Wed, May

It is not easy to follow the route which has taken our national team programme to their first match in El Salvador. Those who picked up the trek through Argentina and then to El Salvador, may have thought that when the graduates of the training camp met with the superstars, there would be a magical display which would befuddle our opponents and shock our future opponents into submission.
The media hype of the past few weeks looked like a Cecil B De Mille production, with the chosen actors drawn from the top rung of their trade. Wednesday night was opening night when the fruit of this enormous job would have come to the fore and all the chips would fall into their respective places.

For 20 minutes, the Warriors thrust themselves onto what appeared to be surprised El Salvador opponents. The desire and aggression to take the game to the host team seemed like the right idea, especially as coach Maturana had to literally swallow his pride and convert his previous concept of using one striker to two, both with credentials, which represented present and past glory to the “post up” positions.

Despite what appeared to be a strange selection process, it was clear that Carlos Edwards and Keon Daniel were key members of a strategy which included some services from the flanks, to either one of Jones or John, which could escalate into effective chances for goal. From as early as the sixth minute, Daniel’s cross to Stern John was received on the chest and passed to Carlos Edwards for a fine shot, which eluded the keeper and set the Warriors on the correct path.

The trend continued and forced the opponents midfielders to appear to be defending players without any possibility of expressing their creativity in the T&T half of the field. Even the exuberance of Silvio Spann and Akiel Edwards, both of whom decided that they could join in an attack which was seemingly cohesive, helped to add even more pressure on the central Americans, who struggled to settle down before their own crowd. In the meantime, positive attack seemed the order of the first 25 minutes and the game appeared as one-sided as the first Test match at Sabina one week ago.

Kenwyne Jones appeared to want his bit of the action while the going seemed productive. He rushed into the opponents penalty area and tried for a half a chance. He bungled upon his man marker and referee Rodriguez sprinted to the penalty spot. Some were happy, others distraught. It did not matter as Dwight Yorke, despite an early look for physical fatigue, stepped up smoothly and slotted it home. Two-nil in 27 seven minutes must have been as surprising to the players on both sides as it was to the thousands of fans in the stadium.

From that point onward, whatever happened to both sides would need some high-quality psychologist to explain. The previously non-performing midfield of El Salvador consisting of Quintannilla, Correas, Flores and Sanchez all sprung to life simultaneously with the dose of amnesia which Daniel, Yorke and Chris Birchall suffered.

El Salvador started to open gaps with consummate ease and exposed the numerous deficiencies of a team which lacked the organisation of proper defensive play, coupled with a desire to cope with the extra burden which the dormant midfield vacuum had rented out to the hosts.

One began to wonder the effect of Keyno Thomas’ injury, as he seemed to be giving 100 per cent in his every effort. Half time did not come a bit too soon for T&T. At least, it should have given the coaching staff the opportunity to inject some enthusiasm into the players and add some strategic advice that would take the team on the forward road.

The early minutes of the second half indicated that T&T had revived and was anxious to get more goals. A second penalty was taken by Stern John and his kick seriously challenged a few high flying birds which flew into the night behind the goalposts. Can someone explain why Dwight Yorke did not take the kick? Or even Daniel or Jones, all of whom have shown on previous occasions, their ability to slot home these kicks. Soon afterward, John coupled with Jones and nearly made up for the penalty faux pas.

What happened for the next 35 five minutes could not be described in words that would imply any type of quality soccer and certainly can be compared with the final minutes of a Sunday afternoon fete match. Structure had taken its exit, the desire to keeping running and challenging for the ball, became non-existent, while the entire group of players succumbed mentally and physically to the same El Salvador team of the first half. The hosts were resilient and their methodical build up in midfield was as attractive as to bring them extra spectators—the Warriors on the field.

Thirteen unforced errors from easy shots created by the likes of Quintannellas, Flores and Castillo, all floating metres above the goal posts. Free kicks conceded by T&T around the edge of the penalty area seemed to be the opportunity for which El Salvador was in search. Eventually, the inevitable happened, two free kicks, two goals and for the host country, the final whistle came too soon. For T&T, the manner of play can only be described as disgusting. Fortunately, it’s only the first game and there is time for improvement. We are keeping our fingers crossed.