Fri, Apr

Soca ‘not so much’ Warriors? A night to forget.

Having spent an enjoyable Sunday afternoon watching the champions of England - Liverpool - and in particular, Mo Salah score for me what could be the goal of the season, I eagerly awaited the clash between the Soca Warriors and the USA later on in the evening.

Now, let me state categorically I did not expect T&T to win the game. I figured a 4-0 loss was the worst-case scenario but 7-0 was embarrassing and totally degrading and coach Terry Fenwick has to stand up and say it is his fault and no one else’s. All great coaches the world over must take responsibility for the results of their teams.

Quite bizarre was the fact that coach Fenwick thought it was a good idea to gamble against the USA. With all due respect to some of our regional neighbours, you can gamble against them but not against a well-drilled, well-oiled unit like the United States.

Even though they played only their domestic players as highly-rated stars like Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams weren’t called in (thankfully) with the game falling outside of a normal FIFA window, they were still able to run all over the Soca Warriors leaving them looking battered and bruised all over the football field.

I felt genuinely sorry for the T&T players because they looked like a ‘pick up’ side for a Sunday evening sweat in the park. How can you start six players that you had not seen before? Instead, relying on observations from YouTube and other information you collected from wherever and whenever. Dear me! I would not like to go shopping with you. You may look at a store and order goods from the outside without doing any quality control yourself.

Come on, Terry, this was unacceptable! You have let T&T down. This was not San Juan Jabloteh or Central FC but the vast majority of the population was looking at the game and from the second minute, even the least interested or enthused football fan knew full well that it was going to be one of those long, disastrous and forgettable nights in the history of T&T football.

You knew what you were getting into when you took this job. You knew the T&T Football Association’s (TTFA) development programme left a lot to be desired but do not talk about the poor concentration of the players. It was your job to ensure they were fully prepared and motivated for the game. They needed to be focused and ready to pour their hearts and souls on the field of play for their country. I just didn’t see that, did you? The first 15 minutes of the game were going to be crucial and the USA waltzed through your team like skiers going downhill and just churning up the snow.

Now, having a supposed game plan in place for the first 15 minutes, I would have thought the defence should have been packed even with five at the back. I have seen you analyse games on television and when the smaller clubs play the top six, the game plan is to get everyone behind the ball, frustrate the opposition and hit them on the counter.

This USA team was quick, they were fit and passed the ball well. As a result, T&T always seemed to be chasing the ball and because the team’s defence was not compact, holes aplenty appeared and the opposition exploited them ruthlessly. When a team is playing against better opposition and this high press is used, if the players cannot play the system, acres of space is found and so the USA was quite literally having a field day.

Important to ask - what happened to the locally-based players that were training for months? Were they not good enough for this game? Was that decision made overnight? Did you suddenly wake up and decide you were going with mostly foreign-based players because they were playing more consistently than the local players through no fault of theirs other than a pandemic?

I would have thought that with all the months of training, you would have been able to analyse what you have locally and supplement that with a few foreign-based players that you would have got scouted; and brought them in to make the squad stronger and better. Are you going to go back to the locally-based players? What will happen to those foreign-based players? Is it fair to discard some of them who only trained with the squad for a mere 48 hours? Some looked unfit which is really unforgivable - if you are a professional athlete, it is your duty to keep yourself active and fit at all times.

Admittedly, T&T looked better in the second half so it is something Fenwick is able to work on but what has he really learned from this game? Thankfully, it is not all doom and gloom as the likes of Levi Garcia, Kevin Molino, Joevin Jones, Khaleem Hyland, Sheldon Bateau, Akeem Garcia and a few others are to come into the squad.

Fenwick has to look fast and get some other quality players up to the standard of those well-established players. Duane Muckette, Neveal Hackshaw and Michel Poon Angeron (whom I remember was a standout for St Mary’s College a few years ago) have some potential at this level, but he has little time to do it. Exercise number one has failed so he needs to look at where his team is going and where he wants them to ultimately be.

Up next for the Soca Warriors is a 2022 World Cup qualifier against Guyana at home on March 26 and Fenwick has a nucleus of players to choose from. As mentioned, his primary objective must be to find a couple of good foreign-based players and actually see them in action before he can make a judgement call and bring them into the fold to join the likes of Hyland etc. He must also give the local players a chance to showcase their talents and get them up to international standard.

For your sake, Mr Fenwick, things can only get better from here but remember your words in January 2020 shortly after you were appointed T&T head coach, “...we’ve got to start playing a style of football that suits the players that we’ve got. We are blessed with some fantastic footballers, but unless you put the footballers together in a system of play that suits them, you lose games”.

I await the change, the system and the winning of games.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of any organisation of which he is a stakeholder.