"Grateful for the win but concerned about the poor approaches to the team's attack and defence" is how coaches Ron La Forest and Shawn Cooper summarised Thursday's 3-0 win for the T&T Soca Warriors over Guyana in their opening World Cup Qualifying match in the Dominican Republic.
The strength of the Guyana team did nothing to warrant coach Terry Fenwick to describe the performance as excellent, the duo believes.
The Guyanese last held the Soca Warriors to a 1-1 tie in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in the USA in 2019, but under Brazilian coach Marcio Maximo, the Guyanese have been in a period of development and transition.
The coaches, La Forest and Cooper, both former national coaches at different levels, have said the performance and strength of the Guyana team made it difficult, or near impossible to point out the flaws of the T&T team.
"There was no structure in the attack moving forward as a unit, neither was there any organised approach in defence. The team which comprises mostly of the country's overseas-based players attacked the Guyanese constantly but it was all due to individual play. We had a lower line of concentration, yet there was a large space between defender Aubrey David and his defence, but the Guyanese didn't have what it took to exploit it," Cooper explained to Guardian Media Sports on Saturday, a day before the team goes into action against Puerto Rico in its second game of the campaign in Puerto Rico later this evening at 5 pm.
La Forest said he is hoping that the win will help to improve the team's chances in the other games, however, he said the team could find itself in a difficult position against quality opposition if there is no organise approach to attack and defence in the campaign.
The win pushed the T&T team to the top of Group F, with St Kitts/Nevis earning a 1-0 win over Puerto Rico on Wednesday night, and the Bahamas was expected to open their account against St Kitts/Nevis on Saturday.
Only the winner of the group will advance to the second round of the qualifiers, where they will square-off with the winner of Group A, comprising El Salvador, Montserrat, Antigua/Barbuda, US Virgin Islands and Grenada.
Both coaches are expecting the T&T team to progress to the second round but believe more has to be done in attack as it will get progressively tougher going forward. Fenwick will have the entire team that represented the country against Guyana to select from for Sunday's match.
Sancho: Much to be done against Puerto Rico.
By Jonathan Ramnanansingh (T&T Newsday).
WHILE PLEASED with T&T’s 3-0 win over Guyana in their opening 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup qualifier, former national footballer Brent Sancho believes there’s still much to be done in preparation for the bigger competitive challenges which lie ahead.
On Thursday, T&T eased past Guyana 3-0 in their Concacaf Zone Group F qualifier at the Estadio Panamericano, San Cristobal, Dominican Republic.
First half goals from in-form midfielder Levi Garcia (eighth), defender Sheldon Bateau (15th) and striker Ryan Telfer (44th) separated the two nations and earned T&T three precious points in their opening first round fixture.
Sancho welcomed the squad’s improved performance which came on the heels of a 7-0 drubbing at the hands of USA, on January 31 – T&T’s first official international friendly in over a year, owing to the covid19 pandemic.
“It was a good result and a good start to the campaign. I was a bit surprised how poor the Guyanese team was seeing that they’ve been quite a challenge for us throughout the years.
“Taking everything into consideration, there’s still a lot of work to be done. All of the teams in Concacaf that I’ve looked at seem a bit rusty and lack fluidity.
“It’s expected because no one in the Concacaf region outside of USA, Mexico and maybe Costa Rica have played friendlies leading up to this. So we would expect the rust what we’ve seen.
“There are things I think we can do better as it relates to building out of the back (defence) and game control,” said the defender, who was part of the T&T team at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.
Sancho thinks the team needs to find ways to become more fluid and dominating on the pitch. The Central FC owner said that it’s still hard to come to terms with the fact that, in 2021, and leading up to the Guyana game, T&T weighed doubts on whether they could have pulled off a victory.
According to him, T&T usually brushes past Caribbean teams at this phase of the tournament in preparation for tougher opposition in the latter rounds.
“It shows you how far off we have dropped and shows you the kind of work still that needs to be put in place.
“I think a lot of the off-the-field issues did not help and it would have added to the pressure which would have fell on the shoulders of the players heading into this one.
“When we went 3-0 up, I thought we would have come out in the second half and really dominate and press home the advantage.
“I think we struggled in the second period but getting the result was more important. Guyana gifted us the result, in the way they played, because two of the goals were given to us,” he added.
Sancho, however, lauded Garcia’s ability to confidently run at defenders and create goal scoring opportunities.
The former Sports Minister called on Garcia to maintain consistency in his game if he wants to reach his fullest potential.
“I felt the younger players on the night were the ones who impressed, in particularly Levi. I think he has reached a stage in his international career that he now has to put in more consistent performances.
“He is probably playing at the highest level of any T&T player and it showed in his performance last night.
“The thing is, like players of that expectation, whether a Stern John or Russell Latapy, those players that they expect to deliver, Levi has to fall into that mode of delivery like they did.
“I think that’s where he’s at now. I was happy with his performance last night. I would like to see it all the time. He has to be a consistent performer for the national team,” Sancho said.
Meanwhile T&T face Puerto Rico in their second qualifier match, at home at the Mayaguez Athletics Stadium, on Sunday. They will, however, play on an artificial turf as compared to a grassy surface.
Sancho called for increased sharpness and, like the Guyana game, believes and early opening goal from T&T would serve as a good mental advantage for the Terry Fenwick-coached team, playing away from home.
“I do think it is one of those games that we need to focus on and ensure there are no errors. I think the early goal against Guyana helped settle the nerves. If we can get an early goal against Puerto Rico, I think it will put us on the right pathway to get three points.
“The only thing that worried me was that the second half performance (against Guyana) was poor. Normally when you’re playing these kind of games in quick succession, your second half of your first game sets you up for the second game.
“Because that’s the momentum you take into the second game. So I’m a bit concerned that was not there going into this game, which I think would a tough game in Puerto Rico.”
Soca Warrior cleared to play after 2nd negative covid19 test.
THE national senior team footballer, who tested positive for covid19 two days before T&T’s opening FIFA World Cup qualifier against Guyana, has since returned two negative PCR tests and will feature in Terry Fenwick’s 23-man line up for Sunday’s 5 pm clash against Puerto Rico.
On the eve of T&T’s 3-0 victory against the South American team, on Thursday, the TT Football Association (TTFA) issued a statement confirming a positive covid19 result from a national player. His identity was kept confidential.
Following Concacaf’s Return to Play protocol, the player was immediately isolated. While awaiting his second test, which eventually returned a negative result, contact tracing was done and all primary contacts quarantined.
However, the mandate states if the player returned two negative test results, the individual would be able to continue training and playing with the team. On Friday, the national athlete did just that and was included in the team for Sunday’s second first-round qualifier.
With this player boost, T&T are focusing on maintaining a winning momentum. Three first-half goals from midfielder Levi Garcia, defender Sheldon Bateau and forward Ryan Telfer were good enough to keep their opponents at bay.
The revamped squad return to action at the Mayaguez Stadium in Puerto Rico and are expected to face a tougher challenge against the hosts.
However, after Thursday’s win, flanker Noah Powder returned to his Major League Soccer outfit Real Salt Lake for treatment on a knock he sustained before the T&T camp. He will not feature in Sunday’s clash.
Additionally, Bateau is hoping to make Fenwick’s starting XI as he suffered a muscle strain in the opening period of the Guyana game.
Puerto Rico, on the other hand, have welcomed one of the United States League (USL) Championship’s top teen attackers, Alec Diaz, to their front line. The 19-year-old scored six goals and assisted twice in 855 minutes of play last season. This year, he’s a candidate to break into the Seattle Sounders’ attack for the coming season.
In their two prior friendlies against Guatemala and Dominican Republic leading up to the World Cup qualifiers, Diaz started both friendlies and played 143 minutes in total.
After Sunday’s duel, T&T have just over three months to prepare for their next FIFA World Cup qualifier. The squad returns on June 5 to play Bahamas and complete their first-round campaign, three days later, against St Kitts and Nevis.