TO RECALL a loss as punishing as the one the national senior men's football team experienced on January 31, you'd have to go back two decades to the Azteca Stadium on October 8, 2000, when the Mexican team overwhelmed a second-string T&T squad seven-nil.
In the wake of that humiliation, there was talk of not having enough time to acclimatise to the venue, which is more than 7,000 feet above sea level.
Teasing apart the reasons for the crushing defeat of the first team assembled by coach Terry Fenwick last week demands more fine-tuned contemplation.
It was a match of firsts. A first for Mr Fenwick as national coach. The first assembly of a new team, heavily weighted with new talent trained and largely resident in the US, and local veterans, some at the other end of their career arcs.
The mix never seemed to find the harmony needed to put up a fight against even a second-string US team.
Hanging over the defeat is the parlous state of senior-level football in this country.
It's also impossible to separate the collapse of the team on the field from the nearly constant combativeness within the T&T Football Association over the last two years and the consequent feuding with FIFA that led to a collapse of local football management in 2019.
The administrative debris left behind after that infighting was further crushed by covid19 restrictions, limiting opportunities for team training even as the local football association spun in backroom circles without, apparently, sparing any thought for preparations for the field of play.
And this defeat came during a friendly match meant to test team strategy and play dynamics.
The extent of the failure on the field demands a complete rethinking of team composition, field strategy and the development of winning play and finishing dynamics that were almost completely absent from the Exploria Stadium in Orlando.
T&T will face Guyana in its opening effort at the Concacaf World Cup qualifiers on March 25, but there doesn't seem to be a national team ready to compete in the global competition.
The week before the match, Mr Fenwick described it as "a great opportunity and experience for so many young players in T&T who have not played competitive football for over a year."
Unfortunately, the Orlando experience has come as a great chastening for the national team, its support staff and Mr Fenwick.
What the new coach needs now is time to work with his new team, clearly more than he's had so far.
Is the TTFA up to creating that environment in T&T's current circumstances? The organisation's fractured state doesn't offer much hope of an organised, effective response.
SOURCE: T&T Newsday