and Ira Boudway (bloomberg)

Without the U.S. team in the 2018 World Cup, Fox Sports projects it will lose $10 million to $20 million in advertising sales, according to a person close to the company.

The projection is lower than some outside estimates. Fox has already sold about 75 percent of its advertising inventory, which will mitigate the absence of the U.S., said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. The broadcaster paid $400 million for the English-language U.S. rights to broadcast the next two editions of the soccer tournament.

Another person familiar with Fox Sports said the number will probably turn out to be higher, at around $50 million.

Shares of parent company 21st Century Fox Inc., which had dropped on the U.S. team’s failure to qualify for the tournament Tuesday night, inched higher on Bloomberg’s report. They were down 2.2 percent to $26.18 at 3:04 p.m. in New York.

Fox’s acquisition of World Cup rights, a deal announced in 2011, seemed like a sure thing at the time. Soccer continues to get more popular in the U.S., and live sports content has been one of the few areas of programming keeping viewers tuned in to live television.

Fox also had no reason to think the U.S. team would fail to qualify for the first time since 1986. Even after a few stumbles in the early rounds of qualifying, the U.S. team entered the last round of games with a 93 percent chance to qualify. But a shocking loss to Trinidad on Tuesday, paired with wins by Panama and Honduras, knocked the U.S. out of the running.

The World Cup’s popularity in the U.S. is deeply tied to the performance of the men’s national team. In the 2014 tournament, an early-stage match between the U.S. and Portugal drew more viewers than either semifinal. Two of the three most-watched matches that year featured the U.S., and though the team was eliminated before the quarterfinals, its games made up 20 percent of the U.S. viewership.

“Last night’s World Cup qualifying results do not change Fox Sports’ passion for the world’s biggest sporting event,” Fox said in a statement. “While the U.S. was eliminated, the biggest stars in the world from Lionel Messi to Cristiano Ronaldo stamped their tickets to Russia on the same day, and will battle teams ranging from Mexico to England that have massive fan bases in America.”

Without the U.S., early-stage games on Fox will probably draw about half the audience, according to independent media consultant Brad Adgate. It’s like having the small-market Minnesota Twins and Colorado Rockies playing in the World Series, he said: “I just don’t think it resonates with anyone but the most hardcore fans.”

The absence of the U.S. team will drive away casual viewers and the advertisers that want their money. Because Russia is hosting, games will air at what for a U.S. audience will be odd hours.

“The one thing that Fox has done is they have locked in some advertisers earlier in the sales process than I know ESPN historically would have,” said John Guppy, founder of Gilt Edge Soccer Marketing. “The fact that they have been able to get commitments earlier, I think is going to help them in the sales goals that they are trying to hit.”

In addition to adjusting its marketing to emphasize the appeal of soccer’s biggest global stars, Fox will feature Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia in an appeal to Hispanic viewers. Unfortunately for Fox, many of those viewers may opt to watch on Comcast Corp.’s Telemundo, the broadcaster that paid $600 million for the Spanish-language U.S. rights to the next two Cups.

The lack of U.S. participation in 2018 compounds problems Fox is facing with the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which was moved to winter to avoid the Middle Eastern country’s harsh summer temperatures. That change means the tournament will compete for viewers with the NFL, NBA and NHL, another bad result for Fox.

Fox will have a chance to make up some of those losses in 2026, which has a lot going for it: It’s a bigger tournament and North America is likely to be the host. What’s more, the company agreed in a closed bidding process to pay $300 million for the games (with a $180 million bonus if the U.S. hosts), a price discounted by as much as $500 million to compensate for the Qatar schedule change.

USA suffer a heartbreak all too familiar to Soca faithful

“We were so close to reaching the World Cup and then we all woke up the next morning to realise our dreams had been dashed,” said one player, looking ahead to a narrowly missed chance to live out a FIFA World Cup™ fantasy.

“The disappointment was almost too much to bear,” said another.

These could so easily be the words of USA’s stars today, knowing that just a point in Trinidad and Tobabo would have taken them to Russia 2018. In fact, they are those of the Soca Warriors' own Russell Latapy and Dwight Yorke who, 28 years ago, saw their dreams shattered by the Stars and Stripes in an eerily similar manner to the USA’s 2-1 defeat on Tuesday night.

History tells the story of Paul Caligiuri’s goal catapulting the USA to Italy 1990 on the final day of qualifying – when only a win would do – into a run of seven successive appearances at the finals after a 40-year absence. The flip side of that tale then was that T&T's legendary ‘Strike Squad’, a team arguably not even matched by the one that made their World Cup debut 17 years later, missed out in heartbreaking style.

The young stars of that team, Latapy and Yorke, would go on to finally live out their dreams at Germany 2006, but the parallels of their near-miss to the USA’s today are striking. Just like the Soca Warriors that day, all Bruce Arena’s side needed was a point to stamp their World Cup ticket and, ultimately, a thunderous goal from distance was what inflicted defeat - though last night's Couva reboot occurred 40 minutes drive south of the Port of Spain original.

While Alvin Jones’s screamer will not be heralded in the same way as Caligiuri’s, having not brought the joy of a finals to a nation, his name may well go on to bring shudders down the spines of USA fans for years to come, just as the California native’s did for the Caribbean island’s football faithful.

What is certain is the reactions to the defeat are very reminiscent to the words uttered by the vanquished side almost three decades ago. None more so than those of Omar Gonzalez, whose own goal set the American nightmare rolling after just 17 minutes.

“I just want to say sorry to the fans. We let down an entire nation,” the defender, who appeared at Brazil 2014, reflected. “It's one of the most unlucky goals ever, I think, for myself. It will haunt me forever. I never thought that I’d see this day. This is the worst day of my career.”

Conspiring fate

A goal that was as farcical as it was horrendously unfortunate, slicing wildly off the outside of his boot to loop over Tim Howard, it was a strike – as with Jones’ top-drawer effort – that seemed to point squarely to it not being USA’s night.

“It was kind of like fate, having it come down to that last game,” Mike Windischmann, captain of the side that would go on to appear at Italy 1990, told on their island triumph. Following a disjointed qualifying campaign, some may view the defeat in a similar, albeit less rosy, manner.

Inconsistency punctuated by moments of brilliant cohesion on their Russia-targeting journey, namely putting ten past Panama and Honduras on American soil, means there will be plenty of questions asked as a generation of USA fans must watch a World Cup without a home side to get behind.

However, few will envisage the likes of Christian Pulisic, USA's young starlet and last night's standout performer, will have to wait as long as Yorke to taste a trip to the finals. But in the immediate aftermath of defeat, there will have been plenty on hand in Couva who could easily empathise with the pain of missing out this way.

Soca Warriors close off in style
By Colin Murray (T&T Guardian)

The shame and embarrassment when I saw photos of the river that was flowing through the running track when the USA team went to practice at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva before the World Cup qualifier against T&T soon turned to ecstasy on Tuesday night as the USA were dealt a significantly crushing defeat by the Soca Warriors.

After that, the only river that flowed was from the tears of the USA team as they failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986. Before we go into the superb performance of the T&T team, I sincerely hope that the Ministry of Sport and the chairman of the Sports Company launch a thorough investigation into the state of that running track that bears the name of one of our best athletes.

Yes, I agree the Americans played on it but to simply dismiss it in the arrogant way that an official of the T&T Football Association (TTFA) did, is as ridiculous as they behaved.

How did they do it? Firstly, the support was woeful. Someone said to me he thought the Americans had more support. Be that as it may, these boys showed heart, spirit, tenacity and real attitude that finally brought a smile to Dennis Lawrence’s face. I have said it before, and will continue to say that in Stephen Hart and now Dennis Lawrence, we have had two excellent coaches.

Dennis’ philosophy is simple - work hard, be disciplined, have a good attitude and show some pride when representing the red, white and black; believe me the 11 players and the three substitutes all showed those qualities and more.

You could have seen it coming. They played well in Costa Rica, looked good for 78 minutes against Mexico, but faulted badly against Honduras and Panama. However for the first time the team fought with grit and determination for 95 minutes. Lawrence did point out it was the first time he got a full solid performance from his team.

The burning question remains - now that the World Cup dream is over where do we go from here? The coach says he needs to continue working with these boys and he wants to get many international friendlies as his dream is to make T&T the No 1 team in the Caribbean. However, he needs support.

We as a people tend to bask in the euphoria of victory (especially against the USA) and two weeks down the road revert to the past. Dennis - my advice to you is break down whosoever door you need to. You need to carry on this momentum and do not, I repeat do not, let anyone stand in your way of achieving your goals.

You have won over the support of the nation and trust me, if the team continues to play good football, the crowds will return. You do need some marketing support and I really hope you get it. Good luck Dennis and to you and the players, thank you for the memory of Tuesday October 10, 2017 which will go down as the day the often forgotten little twin island Caribbean nation of 1.3 million people prevented the USA of 323.1 million from qualifying for football’s biggest tournament.

Revenge can strike a devastating blow as I am sure many of you were in the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain on November 19, 1989.

On another positive note let’s all journey in our thousands down to the Queen’s Park Oval in St Clair on Saturday from 7.30 pm to see the Red Force united again to oppose a Caribbean Select XI in a charity game for our Caribbean neighbours who were so badly affected by two of the worst hurricanes in recent history.

To hear Dominican West Indies selector Lockhart Sebastien describe the devastation was heart-wrenching. The hurricane relief Twenty20 (T20) game should be full of excitement with all the top stars back together again. Pollard, the Bravo brothers Dwayne and Darren, Sunil Narine, Kevon Cooper, Samuel Badree and the latest batting sensation Evin Lewis to name a few, taking on the best of the Caribbean.

Unfortunately, Chris Gayle is recuperating from injury and can’t play but it should be a cracker of a game and even though it’s for a great cause, the Red Force don’t like to lose when they are playing at home in a T20 game.

Let’s get there in our numbers and support the Red Force but equally as important, support the Hurricane relief effort.

Congrats first, review next
T&T Express

It has taken more than a quarter century for Trinidad and Tobago to savour the sweet taste of revenge with Tuesday night’s 2-1 victory over arch footballing nemesis, the United States.

The goals by Shahdon Winchester (17th minute) and Alvin Jones (36th minute) rescued some of the dignity of the national team which had been lost over the course of a lacklustre campaign for next year’s World Cup finals in Russia.

Goal for goal, however, the victory is hardly enough to erase the burning memory of T&T’s November 19 defeat against the US in 1989 which put to sudden death the nation’s hope to finally make it onto football’s world stage.

Having lost the chance, it would take another 16 years for T&T to realise its World Cup ambition after Dennis Lawrence’s magical header against Bahrain catapulted the Soca Warriors into the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany.

On Tuesday night, the stakes were nowhere as high for the national team, which has struggled throughout the 2018 World Cup campaign. By kick-off in the final match at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, heart-broken fans had already deserted their team in droves.

By contrast with the teeming thousands that had turned up to support the team early in the campaign, Tuesday night’s match got little fanatic energy from the stands. It took only a scent of victory, however, to bring fans rushing back in an explosion of overdue joy as the final whistle was blown.

In defeating the US and blocking its path to Russia, the national squad has lifted afresh the hope for a future beyond Russia. Before all of this, however, the process of honest review and evaluation must be engaged.

The hard truth is that T&T football is exactly where thinking minds feared it would be after Germany 2006. Having worked the odds to get there, successive teams of football administrators have failed to lay down the infrastructure for sustained development of national football.

Even as the faces change, football’s legacy of highly centralised, ad hoc and arbitrary management has continued to promote an unstable and antagonistic environment which has taken a tremendous toll on our football talents.

Once again, we have been given the chance to learn that excellence cannot be achieved by cutting corners or by taking short cuts. There is no alternative to the systematic and strategic planning needed to lift our football from the doldrums in which it now languishes and put it on a path to Qatar 2022.

While one expects the T&T Football Association to conduct an exhaustive review of the now completed campaign, the TTFA cannot be left to review itself. If national football is to move forward on a solid basis, an independent review of the TTFA’s management of the campaign is required.

The T&T public has a vested interest in the future of our football. We are thankful that coach Lawrence and his team have given us something to smile about. Let’s celebrate today for tomorrow the work must begin anew.